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Cardology’s David Faulkner on holding greeting card licenses for Harry Potter, Peter Rabbit and more
Hi David. You’re the co-founder of the family-run greetings card business, Cardology. Your range includes beautiful cards of all kinds – including some of the most extraordinary pop-up cards I’ve ever seen. So… Tell us a little about Cardology!
We’re a premium stationery brand that started life by building an exceptional consumer following… And who are now found across an ever-widening range of national retailers, independents and premium destination stores.
And on what kind of greeting cards do you focus?
At Cardology, we focus exclusively on producing designs we believe will live long in the recipient’s memory. We were voted the British public’s Gift of the Year in 2022, and we’re again in the final six for best licensed product across all categories in the Giftware Association’s national competition in 2023.
On that front, what are some of your licenses?
We carry over 65 licences! They include Harry Potter, Peter Rabbit, The Original Stormtrooper and Battersea Cats & Dogs Home. There are a few more on the horizon, too; we’ll be able to discuss those publicly very soon.
Well, keep us posted! In regards to the brands you license, what have they got in common, David? What makes them ideal for you?
Clearly we love working with great brands! Our initial move into licensing was paradoxically defensive, though… We wanted to protect our first-mover advantage and the price points we were achieving, and saw licensing as an ideal way to make the barriers to copying our work harder, with the step-up in product quality we achieved being an added bonus.
Oh, wow. That’s interesting! I wasn’t expecting that…
Since then, I’d like to think we’ve repaid the massive trust extended to us by some of the major players in the industry… We’ve delivered the royalty revenues we promised, as well as awards and increased brand penetration within luxury retail destinations that historically took less licensed product. To answer your question, though, our understanding of an ideal Cardology property has evolved considerably as we’ve become more established.
In what ways?
For example, we know we sell particularly well to an older demographic, looking to buy items that will connect them, and be treasured over time by their closest friends and relatives. This means we particularly focus on brands that over-index around at least one of the values of ‘wholesome’, ‘familiarity/nostalgia’ and ‘legacy’.
Fantastic! And when you’ve looked at a brand and said, “We could work with that!”, what’s the process?
Like many of the companies we most admire, we start from the customer and work backwards. Questions like “Who’s buying?“ are our openings. Then we keep on asking the inevitable “Why?“ questions until we can truly link the heart of the brand back to the person we’re hoping will buy what we’ve produced… And therefore what needs to go front and centre within our cards. Of course, it helps that our Design Director, Kripa Shah, came from Jaguar Land Rover and adds her natural engineering pragmatism and curiosity to her undoubted creative flair.
Great answer. Out of curiosity, how many iterations would one of these creations go through? How do you know when you’ve nailed it?
For us, it’s all about product testing. We have a policy that we’ll test the vast majority of products with our loyal – but extremely honest – consumer base before we ask retailers to take any chances themselves. Internally, it can certainly be brutal at times, but it does mean we’ve got a fairly good idea when something is then going to fly when we take it into the mainstream market.
I sense you’re a man after my own heart in that respect: I love to give new ideas an internal one-star review! Let me ask you this: What’s your background, David?
I left Oxford knowing I wanted to start my own business, but also knowing I didn’t have the skillset I needed to be successful! So my first couple of years saw me seeking out executive assistant roles with top entrepreneurs so I could watch closely while learning on the job…
So that would’ve been in your early 20s?
Right. I then spent most of my mid-to-late 20s and early 30s in telecoms in the UK, the US and India, first leading ever-increasingly sized operational teams, before finding more strategic and commercially-focused roles equally inspiring. Halfway through my 30s, I set out with my wife and sister-in-law to start our own business – and haven’t looked back since.
I’m loving this, David; you’ve come to it in a most unexpected way! What’s next for you?
What I once thought would be a lifestyle business has recently become pretty full-on, and I’m really enjoying the challenge of what I see as 18 months of real slog that will catapult our brand to the next level. Outside of Cardology, I’m leading a pan-industry project on behalf of the GCA which carries big deliverables for all of our retailers ahead of December.
And how about personally?
Personally, I’m doing the Cardgains Lookout London charity walk at the end of the month to raise money for research into Motor Neurone Disease. I’m also about to go back to school with a further intensive professional development course.
Busy man! We need to wrap this up, I think, David… Before you go, though, what’s the one question I could’ve asked you today but didn’t?
What does the future bring for the humble greeting card?
Great question. What’s the answer?
The way I see it, there’s definitely room for us to improve further. We’re a perfectly placed product for a society struggling with a cost-of-living crisis, and also crying out for the type of emotional connections that offer that sense of collective identity and belonging…
If, as I believe, these are the two reasons customers continue to flock to our product, then it seems inevitable we’ll see a general shift up the value vector over time as the same customers look for evermore individual ways to express the importance they attach to these bonds…
The particularly great thing about our category is it remains extremely good value. That means publishers can experiment with higher-priced innovations without making the final product inaccessible to the customers who love the service we provide.
Brilliant stuff. Thank you so much for joining us, David; please do come back and tell us about your future partnerships.
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