Greeting cards should be harnessed for their full potential

By Andrew Horton

Imagine having a conversation with a friend that goes like this:

Friend: “Hey man, how was your Christmas?”

You: “Pretty good, bro.”

Friend: “Get anything good?”

You: “Yeah, I got a bunch of great gifts, but my favorite was this awesome Christmas card. It was from Hallmark, so I knew it was legit. It had this sick picture of Rudolph on the cover, and his nose lit up when I opened it!”

Pretty hard to imagine, right?

The reason is no one respects the greeting card anymore.

The tradition of exchanging written greetings can be traced all the way back to the ancient Chinese and Egyptians. It became common in Europe by the early 1400s. The tradition continued through the centuries as a meaningful way of exchanging personal, hand-crafted messages to loved ones.

But the greeting card soon lost its way.

In the late 1800s, advances in printing technology allowed for the tradition of card giving to be commercialized. What used to be a process that took a considerable amount of time and effort became convenient and more widespread. While this opened doors for some entrepreneurs, the greeting card lost its meaning as a result.

Now the practice of buying cards from stores is a nearly mindless process. It simply involves going to the card aisle in any local grocery or convenience store, looking for the appropriate section, and making a selection in a matter of minutes.

Since the message is mass produced, it conveys very little effort and emotion from the giver. Aside from any value added by money or handwritten messages on the inside, the card itself is essentially worthless.

Despite this fact, the greeting card industry is booming. According to the U.S. Greeting Card Association (yes, that’s actually a thing), Americans are expected to buy 1.6 billion Christmas cards this year. Overall, Americans purchase 6.5 billion greeting cards per year on average, resulting in revenues between $7 and $8 billion. The average household purchases 30 cards per year.

But why would consumers continue to spend so much money on folded pieces of paper that no one really values?

Most people would say they live a busy life, and those who don’t would likely admit to being lazy. So naturally, when the time comes to send someone a greeting, it is much easier to pick up a card at the store and move on with your life. Sure, maybe it sometimes crosses your mind that it’s strange to let a corporation make a message to a loved one, but hey, at least you were courteous enough to give something, right?

Unfortunately, this attitude ignores the fact that the greeting card is a powerful form of expression that can be harnessed if people are willing to put forth just a little more effort.

For instance, instead of just signing your name to a pre-written message, why not buy a stack of blank cards from the store and just handwrite a message appropriate for each occasion personalized for the recipient?

This would convey more thought and emotion, and would likely save time and money since you wouldn’t have to go to the store and pick out a separate card for each occasion.

If you want to go a step beyond, produce your own card. There are numerous computer templates that can be used to draft a slick looking, personalized greeting, which you could then print off on some high quality card stock.

Sure, this may take slightly more time, but for someone you truly care about wouldn’t it be worth it? Even if you just make one standard template for all your greetings, it still adds an individual touch that is better than anything you can pick up in aisle 7.

If people are willing to harness the true power of greeting cards, then the tradition can be transformed from an impersonal, redundant stream of purchases back to a meaningful form of creative expression.

Andrew is a junior in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected]