Hey guys! Welcome back to Products Worth Talking About — the show about disruptive physical products and the people who built them. In today’s episode, we have the David and Goliath of the greeting card industry facing off — Goliath being Hallmark versus David being Lovepop.
It’s amazing to us that in this day and age of Facebook, Instagram, and the online world people still hunt for the perfect greeting card. Then there’s never the right-sized envelope for the card you picked — it’s a mess!
This prompted us to find out if there’s anybody disrupting the traditional method — and up “popped” Lovepop!
Before we dive in, we found some honorable mentions of other companies we thought were a close second to Lovepop:
Lovepop is the inspiration for this episode because RT purchased a Lovepop card that had a butterfly in it for his grandmother on Mother’s Day in 2020, and nine months later, every time RT calls her, she mentions that card because she keeps it on her window —she thinks it’s the most beautiful gift she’s ever received. She’s thrown away all the other cards she got last year, except the one from Lovepop.
And of course, we reviewed Hallmark — the Goliath of the greeting card industry. Does Lovepop even stand a chance? Let’s find out!
We evaluated each company based on these four criteria today: Quality, Design, Options (skew variation), and Whether It Makes a Statement.
First, let’s get into the background of each company and dive right in!
Hallmark is a $4 billion company, and LinkedIn says they have more than 30,000 employees! Going back to 1910, you’ll find that they have a great start-up story. Joyce C. Hall, at age 18, was a teenage entrepreneur with two shoe boxes of postcards under his arm, basically going door to door, selling these greeting cards. Now, everyone knows Hallmark, and it’s still a family-owned business privately held in Kansas City, Missouri.
For a fair comparison, we looked specifically at Hallmark’s pop-up cards — because they are massive and have a tremendous selection to choose from — from home decor, ornaments, gifts, and cards. The pop-ups section on their website has 263 different pop-up card options and 32 choices for Valentine’s Day.
We purchased our favorite Valentine’s Day card, which was a beautiful tree. As you open the card you can see there’s a little swing with birds in it. We want to know how they make these things! It’s honestly like magic.
We also purchased their beer card, which could be a great Father’s Day card. When it opens, inside it has a glass of beer and foam on top. We also purchased a Christmas card that pops up into a truck — complete with a Christmas tree in the back.
The pricing for Hallmark versions varies from $4 to $15. The more elaborate the card, the more expensive it is!
Lovepop started in 2014 by founders Wombi Rose and John Wise. They are based out of Boston, Massachusetts, with 100 employees on LinkedIn — which for a company that young is actually a high amount of employees!
Interesting fact — Wombi and John became best friends at Webb Institute training while becoming architects. It was on a Harvard Business School trip to Vietnam when they started this concept and the whole idea evolved into a business.
Lovepop recently did a Series B round of funding for $10 million in December of 2019. Raising this much capital with 100 employees means they’re possibly looking to expand. Lovepop has raised $31.2 million in capital to date, according to Crunchbase.
Fun fact, they were on Shark Tank — and as you know, we love Shark Tank! They got an investment from Kevin O’Leary, which is incredible considering that 1% of entrepreneurs are lucky enough to get onto Shark Tank, much less get an investment. That’s impressive.
Lovepop bases its style on kirigami, which is different from origami. I nstead of folding paper, you cut it to make shapes. They call their cards slicegami, which is a term they’ve trademarked. Lovepop created what we now know as the highest quality pop-up card available.
The number of products they produce is unbelievable — there are 504 different card options (all pop-up cards) and 111 options just for Valentine’s Day! We shot this episode close to Valentine’s Day, which is maybe why the number is so high — but 100+ options just for Valentine’s Day is quite incredible.
Lovepop pricing ranges from $13 up to $38. They’re definitely on the higher-end as far as greeting cards go, but the detail and quality they put into their cards is sure to put a smile on your grandma’s face.
To discover which greeting card company takes the crown, let’s take a closer look at each company based on those four criteria we laid out earlier: Quality, Design, Options (Skew Variation), and lastly, Making a Statement.
