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  • Robert Pladek

Greeting Cards: Genuine Expression or Simple Exhaustion?

Updated: Apr 17, 2018




Few areas of communication are as least studied yet so universally critiqued as greeting cards. A handful of scientific research has been done over the years on why people send cards, what it means, who sends them and what THAT means, and whether this is somehow highbrow low cultural expression or low highbrow cultural expression.


I’ll point to a few of these studies. The great ones, no doubt, are safely locked away in the bowels of Hallmark and other giants like Papyrus but you can imagine the basic principles: mass, culturally androgynous appeal versus extremely specific, extremely selective market differentiation. Make people feel ‘generally’ good about the message, on the cheap, or create exactly the right sentiment for the right occasion and the right person: but how the hell are you going to get that one on limited shelf space?


The industry certainly has changed like every other with thousands of new vendors constantly hawking ‘new’ approaches, unique designs, unique statements and hoping through SEO to find exactly the right audience.


For at least fifteen years online, internet card messengers have attempted to capture the still large appetite for greeting cards with clever/cute/annoying animation, saving the cost of the stamp, the much larger cost of the card … but mostly the helpless feeling of staring at rows and rows of packaged sentiment trying to match it both to the sender’s and the sender’s belief of the receiver’s. Those pupil-less eyeballs ultimately give up.


“I’ll take this one … and add the right sentiment myself.”


They won’t, they can’t, or they wouldn’t have gone looking so hard in the first place. But enough is enough, right?


These last, internet-only messages rely on sales of user information and a few well-placed online ads for revenue. Seemed like a market that would explode, but mostly it has unto itself as annoying as hell and about as fake as a Facebook Birthday Wish. Made too easy, it is simply a cheap, no-effort composition and feels about the same to the unhappy recipient. Rather than genuine expression of love, or comfort these cards substitute dancing whatevers. They seek to amuse because they cannot deliver emotion.

So what about us? What about Svetcetera?


I wish we could say we are totally unique. I wish we could say that you get with us something you simply cannot get elsewhere. I don’t know all the ‘elsewhere’s,’ except I’m sure there are a lot of them. We see cards that are profane beyond belief, using vulgarity in the same way the internet cards use dancing ducks; amusement value. Not our bag. Joke gifts, probably best accompanying a whoopee cushion. There’s a timeless piece.


Most cards carry a generalized kind of sentiment, an idealized kind. I dunno: maybe sentiment is supposed to be idealized. But we believe this: 50 people will look at the same Svetcetera card. Forty nine will nod, maybe laugh a little, and move on. But one will say “bingo.”


That’s our audience.


Now it’s just getting those 49 people to find it on the shelf.

(So much easier to find it on our site. Hint. Hint. Hint…)


Svetcetera: Real Sentiments for Real Life

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Oh, I promised you some ‘official research studies.” Here’s a couple

Greeting cards: Individuality and authenticity in mass culture

West, Emily. University of Pennsylvania, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2004. 3152125.

https://search.proquest.com/docview/305146127

Psychological First Aid: The Hallmark Company, Greeting Cards and the Response to September 11

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1542-734X.2005.00150.x

You want more? Do your own Google search.

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