Racing Towards Diversity — Racing Toward Diversity - Fall 2014
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Inclusion Noted
Gene Stowe

Connecting people comes naturally for Hallmark Cards.

While census data projects that the United States will become a majority minority country in 2043, a more sophisticated InterEthnic Proximity Index by EthniFacts that considers more dynamic factors such as mixed-race populations and intermarried couples marked the multicultural tipping point on Aug. 22, 2014.

The ties that bind us are at the heart of Hallmark Cards Inc.’s mission, says Tara Frank, who recently became the greeting card company’s first Vice President for Multicultural Strategy.

“Hallmark is a connecting brand – it lives between people, among people,” Frank says. “It’s why multiculturalism in the broadest sense is such a critical factor in building our brand and our business.”

Hallmark has recognized the importance of diverse consumer groups for decades – its Mahogany line for African-Americans is more than 25 years old, its Spanish language Sinceramente more than 20 – and the company has begun creating its core product offerings with multicultural insight as the main source of inspiration.

“We’re now asking ourselves, ‘how do we use what we continue to learn about diverse consumers and their relationships and embed that knowledge into everything we do?’” Frank explains. “We know that our brand is made stronger by walking alongside people with varying cultural viewpoints. There is such strong alignment between our values and theirs—family, connection, and celebration are central to all of us.”

“We recognize how America has already changed. To be a relevant brand to this country, we believe we have to be a fundamentally multicultural brand.”

That’s why Hallmark a few months ego established the marketplace-focused multicultural center of excellence that Frank leads, which works directly with the company’s key business functions including product development, retail, marketing, and digital. The group also partners with separate but closely aligned groups such as consumer research, the creative trends studio, and HR’s Corporate Diversity & Inclusion function.

“The COE team works as personal trainers—informing, inspiring, and collaborating on business strategy and execution,” she says. “I consider our partnership with D&I a crucial one. I believe the only way businesses are going to fuel sustainable market growth is for their workforce to reflect the people they serve.”

“My point of view is extremely practical. When you have diverse leadership, you make more broad-based decisions, you ask different questions, you’re more naturally prone to innovating and making marketplace impact. Creative tension breeds fresh solutions to age-old problems. It allows the organization to have a great deal more confidence in meeting evolving consumer needs because the leaders have intuitive knowledge of today’s consumers and know first-hand what matters most to them.” Frank, who grew up in New Bedford, Mass., in a close-knit community of people whose ancestors came from Cape Verde, joined Hallmark after she graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta with a degree in English.

“I wanted to work at Hallmark since I was 14 years old,” she says. “I love the written word and using creative expression to bring people together.”

She started as a greeting card writer, moved through the editorial department, and became Vice President of Creative Writing & Editorial before she shifted to the business side to work on 3-dimensional product innovation, where she became a Multicultural Champion before the new office was organized.

“I learned a lot more about our business beyond creative,” Frank says, “and what it takes to deliver long-term value to various markets. The champion role was meant to help Hallmarkers really understand the opportunity in front of us with multicultural consumers, and to transform the culture and mindset.”

Hallmark, which is a member of the Latinum consortium of 100 companies including Disney, Proctor & Gamble, and the NBA, focuses on cultural insight— including ethnicity, LGBT, and changing family dynamics, to name a few—as well as the kind of social interaction documented by EthniFacts.

“Our Latinum partners first inspired our conversation about cross-culturalism, and we’re running with it,” Frank says. “How do we influence each other across cultural lines, and what does that mean for the solutions we need to bring into the market?”