This year’s *Noted experience served as a perfect primer on all the good things happening in the Greeting Card Association and for its members right now.
The momentum behind the whole *Noted concept continues to grow, as more members of the greeting card community participate and understand that *Noted is not just a trade show; rather, it is a community event, organized by and for members or our community. As such, *Noted is a constantly evolving event, as it goes where the volunteer leaders from the community take it.
Community support for *Noted really took off this year, with an incredibly active committee of volunteers driving content, creative, marketing, etc. Kate Murray (Quick Brown Fox Letterpress), Brad Woods (Maginating), Christy Asper (Paper Baristas), and Sarah Schwartz (Paper Nerd and Stationery Trends) were particularly generous in their dedication of time and talent, greatly strengthening the work started by John Smyth (A Smyth Co.) and myself back in 2018. From a robust social media campaign, to the postcard mailing to more than 10,000 retailers, to the “Meet Your Maker” videos that enabled each maker to create a one minute “commercial” for their line, to the ambitious increase in Pitch Programs to four (!), the fingerprints of GCA volunteers were all over *Noted.
The four pitch programs enabled almost 40 makers to pitch their lines to selected retailers. This included a group of makers wanting to break into key accounts, pitching to a group that included buyers from leading grocery chains like Wegman’s and Meijer, a top card-selling catalog company (Universal Direct), and TJ Maxx, as well as seven new makers pitching to top independent retailers and a rep group principal. Finally, we followed up on the amazing success of our Black Makers Pitch Program, which directly led to new, significant distribution for participants with a Makers of Color Pitch Program, facilitating pitches from seven Makers of Color to independent retailers and a rep group principal. Importantly, those last two programs enabled those 14 makers to not only participate in these Pitch Programs at no cost, but also to participate in Noted at half the usual fee, thanks to the support of generous sponsorships from Hallmark, American Greetings, and Designer Greetings. That type of support is vital to the continued growth and vibrancy of our industry—and of the GCA.
Unlike many other virtual shows, *Noted provided a direct link to enable retailers to buy from makers, through the new GCA Marketplace, which is rapidly becoming THE online buying portal for retailers looking for greeting cards. By offering a portal focused on and dedicated to greeting cards, curated to only include products from our maker members, the GCA is providing retailers a highly desirable and useful tool to improve their in-store offering, and is providing member makers a real selling avenue for the first time, all available 24/7/365.
In addition to the Pitch Programs, *Noted offered great content for retailers, sales reps, and makers alike. This included the return or Noted @ *Noted, the new design contest, managed by Sarah, which enjoyed a 40% increase in submissions this year, with nearly 200 fabulous designs submitted to a terrific panel of retailer judges, as well as a most interesting interview of Chandra Greer, the self-described “heat seeking stationery missile,” by John. There was also a thoughtful presentation by the new head of marketing at the US Postal Service, a critical partner for our industry since they deliver more than half of all cards purchased at retail to their final recipient. Importantly, this presentation came as negotiations continue in the Congress on needed postal reform legislation to ensure the long-term stability of the Postal Service—negotiations that the GCA is heavily involved in. USPS gave us nice recognition during the *Noted presentation as being the originators of the “good mail” so vital to their own business, as greeting cards are at the top of the list of items that people want to find in their mailbox.
We also launched a “new tradition” at *Noted this year, announcing LOUIE Award finalists throughout the event. Being one of the three LOUIE finalists in a category is a big deal, so we want to do more than just issue a press release announcing all the finalists at once. By announcing a few at a time throughout Noted, each finalist got a nice “moment in the sun,” while also helping drive more *Noted and GCA Marketplace traffic. This effort will continue with a new display of all LOUIE finalists, generously contributed by UPC, to be set up adjacent to the infamous elevators on floor 2 in building 2 of AmericasMart during the Atlanta summer market—with directions to the showroom where retailers can find and order these LOUIE-recognized cards. Make sure you REGISTER NOW for the virtual LOUIE event on July 8, when all the winners will be announced! Tickets are just $15.
*Noted also included a new partner that enabled us to really maximize the event this year—Showcase, a virtual show connecting the art and design licensing community—not only contributed a lot of great content to the event, it also helped us incorporate another key component of the greeting card community—the artists that make our cards “work” at retail. This is such a natural synergy; we hope a long-term partnership has been born!
Finally, the smooth operation of *Noted, as well as the development of the GCA Marketplace and the Showcase partnership, was all made possible by the GCA’s management team at Civica, led by our energetic Executive Director, Nora Weiser. Nora and the Civica team have been such a pleasure to work with since we engaged them 8 months ago, and they have made a real, positive impact on the GCA and its operations. I know those who participated in *Noted benefited from the wonderful work of Kori Sulewski, GCA Conference & Membership Specialist, who went above and beyond to make sure everything ran smoothly!
In short, the GCA and *Noted have strong momentum, with a lot more to come, including a return to a live *Noted in 2022. Thanks to the participation, engagement, and support from so many members, we will keep the good news coming. Speaking of which, if you attend NY Now in August, please visit the GCA Village and plan to come to the GCA Meet Up on Monday, August 9, immediately after show closing. Watch your email for further info, but it sure will be great to see lots of you IRL. Finally.