Hallmark greeting cards are the most ubiquitous printed greeting cards found across the United States. The company prides itself on having a card for every occasion and to express every sentiment. Hence, the volume of cards printed by the company has increased with time. The chief strengths of the brand are excellent product quality, the quality of the sentiment, the visual appeal and the convenience of accessing and purchasing the card. However, with the advent of free and interactive online greeting card services, the popularity of printed greeting cards has been declining over the years. According to Kardes et al. (2011), brands need to be rejuvenated when they are in the decline stage. Franzen & Moriarty (2009) state that a brand needs to be repositioned when it fails to remain relevant to the value patterns of the period. Therefore, it is important for the brand to reposition itself as a brand that promises a values and relevant brand offering to its target market.
According to 2007 United States census figures, there were around 90,000 firms in the United States with 100-499 employees. They made up 1.8% of the business firms in the country. Smaller firms with a workforce size ranging between 20 and 100 employees made up around 11% of the firms in the United States (United States Census Bureau, 2012). These businesses depend on strengthening and maintaining relationships with business partners such as suppliers, advertisers, marketers, lawyers, and other important stakeholders in the community. These organizations can be considered as the target segment for the repositioned personalized Hallmark greeting cards.
The Hallmark greeting card brand should reposition itself as a premium brand offering personalized services to the business market segment comprising of small and medium sized business firms. Personalization in business communication is a highly valued attribute and it helps to raise the profile of a business partner over others, enabling to strengthen the relationship and increased business opportunities.
Types of Research Needed for Successful Repositioning
To reposition the Hallmark brand in the new target market segment, research in a number of essential areas would be necessary. The research requirement covers a number of subjective as well as quantifiable research areas. The first aspect requiring research is to identify what the target market thinks about personalized greeting cards delivered to their business contacts. This would require conducting an attitude survey of the target market comprising of the owners of large and middle sized businesses. The research would require estimating their attitudes towards the importance of maintaining business relationships for business growth and the role played by gestures such as sending greeting cards on special business, personal and general occasions.
Research also needs to be conducted into the product features that would be desired by the target market. The basic product would be a personalized, printed and personally delivered Hallmark greeting card to important business relationship partners. The most highly valued attributes of the product would include aesthetic value, content, product quality, punctuality, appearance, degree of personalization, and so on. The relative importance of these values for the target market needs to be measured through research. This can be conducted through personal surveys, interviews, focus groups, or mailed questionnaires.
It would also be required to conduct a survey on whether the target market is willing to pay a premium price for the repositioned brand. The Hallmark brand enjoys great sentimental value which communicates warmth, relationships and a sense of permanence in a turbulent and changing environment. These values are important for business relationships during a period of economic uncertainty. The Hallmark brand would now also be associated with their business and would print and deliver personalized greeting cards for clients. The traditional appeal of a paper greeting card as opposed to an electronic greeting card or even a generic paper-based card needs to be gauged and measured so that the target market can be motivated to pay a premium price for this service.
Finally, research also needs to be conducted in the area of the most preferred delivery and distribution channels for the target market. Whether the target market appreciates Hallmark personalized greeting card deliveries to be made personally and hand delivered, or mailed through courier or the regular post would affect the value of the product and the cost and pricing decisions as well.
Methods for Increasing Adoption Rates
Adoption is the process by which the customer learns about a product, tries it out, and then based on the trial experience, either rejects or adopts it. More specifically, these stages can be distinctly identified as awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption. Over the course of the product life-cycle, varying numbers of target market segment members try the product. Depending on at what stage the segment population tries the product, they can be termed as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. The implications of these for the repositioning strategy of Hallmark are that it will have to adopt strategies for identifying and targeting the innovators in its target segment. In the business market segment, organizations typically follow the lead of the segment leader in business practices. Wreden (2007) advocates that brand communications should go beyond creating awareness and should embody attraction, retention and advocacy. Hence, if Hallmark is able to identify the innovators and opinion leaders in the segment, there is a greater likelihood of other members of the target segment to engage in trial and evaluation.
The Hallmark brand is characterized by sentimental value and warmth but is also seen as a declining brand that has been overshadowed by the affordability, convenience and high level of user interaction involved in electronic greeting cards. These features appeal to the younger consumer market segment that has a high value for cost and autonomy. Members in the business market are relatively conservative and can afford to pay a premium for personalized services. Therefore, it is necessary that the Hallmark repositioning is successful at making an early impact on the target market. In the event of failure to do so, the image of the Hallmark brand as a declining brand offering irrelevant products and services is likely to be reinforced. The window of opportunity will be missed and the conservative business market is likely to revert to traditional business practices.
To increase the adoption rates of the users, they will have to be facilitated through the awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption stages. This will be achieved through personal selling and direct marketing. Prospective clients will be visited and will be presented with samples of personalized cards. This will increase their awareness levels. Medium sized businesses are likely to be more interested in the product if it helps them to strengthen business relationships through gestures expressing congeniality and courtesy. Medium sized business owners can also be presented with instances of large businesses who have adopted the Hallmark personalized service to motivate them to "follow the leader." Trial and evaluation will be facilitated by offering a free trial offer along with a discount package of 20% for placing an order for the first twenty personalized greeting cards. They will also be given the option of viewing additional product samples from the company website so that they may view the complete range to satisfy themselves of the alternatives and options for personalization available. Finally, the potential customers will be facilitated through the adoption stage by making follow-up visits.
Scope for New Service Component
There is ample room for a service component to be incorporated into the new brand offering. Since the target market segment is the business market, there is a high value on ancillary services that can support the smooth execution of the product delivery to the consumer. In this regard, a number of ancillary services can be provided by the Hallmark personalized greeting cards. For instance, the company can provide a diary service to its clients. This can be in the form of a database maintained by the company where important dates such as anniversaries, birthdays, and so on are stored on the database to remind the client of the important event in advance. This would help business clients to avoid forgetting important occasions of their business partners which could become a source of embarrassment and awkwardness. Similarly, on general occasions such as Christmas and New Year, the company can maintain a database of all the business contacts of their clients so that no person is left out on these occasions. This service would save the marketing departments of our clients a lot of time during the holiday rush season.
A number of delivery options can be provided to the clients. The personalized Hallmark greeting cards could be delivered to the recipients by hand or by post. In addition, for an additional charge, the card could also be arranged to be delivered personally even if the recipient is located in a foreign country. It is important for the entire service package to tie in seamlessly…