The age-old greeting card

The greeting card has been kind of like a reptilian fossil, frozen in time, unchanged in format for as long as anyone can remember, usually a short message on a piece of cardboard that a purchaser simply signs and mails. To the recipient the card has often been a sterile, impersonal, one-size-fits-all greeting, with no specific reference to the recipient except for the usual added pen-written message by the sender. In an era of astounding technological change (particularly in communication with smart phones and iPads), the greeting card remained a hand-written throwback to the past.

That is changing. Robert Beadles, founder of MemoryTag Greeting Cards, one of the new interactive greeting card manufacturers, said the traditional greeting cards of the past left a lot to be desired. The messages were often lame, cheesy, impersonal, generic in nature, and they seldom said what you wanted them to say.

Beadles said he got the idea for an interactive digital greeting card after having company employees from another business he owns try to jointly sign a traditional card for their customers. He said it was like herding a bunch of cats. It took forever to get everybody together to sign the card, and after they did, it looked like a graffiti mess.

The smartphone led to the interactive greeting card

Though the technology has been around a few years, it has only recently been applied to personalized greeting cards. At the heart of the innovation is a computer software or app added to the paper greeting card, similar to a bar code that allows the groceries you purchase to be scanned and entered into a cash register.

In this case you can download the smartphone app onto a smartphone for example, and then add your own personal recorded video message or photo to the card using your phone.

The person receiving the card also downloads the app. They scan the card with their smartphone to play back the recorded (filmed) message. Thus, the receiver of the card gets a personalized message or picture face-to-face from the sender.

From then on the card receiver can see their video or photo you send to them anytime they want. You see the face of the person and hear their voice, rather than just scribble on a piece of paper.

This means the video message or photo remains a lifelong keepsake, unlike old greeting cards, which are often discarded or lost. Beadles said his way of digital message greeting cards has soared in popularity over the past few years, while the sales of old-fashioned cards has declined in quality and quantity. According to the website NPR (National Public Radio), Hallmark, a major supplier of traditional greeting cards, closed its distribution center in Enfield, Conn., in 2015, and cut 570 jobs because of declining profit.

Instead, social media has become the faster, cheaper means of communication, the report noted.

Greeting card messages now tailor-made for recipient

Beadles said upgrading to video-based greeting cards gives the receiver more meaning and emotion. The cards are sometimes edgy in their messages and feature humor. As a result, the new greeting cards resonate with what people wished their card would say.