RT gave Hallmark 4/10, and Tyler gave them 3/10.
RT gave Lovepop 9/10, and Tyler gave them 9/10.
Sorry, Hallmark, but if you put the tree card next to the roses — it’s night and day. Lovepop’s quality lasts for a long time — RT’s grandmother will tell you! Hallmark doesn’t have that same feel to it. To be fair — you get what you pay for, and Hallmark cards are much cheaper, perhaps a factor of mass production. Lovepop’s are almost double in most cases, but we can see the difference.
RT gave Hallmark 8/10, and Tyler gave them 5/10.
RT gave Lovepop 9/10, and Tyler gave them 10/10!
Comparing the three Hallmark cards we purchased — The Tree, Truck with Christmas Tree, and Beer with Foam to Lovepop’s Roses, Christmas Owl, and Champagne Bottle — we saw that Lovepop is miles ahead of their 111-year-old competitor.
Lovepop also has a lovely feature where they put a little note that slides out which contains your message. You write your message on their website, and they write your message on the card (looks like a handwritten message) for you before they mail it directly to the person.
Our big test for this was how long would we leave this displayed and not pack it away (RT’s grandmother test), and this is where the beauty of Lovepop’s designs beat Hallmark.
RT gave Hallmark 5/10, and Tyler gave them 7/10.
RT gave Lovepop 10/10, and Tyler gave them 9/10.
It’s hard to compare here. Hallmark makes thousands of greeting cards, with pop-ups being a separate category within that. Lovepop focuses on pop-ups and has almost double the total number of skews compared with Hallmark, whether comparing total number or Valentine’s Day options. Comparing apples with apples, though, Lovepop is the clear winner.
RT gave Hallmark 6/10 and Tyler gives them 3/10.
RT gave Lovepop 10/10 and Tyler gives them 8/10.
There’s a distinct difference here. Hallmark’s tree is pretty good, but across the board, if we’re comparing it to a normal card — yes, these make a statement. However, if we’re comparing them to Lovepop, that’s a different story.
Lovepop’s cards are exquisite to look at and having them sit directly next to their biggest competitor demonstrates just how far ahead their cards are. It must be said again, though, you get what you pay for, and Lovepop’s cards are roughly double the price of Hallmark’s.
Lovepop’s score is an impressive 74 compared with Hallmark’s dismal 41. This is a great example of a market leader losing to an industry disruptor.
Almost every Goliath has certain advantages that they’ve built up across years or even decades. Hallmark has created an economy of scale thanks to years of market domination, which has led to unlimited cash, which then has created an opportunity for outstanding branding. Lastly, distribution is typically a huge advantage, especially for a company with 111 years behind them. We’ve looked at every distribution channel on this show, and 111 years ago, Hallmark probably used a horse and carriage to deliver the cards to someone.
The name “Hallmark” is synonymous with greeting cards. They own everything in this category — or so we thought until putting today’s episode together.
Lovepop has chosen a niche focus — pop-up cards — and they’re going all in! Their marketing strategy is amazing. You will see an Instagram ad from Lovepop if you go to their website, and now we’re just getting flooded with them. They are beautiful videos of unboxing the cards and people seeing them for the first time. Even though you order the cards online, you don’t have to see them in person because of these amazing marketing videos.
We originally thought their lack of distribution was a problem. After considering the impact of their videos, though, we feel there is a huge competitive advantage for Lovepop. The shopability of a Lovepop card in retail is hampered by being very hard to demonstrate. Instead, you can go on their website or Instagram and see everything in how all this works.
People are used to buying online now anyway — no one wants to go to the store and buy a card anymore. Lovepop makes it so easy to get a card online and even directly through Instagram.
David definitely beat Goliath in this episode. We think with Lovepop’s direct-to-consumer model and niche focus, they’re stealing market share every day, and that’s why they’ve raised so much money.
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Thanks for reading! Until next time—
RT and Tyler