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Buckeye Built: Westlake's American Greetings draws inspiration from social media trends

Posted: 1:03 PM, Feb 14, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-14 18:22:33-05
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WESTLAKE, Ohio — From Cleveland to Columbus and Toledo to Cincinnati, Ohio is packed with companies who call the Buckeye State home.

As part of the News 5 Cleveland Buckeye Built series, reporter Meg Shaw went behind the creative scenes at a 113-year-old greeting card company: American Greetings.


The American Greetings company was founded in 1906 by a Polish immigrant who began selling postcards in Public Square out of his family's horse-drawn carriage.

In 1929, the Cleveland-based company became the first to commercialize greeting cards with store displays.

Then in the 1940s, during World War II, families used cards as a way to keep in touch with loved ones. This is also the time in which the company officially changed its name to American Greetings.

In 1956, American Greetings expanded into Canada with the purchase of Carlton Cards.

In the 1990s, American Greetings introduced the first card line printed on recycled paper. This is also the time when technology expanded rapidly. In an effort to take cards everywhere, was launched in 1996.

In 2016, the company moved its headquarters from Brooklyn to Westlake. The company called the move a transformational moment in their company's history.

Industry Changes

The greeting card industry has experienced many changes over the years.

Kelly Ricker, Group Vice President and Chief Creative Officer for American Greetings, said one aspect that's changed the most is our relationships with one another.

“People are living in all different kinds of family situations, they have all different kinds of relationships with partners and friends," Ricker said. "So we work really hard to keep our cards updated and reflective of what's going on."

Ricker said this can be challenging for their product on the shelves.

Buckeye Built: American Greetings

"We used to see a trend and we could work to get it, whether it was a design trend or a copy trend and we could work to get it in our lines and it would hang around for a few years. Things change so quickly now and what's a trend today needs to be in the rack tomorrow and next week, people aren't as interested in it," she said.

While the greeting card industry has changed significantly over the years, the Greeting Card Association said consumers are still buying and sending cards.

According to the Greeting Card Association, Americans buy 6.5 billion greeting cards each year and the industry is worth about $7 billion.

"Consumers are still shopping. They're just shopping a little bit differently," Ricker said.

Utilizing Internet, Social Media

With the rise of the Internet and social media, greeting card companies are facing a declining consumer audience. But American Greetings is working to use the platforms as a source of inspiration.

"There's lots of different ways for people to connect. They can send a text, they could post on Facebook, but they love greeting cards," she said.

Ricker said the creative teams at American Greetings are constantly reading and scanning the various platforms to see what is trending and how they can use the latest trends to their advantage.

"Up until now there weren't a lot of cultural reference points to figure out how people wanted to say it. You had magazines and you had books, but those were publications. Now you've got real people putting their emotions online 24/7, so it's helpful to us because we can just scour that and say, 'Oh, this word is trending,'" she said.

Ricker also said their company is facing shorter and shorter attention spans in the e-card space, leading to yet another challenge for their team.

"People are pressed for time. They want to say something nice and connect with the people in our lives, but they want to do it quickly," she said.

Preparing for the Future

Ricker said millennials have presented new challenges they haven't experienced in years past.

"If they're going to send a card, it's got to be just right. It wasn't quite the same with baby boomer consumers," she said. "They were standing in card aisles thinking, 'Well, I'll get a card. This one's great.' Millennials think differently. It has to be just right or they'll do their own thing, so the bar is higher."

So while much has changed, Ricker believes the industry still has legs; all they have to do is keep up.

“We have to be in the right retailers. We have to have the right card assortments. We've got to have a creative team that's really with it and focused on what's happening in consumers lives.”

For more on Americans Greetings, click here.