CLEVELAND — You're standing in front of the card rack, browsing through valentines. You reject this one and that one, then suddenly — you find a perfect match. You like the wording, you like the art, you make your purchase.
If the recipient loves it, you can thank Jessica Lann and others in her position.
Lann, product development manager for American Greetings, is charged with developing the strategies that determine the design and wording of that card you've chosen so carefully. She works closely with both editorial and design teams to come up with cards that will resonate with consumers.
Her skills are especially important for Valentine's Day, the second largest greeting card occasion, after Christmas. Though many people now send e-cards, Lann says there's still a demand for tangible cards that reflect intangible feelings at this time of year.
"The fundamental basics for Valentine's Day stay the same, people want to connect with their significant others or loved ones. We see changes in how they want to communicate and the language they want to use."
Valentine trends for 2010, she says, reflect hard times and a struggling economy.
"People want to go back to basics right now, they want familiar colors so there's been a migration to red, white and pink," Lann says. As for language, market trends and consumer research also found a desire for "real-life language that's less fairy tale and more real."
"People have reevaluated what's important in their lives and have found what really matters is their relationships with their significant others and family," she explains. "Right now, cards are more romantic and serious in nature."
Some of this year's cards celebrate the fact that the relationship has made it through a difficult year. Though in some years that may reference internal ups and downs, this year it might suggest external circumstances such as job loss. One example: "In this crazy world, at least we have each other."
Another reads: "I don't need a big house, fancy cars, or expensive things to feel at home — I just need you."
Lann says greeting cards must always reflect society and feel authentic for couples in every stage of a relationship. "We do see the need for cards for newly dating consumers, and people who are newly married — not just those in their 20s, but for baby boomers who are re-entering the dating world or getting married for the second time."
For the growing number of couples now living together, for example, Lamm says there are cards that are appropriate, though not too specific. They might use phrases such as "waking up next to you" or "making dinner together."
Valentine-giving isn't limited to a spouse. Cards of appreciation and love are also sent to friends, family, co-workers.
Valentines, a year in the making, range in price from 50 cents to $10 with the more expensive cards often used as a stand-alone gift. Lamm's company produces between 1,000 and 1,500 different valentines each year -- including musical cards -- for American Greetings, Carlton Cards, Gibson, Recycled Paper Greetings and Papyrus.
For Valentine's Day, says Lann, what's important is "to look at what people want to say and what relationship they want to commemorate, what their relationship is focused on, how they want to express love and appreciation."
Meredith Moss writes for the Dayton Daily News. E-mail: mmoss@DaytonDailyNews.com.