Rise of the machines
The machines are trying to take over. Technology companies increasing requests for licencing?
As a card publisher it seems we are being approached more and more by online tech sites to licence our designs. Tech cards come in various flavours, starting with a fancy email to a friend because you forgot to buy a real card. You know you forgot and so do they so lets not fool ourselves. Is it really plausible that you spent hours trawling around The Hollies, picking up Wendy Jones Blackett and 5 Dollar only to decide there was nothing suitable?
"Nothing was quite right so I thought, mmm I have a better Idea, I'm going to step outside and send her the squeaky Pokemon knock off by email."
I made use of this service myself when I sent one of these e-cards for a work colleague who I've had no contact with for five years. I wish I'd taken the trouble to buy a real card because now the Pokemon knock off reappears in my inbox annually to remind me its her birthday. The irony being that I only used their service because I forgot her birthday in the first place. Incidentally, the reminder is always too late for me to pop down to The Hollies and buy a real card even if I wanted to. (Marketing 101)
At the other end of the scale is the latest offering. It's an app that allows you to hand write on your phone the text you wish to appear inside your card. The 21st century digital printer will then replicate this in a card of your choice. A robot then writes the envelope, sticks a stamp on and pops down to the postbox. The digital handwriting being so authentic that the recipient will never know that you never laid a finger on it when it pops through their letterbox. The pitch would have sounded pretty impressive to the suits who signed off the million pound investment. That is unless any of them have ever tried actually writing on a phone screen with their finger. If so its more likely that your recipient will suspect you recently lost the use of your hands in a sewing accident and were forced to write the card with your feet.
“The digital print will mimic your actual handwriting making the receiver unaware you had never laid a finger on the card.”
Some sites are happy to use generic designs of their own which although nice enough aren't always much beyond Asda knock offs which in themselves are knock offs and so on. Others seem to be keen to sign up known and recognised hand finished brands. As hand finished card publisher we have been approached by a number of these companies. They promise a pitiful but steady income stream with no fulfilment on our part. Sounds like the laptop lifestyle is on its way, make money while you sleep. Whilst we surf in the Bahamas, or sleep for that matter the cash will come rolling in. Try doing that whilst supplying hundreds of the U.K. retailers month in month out. No more late nights, hand finishing and packing and shipping orders. We were ready to open the laptop and count the cash.
SO why not.
So this being the case and in the interest of full disclosure its worth mentioning that we have indeed said yes, but... only under certain conditions.
Firstly we would never licence a product that we still currently offer to our independent shops. We have ranges that frankly never made the grade, even after reaching the print stage. Not because they were poor designs but they just didn't suit the mood of our shops, the market or us. For that reason our shops have never seen them and never will. After polishing the surfboard we made a range of these cards available on a digital site. To be honest it pays for the coffee every month, that is if you don't mind waiting 60 days for your coffee, but sales are growing. This time next year perhaps we'll be having cake too.
We are about to launch another set of designs based on existing work in Saudi Arabia. Again these are based on our Pattern Boutique but much bigger and very different from anything in the shops. A range that would never be picked up by an independent retailer in the UK. We have laughed off the other sites due to discounts, ridiculous payment terms and microscopic commissions.
So while we wake up every morning and check our bank balance we'll carry on creating hand finished greeting cards here in Cheshire.
Needless to say, the next time my Birthday rolls around I'll be having all my cards DNA tested by forensic scientists to determine whether the senders hands have ever touched it. If not then you go on my ecard list.