When it comes to greeting cards, there is not a better-known brand than Hallmark. Janet Boychuk says the company stands as one of the most recognized name brands in the world, next to Coca-Cola, Colgate and Hershey’s.
The Hallmark brand is consistently in the top 10 most recognized and trusted brands. “We are considered to be the leader in providing consumers quality products that help them connect with others in a creative and caring way.”
Boychuk is the national real estate and market development director for Hallmark Canada. Based in Toronto, Boychuk states that “there are 220 Hallmark branded stores across the country operated both corporately and by independent franchisees which offer greeting cards, stationery, gift wrap, keepsake ornaments, books and gift products.
“Many of our products are also offered by the key account customers we serve in the department, mass, grocery and drug channels.”
The privately held Hallmark has kept its brand promise for more than a hundred years and has evolved with the trends and changing needs to stay top of mind. “A Hallmark moment is frequently used to describe an emotional and caring event, and our name is frequently associated with these special moments throughout the media, movies and television,” states Boychuk. “We take this expectation seriously and dedicate our time, creativity and resources to seeking new ways to enrich lives by providing new and exciting solutions through our products, our ideas and our stores.”
The company’s staff of more than 500 employees executes this mission in Canada. “Our Canadian operating committee and leadership team provides us the best of both worlds – access to the great resources of our U.S. headquarters [in Kansas City, Mo.], as well as the ability to partner with our Canadian retailers, franchisees and iconic Canadian organizations on unique programs.”
The changing face of the Canadian consumer challenges Hallmark to develop products that are relevant to their needs for celebrating life’s events.
Hallmark’s current tag line is “life is a special occasion,” reflecting that the company is not just about special seasons but in the fast paced world of technology, there is an even greater need to connect daily on a more personal level.
Hallmark is frequently asked how the onset of email and e-greetings has impacted the greeting card business. In fact, technology has helped Hallmark grow its offerings by using it in innovative products and in the way it communicates with consumers.
Innovation is key to Hallmark’s ongoing success. “We have embraced the world of technology in a way that allows us to bring our products to life,” Boychuk states. Some examples of these products include song cards, which have licensed songs from favorite artists; recordable and karaoke cards, which record the sender’s voice to relay the sentiment and recordable books; and plush toys, where the sender reads the story or conveys their feelings by recording their own voice in the gift. When the recipient turns the page or hugs the plush, a familiar voice becomes part of the gift.
In Hallmark’s extensive research, moms have told it that one of their regrets is not capturing the sound of their child’s or loved one’s voice. “We offer products that allow them to capture and retain these special memories.
“We have also developed many of these products to be interactive with web sites, ping technology and the creation of apps that enhance the experience with the product,” Boychuk continues. “We use technology in our products to put a new twist on core products.”
Technology also plays a key role in the company’s retail operations. Technology is used in its retail store operations for point-of-sale replenishment, which allows for up to date inventory management. Technology also provides the opportunity for data mining of best sellers and collecting customer information. That information, along with links to information provided by the U.S. parent company, offers insights into the retail performance and creates efficiency.
“Facebook, Twitter and mobile greetings are all a key component of our marketing and consumer relationship efforts,” Boychuk continues. “For example, we currently have an online diary panel that allows us to capture consumer insights.”
Hallmark Canada also allows consumers to share their creativity by providing them with an opportunity to share their ideas and photos by participating in “user-created content” contests on its web site. “The winning entries ultimately become part of a greeting card line and the contributor is featured on the back of the card,” she says.
Boychuk sees more evolution in Hallmark’s future. “Hallmark is continually reinventing itself,” she says. “There are so many ways to connect and communicate with one another today that the opportunity to be a part of that offers every Hallmark employee the challenge to find new and better ways.”
This includes the creation of product offerings that speak to the growing cultural diversity in Canada, offering the broad range of prices that consumers want and also merchandising and designing stores to simplify the shopping experience. Hallmark recently developed a flagship store in Woodbridge, Ontario, that is focused on creating a fun and captivating environment and provides shoppers with a sense of discovery through a boutique environment that highlights departments based on events.
The leadership and culture of Hallmark Canada mirrors that of the Hall family that founded the company and currently leads the worldwide organization. The core values of quality, creativity and integrity are reflected in all decisions and the culture of accountability and inclusiveness results in an organization that is motivated by personal leadership and results.
“In my 30 plus years with the organization I have consistently been reminded that we are in the business of helping people find ways to show they care and Hallmarkers definitely reflect those principles,” Boychuk stresses.
One way Hallmark Canada finds talented staff members is to work with local colleges and universities to provide opportunities through internships, Boychuk says. “[It is] an opportunity to try them out and them us,” she says. “A number of these internships result in full-time employment, referrals and references.”