A Closer Look at The Greeting Card Project aka #TGCP
If you ever catch me on social media (especially Twitter) you may have noticed me using the hashtag #TGCP or ReTweeting videos from The Greeting Card Project.
Finally (and a lot later than planned) I am sitting down to write about this project, what it is, who’s behind it and why it’s important.
So without further ado let’s dive into the world of The Greeting Card Project.
What is The Greeting Card Project?
The Greeting Card Project is a year-long video project created by Jeremy Corner, Director of card publisher Blue Eyed Sun.
Starting in January 2017, Jeremy set out to create a weekly video about greeting cards, which he would then post online.
As I type, Jeremy has created 49 videos and is just a few weeks away from completing his goal.
It might seem likely a fairly simple task at first glance but alongside running his own company, Jeremy is a highly respected member of the greeting card industry and a business expert who regularly gives his time to helping with industry events, delivering seminars and a hundred other things to help other greetings card designers and entrepreneurs.
Finding the time to make a new video every single week on top of all that seems to be a monumental challenge.
So what’s the motivation behind The Greeting Card Project?
Why Start The Greeting Card Project?
Writing about the project on his business blog, Jeremy highlighted a motivation behind starting the project that I think will be very familiar to a lot of people in the industry.
“This project has its roots in a terrible confession that I have to make. Despite having owned a greeting card company for 17 years, I don’t send that many greeting cards myself. I do send Christmas cards and initiatives like Thinking of You Week and Festive Friday have helped me to improve on my card sending. I just feel that I’d like to send more and get closer to what greeting card sending is all about.”
I first started working in the greetings card industry way back in 2003 and I can absolutely confirm that this is common.
The majority of greetings card designers I know are terrible at sending cards; I myself am pretty rubbish at it too, so seeing someone make an effort to send cards is a great thing.
You see, despite not sending many cards, most greetings card people tend to love greeting cards; it definitely seems to ring true with Jeremy who goes on to share:
“When I was a teenager I used to make and send cards. I grew up in South Africa and attended a school in York away from friends and family. In those pre-internet days I would write and send cards and letters every week. I loved sending and receiving them through the post and want to reconnect with this activity.”
At the start of every Greeting Card Project video, Jeremy states that he is sending more cards to friends and loved ones for 2 main reasons:
- To see how sending greeting cards makes him feel.
- To see if sending more cards enhances his relationships.
So it could be said that the project is about reconnecting with friends and loved ones. This alone would be a great reason for sending more cards, but I think in talking about the motivation behind the project Jeremy hit on another interesting point:
“Social media is the current form of the internet. It’s on mobile devices in our hands everyday and offers more efficient ways of communicating with our loved ones than sending cards. I’m curious to discover why the an old fashioned industry like ours remains stable with £1.7 Billion in annual sales and hasn’t been killed off by the internet.
Alongside finding out the personal impact of sending more cards, the project is also shedding a light on how important greetings cards are in our modern, digital world.
With one project, Jeremy has a chance to answer questions about the future of the greeting card industry and how we build relationships in the 21st century.
To see what the project has revealed Jeremy and I had a little Q&A session.
The Greeting Card Project Q&A
1. One of the aims of the project was to see how sending more cards would make you feel. As you’ve now completed 49 weeks, can you share what you’ve discovered?
It’s been an amazing personal experience sending more cards this year. The first and most important lesson I’ve learned is to recognise that the sending of the card is the primary source pleasure. Not the acknowledgment of the recipient of the card. Of course it’s nice when people say thanks or send something back, but it’s not the reason for doing it in the first place. Card sending is a gift and I believe a true gift should expect nothing in return. Sending cards is like sending out rays of sunshine into the world. I see this extending to all things for me know. To shine in the way that I like to shine and not to expect anything in response.
The second thing is that card sending is a time consuming pain in the backside. It takes effort to remember birthdays, to go to shops and buy cards, to think of what to write, to not mess up what you write inside, to make sure you have the correct addresses, to buy the correct postage if posting abroad, to get it to the post box on time, the list goes on. So why do we do it? That’s the third lesson, because it’s a unique way of showing friends and loved ones that they are worth the effort. It slows us down, helps us to feel more grateful for our relationships and allows space for special moments of connection to occur. Nothing else works in quite the same way for this.
Finally it’s been a lot of fun visiting so many independent stores and buying so many different types of cards from such a variety of different publishers this year. I’ve always enjoyed sending cards. This year I’ve grown to really love it. In fact I’ve sent more cards outside of the project this year as a result of doing it.
2. Another reason for starting the project was to see if sending cards would enhance your relationships. Have you seen any effect and if so what has changed?
I thought a lot about how to track this and measure it during the year. It’s not that easy. What I do know is how I feel about my friends. Buying and spending cards for them has meant I’ve spent more time thinking about them and I know they’ll have enjoyed receiving them (Even though I haven’t always heard back from all my friends). I’ve had some really beautiful texts and messages from recipients. It’s been a really special time. I’ve also learned that card sending is part of a mixture of things you need to do to have great relationships, which includes spending quality time with one another, being supportive, listening, calling one another and even hugging each other when you meet up. We all lead such busy lives these days, so I’ve found card sending has helped me feel more connected if I haven’t managed to do some of these other things for a while.
