Greetings season

Harish Bhat | Updated on January 10, 2021

How marketers can use the traditional exchange of festive wishes meaningfully

I began 2021 with a deluge of New Year’s greetings, mainly on WhatsApp and email. There were a few beautiful printed cards too, which reached me by post. Some of these greetings were very meaningful to me, coming from loved ones, friends and colleagues. Some were unique. One wished me Happy New Year, but warned me never to talk about 2020, unless I craved punishment. Another reminded me that 2021 is the Chinese year of the Ox — so it would be appropriate to be calm, persistent and diligent like an ox.

I received an unexpected greeting card from my banker, who, in addition to wishing me, put forward a catalogue of the bank’s new offerings. Many brands began the year by greeting us through their advertisements, though most were lost in the clutter. I loved Vivo’s greeting, though — with its #switchoff campaign, this mobile phone brand urged us to take a break from our smartphones and spend time with our near and dear ones in the New Year.

How many greetings did you receive or send, either digitally or as printed cards? Lots, I would guess. After all, the tradition of exchanging greetings dates back to ancient Egypt, where papyrus scrolls were used. By the 1500s, greeting cards were in vogue. The first Christmas cards to be printed in large numbers were in the 1840s.

Famous brands of cards soon emerged. Hallmark became a leader worldwide. In India, many will recall Archie’s cards, which continues to offer a good selection on its website. Soon, non-profit organisations such as Unicef, Cry (Child Relief and You) and HelpAge began marketing their own greeting cards for fund-raising. We also have a range of e-cards today.

By understanding the fundamental needs that greeting cards serve, marketers can leverage them meaningfully.

Display of affection

A greeting card is, first and foremost, a display of affection as it shares good wishes and joy during a festive season. If the card is meaningfully customised, it shows the receiver that you have taken the time and effort to make it special.

Brands that know their customers or business partners well can consider sending customised greetings that reflect individual aspirations or desires, which is likely to touch a chord.

Renewing connection

A greeting card also helps renew connections with a relative or colleague you have lost touch with. Such cards typically contain a small note that updates the receiver about your family details, and could include nice pictures of kids and pets, too. You share a small part of your life with the recipient, in the hope that it rejuvenates the relationship. Marketers, too, can consider such “connection” greetings — for instance, by revealing to customers some charming and relatively unknown “behind the scenes” stories of their brands, from the year gone by.

Espousing a cause

A key reason for using Unicef or Cry greeting cards is to be able to give to a worthy cause alongside spreading cheer. Marketers can innovate and make the festive occasion special for customers and themselves by espousing a relevant cause.

Thing of beauty

I always keep and display for many months the most beautiful or meaningful greeting cards I receive. Some dazzle with the sheer beauty of nature, or the joy of human warmth.

I am still waiting for an Indian brand to create a New Year’s or festive greeting that is so beautiful and touching that it makes me go “wow”, and puts the brand right on top of my mind. On that hopeful note, may I offer my greetings to all of you for a lovely year ahead.


Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views.

Published on January 10, 2021

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