Business Ecards Are So 2020! For 2021, Switch to Paper/Print With a Personalized Handwritten Message!

I know this is evergreen content! The month of December lends itself to it, though. Indeed, the holiday season is a recurring and predictable event. If you work for the Communication department, the imminent (and much yearned for) arrival of 2021 should spur you to start thinking about what kind of business greeting cards you are going to send to your clients, partners, and prospects, in early January.

I said it all in the title of this article. You have to send cards, preferably on a print medium, along with a handwritten message. I shall try and convince you of it if you’re not already a believer!

A Greeting Cards Story

Since Sir Henry Cole (one of the main instigators of the Crystal Palace Exhibition at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations in 1851), a British subject, invented the Christmas card in 1843, this tradition of welcoming the new year has become a nearly universal habit. Henry Cole had his card designed by a g̶r̶a̶p̶h̶i̶s̶t designer painter, John Calcott Horsley, and had 1,000 copies printed through a lithographic process. This card is considered the first greeting card globally. It became in 2001 the most expensive greeting card in history when it was auctioned off for 22,500 pounds (almost 30,000$)! Around 1895, thanks to technological advances in printing, what was once considered a game for only the select few has become a popular, almost compulsory, tradition!

However, let’s note that as early as the 15th century, there was such a thing as a “well wishes page.” In the 17th century, merchants (therefore “businesses”) were sending their customers handmade prints made of dried flowers and ribbons collages to celebrate the New Year. Business greeting cards are, thus, more than three centuries old!

A few figures!

Seven billion greeting cards are purchased in the U.S. each year, and annual retail sales are estimated at over $7.5 billion. Nine out of ten households buy an average of 30 individual cards per year. In France, each year, 70 million greeting cards are sold, and one French person out of five sends his wishes through the French Postal Service. In France, the greeting cards business’s turnover is around 300 million dollars, with an average price of $4.25. End-of-year greeting cards represent roughly 28% of the annual volume, i.e., 20 million cards. The other 72% are for other celebrations (birthday, anniversary, wedding, birth, condolences, retirement, etc.) and are spread throughout the year. In 2017, 48% of French people intended to send a greeting card! But greeting card industry sales are declining at an annualized rate of 3 percent through 2023, according to market-research firm IBISWorld. And retail space occupied by greeting card stores declined by more than 27 percent from 2013 to 2018, according to real estate data firm CoStar Group

Why we will (in part) give up the ecard sent through a mass mailing to our clients and prospects

Because too many companies do it, because it’s the easy way out, because the card is not customized (which is why it exists in the first place, though), because the eight words in the accompanying message (when there is one) are not handwritten (and are reminiscent of a mass Ctrl C + Ctrl V), because you can’t use mass mailing to create and reinforce an individual relationship, because the recipient will see this ecard as an automated tool that has nothing to do with the special, unique, personal relationship that he is supposed to have with his sales representative, his client, his provider, etc.!

You can use ecards on your homepage and 15 social networks, where it is evident that you communicate globally… And, of course, in these instances, nobody will take it the wrong way.

Why not try and use a video? That’s what Arthur Sadoun and Maurice Levy from Publicis did in the brilliant example below. It is a risky exercise as a duet that I find very successful.

It was not their trial run, though; here is their 2016 greeting card, full of great ads parodies:

Also, why not try augmented reality? Thales used it in 2019, as shown below:

Therefore, you will have a print medium (with augmented reality that appears on top of the print when you use a smartphone to read the card), as well as a video that you can reuse and distribute on your website and your social networks.

Why we will, once and for all, opt for a greeting card on high-quality paper, at least for our VIP clients and high potential prospects

A paper greeting card is an investment in the relationship between a company and its clients. By making free ecards on Canva or with a tiny budget, you expose yourself to ending up with unfashionable cards, with no personality, and thus, ruining all your hard work! The end of year greeting card represents the best and only time of year when you can thank the clients who put their trust in you, get back in touch with former clients (especially after a year like 2020 when you couldn’t see anybody face to face during trade shows or client visits), and make your prospects understand that you would very much like to transform them into clients… Clients that you respect and with whom you will have a human relationship, privileged, unique, etc. We said all that before.

Your greeting card has to be different from your competitors’, as it is proof of your creativity and dynamism. This is what will make your clients, partners, and prospects understand that you are packed with good ideas, energy, and resources for this new year and that you (still) know how to innovate.

This is why you have to create this greeting card (or have somebody make it for you), and this is also why you need to resist the temptation of the easy option… This is also why you need to take the necessary time to handwrite it, client after client, on your own, or as a team. If you customize your message for each card and add a personal touch, the recipient will indeed feel it.

Here are a few paper greeting card ideas that are not too common yet:

  • A greeting card from which you can remove a part (your logo?) and plant it so that it will bloom in 2021. This is done on plantable seed paper. Furthermore, a bit of green makes people feel good.
  • A greeting card that contains a gift: chocolate bites, candies (featuring the company’s logo), mini-puzzle. A gift is usually customary and appreciated at this time of year, and the budgets are often very sensible.
  • A greeting card with augmented reality elements: have a look below at the card from Club Med!
  • A charity greeting card, UNICEF, food banks, Red Cross, Telethon, etc.: a bit of “charity washing” never hurts, and here it really goes to charitable or medical organizations. Also, nothing prevents you from customizing with a well designed and printed Bristol card, showcasing your color theme and logo!

Do you need more ideas? Ask your Communication Director, Communication Officer, and their graphic designer; it’s part of their job :)!

What is the nicest greeting card you’ve ever received?

What is your budget for print greeting cards?

On to you, readers!

Originally published at




French Communication Director since 2004, I'm passionate by Comunication and I'm ready & motivated to work on any Com projects. Feel free to ask me!

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Christophe Depernet

Christophe Depernet

French Communication Director since 2004, I'm passionate by Comunication and I'm ready & motivated to work on any Com projects. Feel free to ask me!

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