American Greetings, Hallmark Prep For Feb. 14

Hallmark/Valentines Day With Valentine's Day looming, and the traditional fancy restaurant dinner, roses and diamonds now on many consumer's "way too extravagant" list, both American Greetings and Hallmark are gearing up for Valentine's Day, recession style.

More than 191 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged each year (and that doesn't even include the kind kids pass out in school), and this year, the smart money is on warmer, more emotional purchases.

"In times of economic uncertainty, we see people being reminded of what's most important in life," says Rochelle Lulow, creative director of the Cleveland-based American Greetings. "That means focusing their efforts on nurturing their relationships with friends and family. Valentine's Day is all about reaching out and telling someone that you love them."

Based on research that found consumers want cards that differentiate the various stages of romance--from the frisky beginnings to the schmaltzy ever-afters--the company has introduced a 26-card line called Lovematters. "We've learned that it really is the little things that define a relationship. Gestures don't have to be grand or expensive, but they do need to be genuine and heartfelt," she says. The cards all use modern photography and conversational language, she says, to convey contemporary love. "Couples today strive to celebrate their relationships in unique ways, and we tried to capture that."



Hallmark, meanwhile, is banking on its musical cards to hit the right notes this season, introducing new Recordable Cards With Music that allow the sender to record a 10-second message prior to pre-recorded songs, which range from the Jonas Brothers to Motown classics.

Hallmark has expanded offerings in its Hallmark (PRODUCT) RED cards, first introduced in 2007 to support African causes; more Cards With Sound, which play favorite songs and audio clips from movies and TV shows; Cards With Motion that provide a fully animated two-second scene; and Cards with Sound and Lights. There are even Candy Greeting Cards that come with popular candies, including Nerds, Red Hots and Lemon Heads.

Hallmark is also selling a Valentine's CD linked to Motown's 50th birthday, with songs from such artists as Marvin Gaye, the Commodores and Stevie Wonder.

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