Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Men are From Mars, Women are From Hallmark

I went card shopping today to find an anniversary card for a couple we've known for years.  It’s fair to say that there’s some pretty wretched stuff out there in the form of maudlin, raggedy, iambic pentameters stuffed into $5.00 cards.

It takes two special people,
To make a loving pair.
There’s a joy just being around you,
A feeling we love to share.


Because we can't call people without wings angels, we call them friends instead.

Does anyone you know really talk to their friends this way?

Consequently, I found myself in the Shoebox section of the Hallmark aisle.  Shoebox cards are clever, like the excellent anniversary card I almost bought that started “Your butt cheeks are sagging. . . ."

I do believe a Shoebox cocktail party would be a memorable one, with lampshades used in all kinds of unspeakable ways.

Of course, Hallmark and other card companies go through the same marketing discipline we all do, segmenting their customers into buying groups and then creating, in the case of Hallmark, “commoditized sentiment” that appeals to that group.  In David Ellis Dickerson’s new book, House of Cards, he details his years working for Hallmark—a kind of Dilbertesque box-canyon for a guy with a masters degree in fine arts.

Dickerson tells us that women represent nearly 90% of the card market, causing Hallmark to segment along themes such as “How Much You Mean,” and “Thinking of You.”

Care to guess the most popular theme for men? 

That's right.  It’s known as SELD, or “Seldom Say,” and is described by Dickerson as “I know I don’t say it very often, but for what it’s worth I love you and here’s a card.”

Ever bought one of those, gents?  Ever bought anything BUT one of those?

The anniversary card I finally purchased has the guy on the front singing MC Hammer’s song, “Da da da da, Can’t touch this.”  You open it up and the gal is replying, “For the last time, I don’t WANT to touch it.”

Made me laugh out loud. 

By the way, for you Marketing types: I can’t explain the numbers either.  There are roughly as many women as men in America.  That means there are roughly as many birthdays for women as for men, and an identical number of anniversaries.  So, how do men manage to purchase just 10% of all greeting cards? 

There is one plausible explanation: Women must be buying cards for themselves. 

All of which means men really are from Mars.  But women, we now know, must often just be coming back from the Hallmark store.