Hallmark’s David Wootliff is faced with quite a task. Not only does he head up the UK division as a licensor for a range of brands including the evergreen Forever Friends, but also the UK business as a licensee for iconic brands like Purple Ronnie.
All this has built up since 1910, when Joyce Hall boarded a train from Nebraska to Kansas City with nothing but a couple of shoeboxes of cards.
Today, the Hall family still runs the business, which generates over $4 billion of sales, employing over 18,000 people around the world. Hallmark product is actively sold in over 100 countries and in over 30 languages via subsidiaries, distributors, licensees and agents. The UK is the largest of the international businesses and its market is the biggest in the world (cards per capita).
Key property Forever Friends also has a significant licensing programme with over 30 licensees across a range of sectors including cakes, clothing, crafting, gifts, publishing and a host of other merchandise.
Such impressive statistics have stood the firm in good stead for the recent economic downturn, as Wootliff explains: “Our business has a very solid foundation; we are continuing to look for new opportunities with licences and with innovative new ideas, as well as continuing to offer the established great quality products that Hallmark is know for.
“We have also grown into the online arena, allowing us new opportunities here. This all helps to maintain and grow our market leading position in the card category. We now category manage a number of accounts and this helps us build business understanding and we have a wealth of research happening to understand our consumer and their insights into the category.
“2009 and 2010 will be tough years, but we are looking to have a stronger business coming out of this recession.”
Throughout 2010, the firm is planning some new avenues for Forever Friends, including a deal for cosmetics and another for watches. Also planned for this Christmas is another product with Sony.
In terms of its business as a licensee, Purple Ronnie is the lead licence. The humour brand works across both genders, is multi-generational and can be used to target many occasions and captions for old and new consumers.
Wootliff continues: “The character now has a great heritage, created by Giles Andreae and now working with Coolabi, we’ve taken it online with our great ‘print on demand’ solution.”
Perhaps the busier side of the business though, is the ‘licensing out’ of its brands. Forever Friends is likely its best known property and also works well across all occasions and as such is ideal to use across many captions.
Wootliff again: “This allows us to licence out to a diverse number of partners in a variety of product areas. Forever Friends in the UK is worth well over £50 million at retail across all of the branded product areas. At Hallmark we sell over 27 million products a year. It works as a very cute character on one level and creatively allows us to use trend and editorial for seasons and licensed products such as celebration for cakes and balloons in a more sophisticated way.”
Marketing is mainly driven by a knowledge of the Hallmark brand among consumers. On specific licences, though, the company does invest in campaigns to launch products.
Disney Song cards is an example of a targeted campaign, whereby the company created POS and national competitions to establish the new product at retail and with consumers.
Integrated campaigns also often take place. Cards for a Cure, for example, launched with TV advertising, PR and in-store POS driving the Mother’s Day event, generating net growth for the event year-on-year. In 2010 the firm will have committed to £1 million towards key charities as it continue its support for Cards for a Cure.
It appears that Hallmark demonstrates a strong business model, ensuring that its success is spread over a wide area of both licensed in and licensed out goods. Wootliff concludes: “Our understanding of the category means we can see benefits in both licensed properties as well as the strength of our own properties.
“We see room for both in the category and are maximising opportunities for these properties. We have a huge range of art-work that we can partner with editorial to create very compelling product for the customer and our consumer. Ultimately our range uses both elements to deliver compelling product, meeting the needs of the consumer."