technology

Century-Old Hallmark Eyes Augmented Reality

Hallmark/Webcam Greetings

As a company, Hallmark may have just celebrated its 100th anniversary, but it's determined not to be accused of living in the past.

The Kansas City, Mo. card maker, which was founded on Jan. 10, 1910, has introduced a new line of cards that is designed to work with a computer's Web camera to show off an animated 3-D message via the computer. The cards feature what Hallmark is calling "augmented reality."

"We have consistently heard from consumers that they were looking for ways to extend the experience [of receiving cards]," Monic Muldrew, an associate product manager with Hallmark, tells Marketing Daily. "Consumers were telling us they wanted a way for that good feeling to last longer."

The idea behind the cards is that recipients will take cards to their computers, head to Hallmark's Web site, where they will download software to activate the computer's Web camera. Once downloaded, they can hold the cards in front of the Web camera to view 3-D animation. (The entire process is explained via online video at www.hallmark.com /extras.) Despite the relatively involved process for the augmented reality cards, Muldrew says there is a market for them.

"We know there's a segment of the population that doesn't have a Web cam or know how to use one, but we think [the cards] are one of those things that are going to sell well," Muldrew says. "We may be getting out there a little early, but we think the time is right."

Ten augmented reality cards will be available for Valentine's Day, with most retailing for $2.99 (though some with a recordable sound chip will cost $5.99). The line will likely expand with messages for other card-giving holidays and events during the year. The company has no marketing plans for the card line beyond public relations and some in-store awareness at this time, Muldrew says.

The augmented reality cards are just the latest in technological innovation Hallmark has made to stay relevant at a time when people may be sending fewer paper and ink cards. Last July, Hallmark launched a line of mobile e-cards that consumers could send from their cellular phones.

"There's always going to be a need for our ink and paper products," Muldrew says. "But people are always looking for other ways to connect and need help in saying what they want to say."

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