Hallmark Sees Red for Social-Marketing Effort

CHICAGO Hallmark’s announcement on Friday’s episode of Rachael Ray that it has joined (Product) Red was just the opening salvo in a marketing campaign to promote the alliance—and, company executives hope, broaden the company’s demographic appeal.

Hallmark becomes the seventh company to take part in the (Product) Red initiative. Founded in spring 2006 by Bono and Bobby Shriver as a way to encourage private companies to raise awareness and donations for The Global Fund, which combats AIDS in Africa, the venture has raised more than $45 million from corporate partners such as Apple, Converse, Gap and Motorola, which contribute a portion of Red product sales to the project.

The effort promoting Hallmark’s in-volvement with the organization will include outdoor advertising in major markets, a Web video placed on social networking sites and an e-mail campaign. The family-owned, private company would not disclose spending on the promotion.

Despite the fact that Hallmark is known almost as much for its sentimental Hall of Fame TV movies as its greeting cards, the initial effort will not employ TV advertising, not even on its Hallmark cable channel. Nor will it run ads in its year-old Hallmark Magazine, as the brand attempts to expand beyond its traditional over-35 audience.

Hallmark’s Product (Red) effort targets so-called millennials, women between the ages of 18 and 29. While introducing the company’s cards to a younger demographic, the (Product) Red effort also is meant to tap into their natural affinity for causes and social-good marketing, Webb said.

The 60-second Internet video, developed by Leo Burnett in Chicago, will be posted on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, as well as YouTube and Hallmark’s own (Product) Red microsite.

The video shows a girl sending a card to her grandmother. As it goes into a mailbox, a red ribbon traces its route through the streets to the recipient, and then beyond to a village in Africa. “Is it a card? Or a way to fight AIDS in Africa? Or both?” reads on-screen text.

“We’re reaching out to a younger consumer that Hallmark is starting to attract,” said Jill Webb, mass media advertising manager for the Kansas City, Mo.-based company. “Our campaign inspires and challenges people to see how far a card can go. It really elevates and celebrates people, and how they can make a difference.”

“We found a great matchup with our consumers,” Jill Rosen, Hallmark’s vp of licensing, said of (Product) Red. “People who shop at Hallmark are innately caring, remembering birthdays and special occasions. They want to buy products and help.”

The video will also be edited into an e-card that can be sent (with a portion of proceeds donated to The Global Fund) from Hallmark’s microsite. In January, the site will be expanded to invite consumers to share how cards have made them feel or changed their lives. Those stories will likely be used in a later marketing effort next year, Webb said.

(Product) Red merchandise will be identified with in-store signage, as well as identifying marks on the envelopes. The company has initially developed a line of greeting cards, sound cards, gift wrap and gift items such as ornaments and flower arrangements. In January, the line will be expanded to more than 150 products. Although the company declined to disclose spending on the Red campaign, it said 8 percent of sales from the line would go to The Global Fund.

Despite the Internet campaign, Hallmark said it is not abandoning its core consumers. An outdoor effort will include billboards—going up on Nov. 1—in several major markets, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. The boards feature the line, “See how far a card can go” and a photo of a person either mailing or receiving the card, with the card highlighted by the alliance’s signature red parentheses.

The company is also sending an e-mail blast to consumers who’ve registered in some way with Hallmark. The announcement on Ray’s syndicated program, which runs primarily during daytime, is also meant to appeal to the core consumers.

Ultimately, Webb and Rosen said they hope the program would cause people not only to evaluate the importance greeting cards play in their lives, but also the role they can play in the lives of others.

“[The campaign] is energizing and powerful,” Webb said. “It allows consumers to connect on two levels: in their own relationships and with the broader world.”

Red and Hallmark approached each other last December out of a “mutual” desire to work together, according to Julie Cordua, Red’s vp of marketing. Last holiday season, the organization, she said, found that many people were giving Red products as gifts. “At the same time, Hallmark was understanding that their consumers wanted to make purchases that carried a social impact,” she said.

Partnering with Hallmark, Cordua add-ed, also adds an everyday purchase item to Red’s line, many of which, like an iPod or Razr phone, are infrequent buys.