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What’s on the cards this Christmas?

It’s been 175 years since the very first Christmas card was sent, yet even in the digital age, this Victorian tradition is still going strong. 44’s Sarah Woods looks at why sending cards is as much a part of Christmas as eating sprouts.

It’s my favourite time of year. A time when Father Christmas reclaims ‘ho ho ho’ from the sweetcorn-loving Green Giant, when enquiring about people’s shopping replaces commenting on the weather as a Great British conversation starter, and when chocolate before 9am isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged.

It’s a season characterised by traditions, and they play a huge part in the way we celebrate. According to The Greetings Card Association, sending cards is an important part of our culture, and a tradition that’s fairly unique to the UK – incredibly, last year us Brits bought a staggering one billion Christmas cards.

So, what’s the big deal?

When Henry Cole sent the first Christmas card back in 1843, it was originally a time-saving scheme to cut down the hours spent writing letters to family and friends. But, in a world where you can send unlimited messages or emails, why are Christmas cards so popular? And what comms lessons can we learn from this communication form that seems to defy technological trends?

1. Making the effort

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but Christmas is generally acknowledged as one of the busiest times as well. In many ways it’s the fact that we’re so busy during the festive season that makes Christmas cards so special.

The effort of taking time during the most manic of months to buy cards, hand-write messages and remember to post them means they are always well received. At the risk of going a little L’Oréal, Christmas cards send the message that ‘you’re worth it’.

Lesson 1: When it comes to meaningful comms, make sure it’s delivered in the right way – even when times are busy. For big news or in periods of change, make sure you put the extra effort in to deliver something that shows your employees they are worth it.

2. Putting your stamp on Christmas

In the 44 office, we go big on Christmas. Planning and designing our card begins months in advance. We make sure that the final design reflects some of the personality and creativity that our clients have come to expect.

Whether you prefer the traditional nativity scene or are more partial to something sparkly, your Christmas card says something about you.

Lesson 2: Make sure that you’re sending the right message with your comms and that it’s true to your brand.

3. Thank you very much!

Christmas cards are a great way to catch up, but they are also the ideal opportunity to say thank you. Whether that’s acknowledging your colleagues for their support over the year, or expressing your gratitude to the school teachers who turn up to work every day with a smile on their face and 30 children in front of them.

Lesson 3: Never underestimate the importance of recognising, rewarding and thanking employees for their contribution and hard work.

4. The feel-good factor

As well as the warm glow that comes from receiving Christmas cards, most of the packs you see in shops these days will be in partnership with a charity. In fact, the Greetings Card Association estimates that around £50 million is raised for good causes through the sale of charity Christmas cards each year – so there’s even more of a feel-good factor involved in buying and sending Christmas cards.

Lesson 4: For Millennials in particular, a solid commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility is something they look for in an employer. How ethical are your credentials?

5. Tradition rules

If you still need convincing of the importance of Christmas cards, research conducted by Oxfam found that 90% of adults still believe a Christmas card is the most fitting festive greeting of all. Eight in ten admitted that they’d hate to see technology taking over one of their favourite times of the year.

“Us Brits love our traditions, and this survey proves our nation is united when it comes to festive greetings,” explained Fee Gilfeather, Head of Customer Experience at Oxfam. “Electronic messages just can’t replace reading a hand-written message from a well-wisher, or the lovely decoration they bring when strung up at home.”

Lesson 5: Ensure you’ve got a good understanding of what your audience wants and the best way to deliver it. Sometimes, old-school methods work best.

It turns out that Christmas traditions serve an important purpose too. Professor Thomas Plante explained: “In our often chaotic, discombobulating, and frantic world, having long-held holiday traditions that offer important connections to and continuity with the past and to each other is critically important.”

And anyone who uses the word discombobulating has my vote.

So next time you get passed the sprouts, make sure you take one for the team.

Merry Christmas from all of us at 44!

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