ILLEGAL hawkers of cards and gifts packed up and shuffled off after Kalm's Chain of Gift Stores dealt them a blow with a strong marketing and advertising campaign. Simple, well-presented and innovative marketing strategies helped the leading gift store close the book on competitors who were selling cards illegally at 50 per cent below market price. Kalm's 1994 promotion campaign, 'A Gift from the Heart', also caught the attention of judges of the HKMA/TVB Award for Marketing Excellence. The campaign, launched at key gift-giving times last year, was one of the best organised marketing plans submitted, said Angela Bassage, chairman of the committee organising the award. Kalm's campaign had stood out from the pack of 44 nominations for its innovative use of a plastic customer identity card, which had helped the retail outlet re-position itself in the market, she said. The colourful plastic card, featuring Sanrio cartoon characters, a Japanese brand known for its Hello Kitty products, was the brainchild of the gift store's general manager, Annie Leung. Although the card had no debit or credit facilities, it brought shoppers back to Kalm's to buy Sanrio gifts and encouraged customer loyalty, Ms Leung said. 'Because of our success in the 1980s, many hawkers had jumped on the card and gift bandwagon and an independent survey last year found more than 1,000 gift stores operating in the territory,' Ms Leung said. 'Many of those stores were selling Hallmark cards and Sanrio gifts at reduced prices, even though Kalm's has exclusive distribution rights. 'The only way we could stamp out the competition was to launch a stiff marketing campaign to turn this threat into an opportunity to re-position ourselves in the market.' Shoppers who bought Sanrio products valued at more than $100 and paid a $10 membership fee received the plastic card which entitled them to discounts at Kalm's. The card also allowed members to redeem exclusive Sanrio gifts, made especially for the campaign. 'Having exclusive gifts that could not be bought at any price, anywhere in Hong Kong, made the card special and brought many people back to Kalm's,' Ms Leung said. 'The card is part of the Sanrio ID Club Loyalty Programme, which ran for six months during the overall year-long marketing campaign.' Before the card was introduced, a customer survey was done to gauge demand, which earned the company extra points from judges of the HKMA/TVB award. Ms Leung's loyalty card was so successful in Hong Kong that Sanrio introduced the concept in stores around the world.