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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Art Licensing: POD E-Stores - The Best-Kept Secret of Birthday Card Designers

E-Stores (online/electronic stores) are becoming more and more popular on the Internet. Consumers have found that it an efficient way to search for products with the best prices, find products that local retailers no longer stock, and search for unique and personalized products for gifts. Depending on the type of product(s) sold, owners of e-stores can take advantage of printing on demand (POD) to keep a low inventory, and sell personalized products. Personalized products appeal to a smaller number of consumers (niche) and usually are not available in retail stores.

The e-store Blow Birthday Cards is a wonderful example on why Internet POD stores are created. As founder and CEO, Jerry McLaughlin explains, “Somewhere around my 50th birthday I realized that I wasn’t doing a good job of sending real birthday cards to my good friends. I always meant to, but I often missed the opportunity. Too busy with work, too busy with kids, not enough time to get to the store, etc. I wanted to be the person that always remembers to send a card, because my friends are very special. I knew I needed a system if I was going to be able to change my ways. I created Blow Birthday Cards so I could always get a birthday card on time to each of my special friends – and now I do :) “

Below is an article by Jerry about why he thinks an POD e-store with unique greeting cards is fulfilling consumer wishes that is lacking in retail stores.

The Best-Kept Secret of Birthday Card Designers

By Jerry McLaughlin
Founder & CEO of Blow Birthday Cards

Birthdays are a gift – a once a year chance to tell our friends and loved ones that they are special to us without either of us having to feel weird about bringing it up.

But even on a day dedicated to celebrating a special person in our lives, saying what we want to say can be hard. So, for the same reason that the President has speechwriters, we rely on birthday card designers to awaken shared memories, make us laugh or blush, and give voice to our deepest feelings.

But is that what birthday card designers are doing for us today?

Not so much. Yes it’s true that Americans bought 1.7 million birthday cards today, just like they do every day. But most of those shoppers say they would have liked to find a more special card.

What makes a birthday card special?
A special birthday card recalls for both the giver and the recipient a specific shared memory, revels in a shared sense of humor, or reveals a sincere feeling.

To evoke a shared memory we need a specific trigger. For example, let’s say you and your wife shared your first kiss on a camping trip with friends; you know she’ll appreciate a card that captures a couple kissing outside of a tent or a whimsical camping scene.

Why aren’t we making specialized cards that customers crave?
The historical root of the problem is in the high cost of running a retail store. Every successful retailer knows space in the store is precious. So before they dedicate some of that precious space to a birthday card design, they’ve got to expect to sell a lot of that same design. Therefore they have to offer designs that will appeal to almost everyone that comes in looking for a birthday card. The result is a lot of cards on the shelf that are suitable for anyone, meaning they are special for no one.

Designing for online is different
In my view, too often independent designers are trying to out-Hallmark Hallmark. They are designing cards that will have the broadest possible appeal. But rather than fight the big card companies head on, designers can make cards that reference very specific interests, objects, activities, experiences, or sentiments. These specialized cards don’t appeal to everyone, but they appeal very strongly to enough buyers to make the designer very successful, and appreciated. The watchwords of the successful independent birthday card designer are “specialized” and “insightful”.

At Blow Birthday Cards, we also focus more on finding great designers than on finding great cards. We look for designers whose birthday cards have visual or verbal elements that relate to some narrow interest or specific aspect of life. For example, we prefer a yoga card to an exercise card. The more specialized the card, the more perfectly it will fit someone.

Writers (more than) welcome
While visual artists have created some great birthday cards, people that think of themselves more as storytellers have designed many of the best birthday cards. The great birthday card is an effective communication, like a great advertisement.

So-- what’s the best-kept secret?
In a country with 330 million birthdays this year, a card that is so specialized that it is perfect for someone you know will be perfect for 100,000 other people too. Those are the birthday cards customers cannot find in stores. Those are the birthday cards that sell online. Those are the birthday cards customers really want.

Note: Blow Birthday Cards is a member of Art Licensing Show (ALSC) and artist members can connect with Jerry McLaughlin. Artist "profile members" can also show him their art on the ALSC website.

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  1. I found this to be an extremely interesting read! I had soured on most POD sites because I never made any money from them, literally. but it seems the key here is the unique niche to tap into and it has changed my way of thinking! Thanks so much for posting this.

  2. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for your comment! I only now saw it, hence my delay in posting. I think the POD sites are going to turn out a lot like other e-commerce sites - in the long run there will be a few very big ones and countless tiny ones. But the big ons will get very big (I was in Silicon Valley in the early days of e-coomerc when people hadn't yet heard of Amazon). As the world's first Birtdhya Card store we are looking - 365 days a year - for great birthday card designers.

    All my best,