Hallmark is Latest Player in Digital Imaging Market

Hallmark Cards Inc. has entered the digital imaging market with last week's debut of HallmarkStories.com.

After a month-long beta test, the new site allows consumers to upload photographs and order custom-printed keepsakes from Hallmark. The site targets busy mothers and those without the time to organize their memorabilia.

“Probably the biggest challenge is getting people re-engaged in the memory process,” said Kathi Mishek, publicity manager at Hallmark, Kansas City, MO.

Through HallmarkStories.com or via a link on the flagship hallmark.com, consumers can upload images from hard disks, scanning, CDs or digital-camera transfers and create a print product using personal or Hallmark-suggested creative. Delivery of finished products is within five days of ordering.

Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, CA, is Hallmark's digital-imaging partner in the venture.

This Internet initiative, one in a steady stream of innovations to go beyond online and offline greetings cards and ornaments, will help Hallmark push three new products.

One is a hardcover, three-ring memory album for coffee tables and mantels, priced at $44.95. Similar to the memory album, the bound magazine is $29.95 and costs less for bulk orders. For $19.95, consumers get the Snap Book, a wallet-sized folder. Prices do not include tax or shipping.

In October, Hallmark also will debut a personalized photo greeting card product.

“Our products differ from other photo card products such as Sears' or other companies who use photo paper,” Mishek said. “What you get is a Hallmark-quality card with your image and your words incorporated.

“We will be announcing a business partnership with a well-known retailer who is expanding their photo-processing business online,” she said.

Themes offered include birthday, reunions, vacations, general celebrations and baby. Photo greeting cards will be introduced online in time for the holidays.

“In terms of themes, you can actually create your own as well for people that may have topics that don't fit general categories,” Mishek said. “We have copy and icons to help them.”

Mishek said research by the greeting card company indicated several barriers in organized memory keeping. People did not feel they had the time, confidence or access to a proper process to store memories like photos, clippings, drawings or concert tickets.

Considerable marketing backs this memory-keeping effort that extends Hallmark's memories business comprising photo albums, scrapbooks and scrapbook software.

Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, has created a campaign that includes a microsite and advertisements in consumer publications, targeting consumers who buy or use digital cameras.

Direct marketing is represented through “millions” of e-mails and direct mail pieces that went out this week. Lists used include Hallmark house files and rentals.

“We're doing that primarily to Hallmark users who have shown a propensity to use digital imaging as well as we've identified a whole group of other consumers who have either broadband access or are digital camera owners,” Mishek said.

At the core of it, Hallmark seeks to expand the personal expressions market that is hotly contested by rival American Greetings Corp., Cleveland.

In digital imaging, Hallmark will go head-to-head with Eastman Kodak Co., offline scrapbooking firm Creative Memories, Martha Stewart Living magazine and Martha-By-Mail, PhotoPoint.com and shutterfly.com.

“We want to appeal to those people who are a little more technologically savvy, people who really are into digital photography or like to use online,” Mishek said.

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