We all have our own personal bucket lists — those things we want to do before we die. But now, American Greetings wants us to look beyond ourselves for a change. Selfish, selfish us. Why don’t we express some gratitude to the people in our lives while they’re still alive for once?
The card maker is asking fans to compile their own “Thanklists” on its new digital portal, where they can thank the helpful people who shaped their lives. Users’ text and video messages are being aggregated into a collective, immersive digital collage. Participants are also encouraged to share their messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #ThankList.
“The idea of gratitude and thanks is about a connection between two people,” Alex Ho, the executive director of marketing at American Greetings, said. “We believe that taking this and making it a social movement in the public helps us achieve our mission to make the world a more thoughtful and caring place.”
For the campaign, the brand also partnered with Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple (“More”), production company Nonfiction Unlimited and The Huffington Post to capture the journey of five different people as they created and fulfilled their own ThankLists. The gratitude is made none the less moving for its simplicity: A man thanks his first teacher, a woman thanks her mother, another man thanks his father for the impact on his life.
The campaign kicked off with a private screening of these five ThankList videos in New York City on Tuesday. This was followed by a panel discussion on the importance of gratitude featuring Hollywood actress, director and producer Elizabeth Banks as well as Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington, motivational speaker and author Gabby Bernstein, psychologist Randy Kamen and Kopple.
Fanfare aside, American Greetings has not been without its challenges lately. Once the largest publicly traded greeting card maker in the country at its peak in 1998, its worth had shrunk by 65 percent when it pulled out of the stock market in early 2013 — closing several of its retail stores and becoming privately-held. Its longtime competitor Hallmark has also been struggling to keep up with custom boutique card makers and e-card stores in recent years.
But “ThankList” comes at the heels of a recently coup for American Greetings. For its Mother’s Day campaign last year, the brand and its agency Mullen posted a classified ad for the “world’s toughest job” — being a mother — a fact that wasn’t revealed to the candidates until the very end of the job interview. The company conducted video interviews with 24 candidates, filming their reactions to the reveal. The video amassed more than 23 million YouTube views.
“ThankList” however, has a broader mandate than “World’s Toughest Job,” according to Jon Ruby, creative director at Mullen, who worked on both campaigns. American Greetings wanted to push the envelope this time, creating a social movement and getting active participation from people.
“There was definitely pressure to follow up and do something that was culturally relevant,” said Ruby. “But the ‘World’s Toughest Job’ and ‘ThankList’ campaigns are different because last year was all about Mother’s Day. This year, with ThankList, we were shooting for the moon because we wanted to do a brand project to elevate the American Greetings brand and what they stand for into the cultural zeitgeist.”
The site has had 35,000 visitors since being launched Tuesday night and the campaign has had over 700 mentions as of Wednesday, according to Mullen. The trailer of the documentaries by Kopple gathered over 136,ooo views in 24 hours. American Greetings, it seems, has something to be thankful for, too.