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Opinion | The Power of a $5 Folded Piece of Paper

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Society has transformed, several times over, since the brothers William, Joyce, and Rollie Hall rebranded their successful postcard and wrapping paper business as Hallmark in the 1920s.

Now, building on its Main Street ubiquity, Hallmark gathers “employee resource groups” to try to ensure the cards being created are inclusive and accurately reflect the zeitgeist. Rob Reeder, a marketing manager who has spent 20 years working at the company, made a personal example out of the recent turn toward a more L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly selection. “That validates us out in the open,” he explained. “It says, you see me.” None of this attentiveness is purely philanthropic, of course. Falling too far behind culturally would mean going out of business.

For consumers, the comfort molded by cards still comes not just in receiving them but in giving them, too: When Kasia Galazka, a 34-year-old writer from Atlanta, feels weighted by the debilitating depression brought on by her bipolar disorder, she turns to greeting cards as a tether to family and friends.

She and her husband use them to communicate during these bouts as well. She’ll wait for the small burst of mental energy needed and pen a quick note: “I’m sorry,” “I love you” or “Let’s get ice cream and things will pick back up again soon.” Would the most earnest of texts, or even a quick phone call after work, have had the same effect?

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Vanessa Toro, a marketing executive and a card aficionado who has sent out three cards a week for the past five years or so, considers the act “a stance against the rush.” A 2018 survey found that 81 percent considered a handwritten note more meaningful than digital correspondence. It might surprise some that 87 percent of surveyed millennials said the same thing.

While some traditional card brands pool their internal resources to stay on top of cultural trends, Minted, a San Francisco-based brand founded 12 years ago, lets consumers be its business guides. Each of its card creations is sourced from an international roster of independent artists and designers, whose work is then voted on by the public. Designers who win the challenge receive a cash prize, a platform for their work and a commission from every sale.

“What we’re seeing emerge from the crowd of designers, and what’s being voted by consumers, is a nod toward people leading flawed and difficult lives, and trying to make the best of them,” said Minted’s founder, Mariam Naficy.



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