Thursday, 16 September 2010

Do Greeting Cards Need a Verse Inside?

The results of the survey about Greeting Card Buying habits in the UK that I sent out last Spring, showed clearly that, over here, we prefer cards that are left blank inside.  77.9% of those asked preferred greeting cards with no verse inside and that would have included me, if I had done the survey.

And yet, there are a lot of greeting cards on sale with verses inside and people make a living from writing verses for the insides of cards; so some people obviously prefer them – those 22.1% of the people who filled in my questionnaire! I wonder why that would be?

And how does that fit with the very successful advertising slogan, 'Say it with flowers'? No words, just flowers...or possibly a floral greeting card.

Being very definitely a' no-verse-inside' kind of person, I can only imagine that verses are popular because the card-giver feels that someone else can express what they wanted to say more eloquently than they could say it themselves. In this case I suspect there’s a gender bias in our preferences but I don’t want to sound sexist!

There are several reasons why I would always buy a greeting card that was blank inside – unless it was the punch line of a joke that began on the front of the card.

1. My first reason is purely practical - it saves time and effort. There are many greeting cards, particularly those known as ‘Art Cards’, where the image could be suitable for many occasions and a verse inside would limit their use.

Apparently women are likely to buy cards as and when they come across them,  just because they like them and not with a particular use in mind. It’s always handy to have drawer full of greeting cards for the unexpected occasion or for when you can’t find anything just right in the shops. (Men, on the other hand, are far less likely to buy greeting cards unless they know they need them for a specific purpose.)

2. Another very powerful reason is that I find most of the verses inside cards overly sentimental and I would feel embarrassed to send them! (Maybe that’s just me being 'frightfully British'.)

3. A third reason is the question of 'personalisation'.
One of the buzz words these days is ‘personalised’; in fact I think the time is coming when it will be very difficult to sell anything online that cannot be ‘personalised’ or ‘customised’. And, although on most websites selling greeting cards, you can hit the ‘customise’ or ‘personalise’ button to remove the inside verse, what was the point of including it in the first place if the trend is towards ‘personalisation’?

I have no statistics to back this up, but my impression is that the American card-buying public is more interested in greeting cards with a verse inside than we are here in the UK. But it is also suggested that whatever is popular in the US is taken up in the UK a few years later. So maybe if I were to send out my questionnaire again in 5 or 10 years time, the results would be very different where ‘blank inside’ or ‘verse inside’ is concerned. I’m not sure how this would fit with the growing demand to personalise our greeting cards.

In the meantime, I’m leaving as many of my greeting cards as possible ‘blank inside for your own message’ and only adding some very brief inside text when the Greeting Card Universe reviewers deem the image and greeting on the front insufficiently explicit to fit in the category I’ve chosen for it. I just hope it will stay that way for many years to come!

But I'm curious about the 22.1% - what is it that is so attractive about having a verse inside a card?

Am I missing something?

What is your preference – a verse inside or ‘blank inside for your own message’?



Jan Scott Nelson said...

Blank, for sure. The verses make me cringe - and often they have typos etc.
This reminded of a different but related issue. That of sympathy/condolences cards. I never send them, or hardly ever. I might if I was wanting to reach out to someone I don't know well just to let them know I'm thinking of them, but for people I know I always write a letter. Funny that!

Jean said...

I buy both. But admit that I may have to look though a dozen or more cards before find a verse that fits my thoughts/feelings.
Humorous cards are really popular in my family.
I buy the blank ones when I know the person I'm sending it to will love the picture or artwork.

Michele said...

I prefer blank cards, or comedy cards where the punchline is revealed inside. I suspect the verses are bought by men. They find it hard to express themselves and a verse does it for them. My boyfriend has to be very careful when buying a card for his mum. She is a lovely lady, but reads the verse carefully, and if she doesn't like the sentiments it portrays, she lets him know! By contrast if I get a card with a verse, I don't even bother to read it properly.

Country Mouse Studio said...

I use both depending on the situation. I wonder what the survey would say in Canada as all our cards have verses except those sold in boxes as a collection or those called note cards.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you all for your comments. It's beginning to look as if there's a clear difference between the UK and our friends across the pond?

Does anyone else have any preferences when it comes to 'blank inside' or 'a verse inside'?

Judy Adamson said...

Jan, I'm the same with condolences, though I might still choose a nice simple card that I can write quite a lot inside. (But that's probably because I'm a greeting card designer!)

Carolyn said...

Hi Judy, I think I may have mentioned this in a comment before on your blog, but when I repped card lines to stores,(about 18 different manufacturers) it was an industry statistic that 90% of cards sold in the U.S. are greeted. Why? Perhaps we're just lazy. It's easier to write "Love, Judy" at the bottom and not add a personal note. I myself love blank cards, but frankly I believe that writing itself is going out of style, as is reading, and that the next generation will be even less likely to personalize their notes. What is the world coming to??

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Carolyn, thanks for your interesting input. It's useful to have a 'professional' view on this and it's making me think I might sell more cards in the US if I put verses inside - but I don't really want to!

I'm not sure I can share your pessimism about reading and writing going out of style when I think of all the people who are blogging and reading blogs. But you may well be correct when it comes to reading and writing offline - ie picking up a pen or pencil! I've always been a bit of a campaigner so maybe we should start a campaign for 'blank inside' greeting cards! :)

Judy Adamson said...

Michele - when I was buying ink cartridges for my new printer yesterday, I got chatting to the two young men running the shop (the Welsh are very 'chopsy' - even the men!) and both of them surprised me by saying that they prefer 'blank inside' cards. On the other hand, I think they were fairly typically male in that they didn't enjoy choosing cards at all!

Polly said...

I also prefer blank cards (I'm British) but I do buy the ones with verses for my Mum. She loves lovely verses. The cards I design for GCU, I often make a blank and a verse version. The ones with verses far outsell the blank ones, even though I can't seem to come up with much more than: "Here's hoping you have a wonderful day!"

I hate the verse writing part :)

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Polly - it does seem to be a 'British' thing on the whole, to prefer 'blank inside'. But what a good idea to do one of each - thank you! I'll see what I can do, though the last time I tried to think of a 'verse' I couldn't come up with anything, probably because I really didn't want to do it! Must try harder!!!

Ulla Hennig said...

I must say I am undecided. Around the corner where I live is a shop which sells cards with wonderful quotes matching the design. I love them and I bought some of them.
But it takes some time to find the proper quotation for designs (and to keep in mind that you can use them without copyright infringement). A blank card with a good design is better than a good design with a bad or lame verse.

Mary Taylor said...

I am definately a blank inside card sort of person, but I seem to have a bit of trouble with GCU, as they are mad for verse.....I try and include one "blank inside" card in every series, but if there s writing on the front, it is often suggested I write something inside!
I like headings like " Guess what", "family tree", "tree of hearts",' What next?" etc, which enables the purchaser to be creative.
Sometimes it is nice to have a blank card, with just the right illustration for a sentiment.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Mary - thank you for adding your comments.

I don't think GCU encourages their purchases to be creative; everything needs to be cut and dried and obvious. I find that frustrating too! (I actually liked your 'tree of hearts' card just how it was!)