How Hallmark plans to leverage its deal with Corus

Programming for the Hallmark Channel represents a brand-building opportunity, says the company's new president.

Hallmark

As Hallmark Canada continues to implement its retail strategy, the company is hoping to leverage the brand-building potential of a new partnership with Corus Entertainment, says Carolyn Spriet, who was named president of Canadian operations in November.

Since her arrival, the former VP and general manager of Sun Product Canada (a division within Unilever’s laundry business) has been reviewing Hallmark Canada’s marketing strategy. The work will begin to appear late this year, and content will play a more prominent role in building the Hallmark brand.

The Corus deal paved the way for the launch of a Canadian Hallmark Channel in November, which includes running original branded movies and seasonal programming on the network. Spriet wasn’t at liberty to discuss the details of the deal, but she says the Hallmark Channel in the U.S. (broadcast through the Hallmark-controlled Crown Media Family Network) has been “commercially successful and has helped boost the Hallmark brand.” The same can be expected here, she says.

The channel will allow Hallmark to more easily show its true, corporate colours. This year, for instance, the channel aired several movies from its “Countdown to Christmas” special. The content is “really our way, our extension, of being able to talk about what it means to have a Hallmark moment,” Spriet says. “What we want people to know is that we really are about inspiring meaningful connections.”

HallmarkAs president, Spriet is overseeing strategy, business operations and customer relations in Canada. She was hired, in part, for the insight and expertise she developed during her time in CPG. Prior to Sun Product Canada, she held various leadership roles across customer development, brand and marketing at Unilever Canada.

As a Canadian, she also brings a solid understanding of the local market. Her predecessor, Cindy Mahoney, who was promoted to co-CEO of Hallmark International earlier this year, was brought in from the U.S.

One might suspect that a business built around greeting cards could face an uphill battle as communications continue to migrate online. Quite the opposite, Spriet says. “The greeting card industry is stable. It’s very big.”

Around 6.5 billion cards are sold every year, or 18 million cards per day in North America. Many of those purchases are coming from millennials, who represent 20% of the dollars spent on greeting cards and whose portion of the spending is growing faster than any other generational segment, according to the president.

Company research shows younger generations are placing greater emphasis on paper, associating it with luxury and collectibility – an insight that was behind the launch of Hallmark’s Paper Wonder product (intricately crafted holiday cards that unfold and expand, thus doubling as decorations) ahead of the holiday season.

Earlier this year in Canada, the retailer announced a gradual exit from the corporate-owned portion (approximately 20 locations) of its 120 Canadian Gold Crown stores. Those will either be shuttered or transitioned into independent locations. Strengthening its network of independent stores remains a strategic priority for the brand, Spriet says.

Meanwhile, Hallmark Canada has been experimenting with a “store within a store” concept for the last few years, with the goal of growing its retail footprint. The company has established 28 such concepts to date, with more expected later this year.

Photo credit: bargainmoose

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated Hallmark sold 6.5 billion cards every year, when those are industry-wide numbers. Strategy regrets the error.