Hallmark greeting cards and more add home videos to the mix: NPR

Hallmark is the latest company to bet on digital video greetings as more consumers have become familiar with the camera. And for those who haven’t? Experts say clumsiness can make messages more authentic.

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Hallmark is the latest company to bet on digital video greetings as more consumers have become familiar with the camera. And for those who haven’t? Experts say clumsiness can make messages more authentic.

Punch

Hallmark is famous for putting its customers’ feelings into words, but the message inside the company’s new video greeting cards comes straight from the sender. The service allows users to upload home videos made by family members, friends, or anyone else they choose to invite, and then Hallmark edits them with music and graphics.

“It just gives something unforgettable,” says Krista Masilionis, director of global innovation at Hallmark. “We’ve been around for 110 years. I want us to be here for another 110 years, so we have to be here because the way people connect changes, and digital is how they do it.”

The Greeting Card Association claims that the tradition of exchanging goodwill messages dates back to ancient civilization. Nowadays, more and more consumers are getting used to connecting to the camera, especially since the onset of COVID-19. Building on this trend, Hallmark is the biggest brand yet to start packaging video greetings for a price of $4.99 for the digital-only version that can be shared via text or email. For an extra dollar, the sender can choose a traditional paper card that arrives in the mail with a code inside that the recipient must scan with a smartphone to watch the greeting. Either way, the final product expires in six months but can be downloaded forever.

Digital greetings are spreading during the pandemic

The industry term for those greetings is “digital expressions,” and a handful of smaller companies have beaten Hallmark in this still-nascent market. Tribute says it was the first, starting in 2015. Its prices range from $29 for a DIY version to $100 for the full-service “concierge” option, which includes all the editing, plus perks like email reminders for contributors if the sender sets a deadline.

Tribute says it was the first company to offer what the industry calls “digital expressions,” back in 2015. Its mounts range from $29 for a self-published version to a full-service option for $100.

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Tribute says it was the first company to offer what the industry calls “digital expressions,” back in 2015. Its mounts range from $29 for a self-published version to a full-service option for $100.

Tribute

During Tribute’s first five years in business, it sold approximately one million mounts. This number reached 5 million and counts after the start of the pandemic. “There’s been this absolute shift, you know, in consumer behavior over the last two years in the pandemic, where people are now suddenly comfortable, for better or for worse, on video “said CEO Andrew Horn.

Some more than others, if procrastination is any indication. Data from Tribute shows that 80% of people invited to submit videos don’t submit them until their due day, or even after. “It tends to take more effort,” admits Horn. “But now people are also starting to see that, like a lot of things in life, some of the most rewarding things we do are the hard ones, and so people are taking on this challenge because they see that the impact is actually profound and legitimate.”

Horn adds that Tribute tries to present its video requests as invitations. The possibility that some video guests will feel compelled to participate troubles Bernie Hogan, a sociologist and senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute. “What’s bad is when it’s an inorganic process – when that process is fostered or focused by social pressure or social convention.”

Hallmark offers a digital version that you can text or email for $4.99. For an extra dollar, a paper card arrives in the mail with a code inside that the recipient can scan with a cell phone to watch the video.

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The end product may not reflect the time and effort that goes into making each video, Hogan adds, whether it’s choosing the right background and deciding what to say, or recording multiple takes. “The more it’s framed by someone else’s parameters, the less sincere it is and the more it feels like a performance,” he says. “You don’t want a practice that leads to resentment.”

Social media manners may still be in the making, but some old-school norms apply, says author and etiquette expert Lizzie Post, who is co-chair of the Emily Post Institute and great-great-granddaughter of her namesake. When sending a video greeting, Post says the person organizing the effort should make it optional for contributors and take the pressure off.

“Really encouraging people not to feel like they have to do too much, not even feel like they have to put on makeup or do their hair or something like that,” she says. “Frankly, I think sometimes the ums, uhs, or the starts or the ‘Squirrel!’ the moments someone might have on camera are actually so much more exactly who they are.”

As for people who choose to participate, Post cautions that when making videos, always assume they might be made public and don’t rush recording. She adds a piece of advice from her personal experience: taking too many takes can spoil the fun.

Mika R. Pyle