3. You’ve been visiting different card shops each week. Has this given you any insight into the greeting card industry from the customer or retailer perspective?
Definitely. It makes all the difference actually spending money on cards in shops to try and understand the industry. You learn what’s important to consumers and, from there, what’s important to retailers. It’s also shown me that a lot of retailers still don’t have much of a social media presence and could really benefit from having an online presence. I think we have a real opportunity to share the story of the power of cards on social media. This in turn will have really positive effects on the card industry and the lives of those who use cards. One of the things customers most value when visiting shops is a good selection. The best retailers offer this and a great environment and experience in their stores.
4. What’s been your favourite part of the project so far?
I love making films. I used to make super 8mm films when I was a boy and I wanted to remind myself of the pleasure f film making on this project. I’ve filmed and edited them all on my iPhone 6 and uploaded them to YouTube from there. I have really enjoyed the discipline of having to create new videos every week. At times, it has felt like a huge commitment. Now that I’m nearly at the end I’m going to miss doing as many. Although I still have plans for more video work in 2018 and I hope to extend the project into the card community at large by getting others involved for next year.
5. What has been the worst part of the project to date?
Initially it was feeling self conscious about filming myself and sharing it online. I’ve gotten comfortable with this now. The worst part is that it’s eaten into my time massively this year and there have been moments when I’ve really questioned what I’m doing and whether it’s worth it or not. I don’t promote my own business on the project. I’ve bought over 150 of my competitors’ cards at over 50 retailers… and often raved about them to the world. There’s been a lot of travel and the whole project this year will have taken around 400 hours of work. I really believe in the open, random and supportive nature of network thinking online though. I believe in the shift to this new way of thinking. So I’m hoping it will turn out to have been worth it and what I’ve actually down is planted a seed that will turn into something really special online for the card sending community.
6. How are you finding the experience of video marketing/YouTube compared to other forms of social media?
YouTube is interesting, because some say it’s all sewn up now by a small group of YouTubers. Strictly speaking the core YouTube demographic isn’t totally right for the project. Having said that I really believe there are more niches waiting to be explored online and I think greeting cards are under-served on YouTube.
There’s no doubt that video is booming right now and it’s an exciting time to be creating video content online if you are ok with doing the work. Facebook views have been very high for the project and I wish I’d started uploading native Facebook videos from the start. My highest number of views on Facebook (2,600 to date on) had less than 100 views on Youtube). YouTube viewers are more loyal though and view times are longer so they watch more of your content. I’ve recently started experimenting with subtitles on the videos as a lot of people watch online videos with the sound off. I’m hoping that this will increase view times.
Most of the social media platforms offer some video option and I think you have to plan for different types of video on each platform. Doing the project as a community next year we won’t be doing as many long videos and will be focussing on short form 60 seconds or less video content on popular platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
7. What’s next for The Greeting Card Project? Will you be continuing in 2018?
I’m handing the project over to the greeting card community. I’ve started to build a group of contributors and helpers to make this happen and am looking for more over the coming weeks. The plan is to have many people create content without having to commit to doing it every week of the year. We want more people to send cards and share their stories online. If any of your readers are interested I’d love to hear from them and they can join the group on Facebook.
Why The Greeting Card Project is Important
Jeremy has already hit on lots of great points, showcasing the value of The Greeting Card Project, but I want to finish on what I’ve noticed as an observer.
I’ve watched the videos since the very first episode, often watching a few episodes at a time, in real binge-watching style and a few thoughts that I’ve had over the year:
- You don’t need an occasion to send a card. Although Jeremy has highlighted special events such as Valentine’s and Mother’s Day they don’t happen every week. Some weeks he’s sent thank you cards or thinking of you cards, and these have just as much impact as traditional card-sending occasions.
- Receiving a card is a rare treat. Even though lots of people do send cards still, it’s not an everyday occurrence to receive a greetings card, which makes it even more special when they arrive.
- People do notice the time and effort you spend in selecting, writing and posting a card and it means a lot to them.
- Sending greetings cards can make you feel good. Through 49 videos picking and writing the cards never seemed like a chore, there seemed to be a real buzz around the whole process.
- There are lots of amazing independent card shops in the UK that we need to keep discovering and supporting.
- Card sending is not just a UK thing, there are card shops all across the world so we have a great opportunity to make global connections with greetings cards.
- I need to send more greeting cards! I’m fairly good at birthdays and Christmas but I know I need to make an effort to send more and I’ll be starting that right away.
For me these all show just how important this project has been; the Greeting Card Project has recognised the role something as simple as a greetings card can play in our lives and relationships.
Getting Involved with The Greeting Card Project
If you’re excited to find out more about The Greeting Card Project there’s still lots of ways to get involved.
Watch episodes of The Greeting Card Project on YouTube.
Read about the Project on Jeremy’s Blog.
Join the Facebook Group.
& most importantly you can start sending more cards.
Don’t forget here on the blog you’ll always find a tonne of new greetings cards from the best designers and makers, so keep coming back to see what the industry has been creating.