Flocking-Embedded Gift Card Enhances Cardholder Interaction: Élan Award Winner

Flocking is a special process that embeds short fibers into the surface pores of a substrate. It’s widely used in industries such as toys, textiles, home furnishings and high-end product packaging. Although flocking isn’t commonly utilized for gift cards, there’s been a trending development in this area.

G+D Wins Élan Award for Innovative Gift Card

Giesecke+Devrient (G+D)’s Starbucks Intangible Cultural Heritage Dragon Year Gift Card, which won an International Card Manufacturers Association (ICMA) Élan Award, is an example of a unique flocking application.

Through continuous experimentation and innovation in craftsmanship, G+D improved the flocking technique to make it suitable for the functionality of bank cards. Flocking in various colors is embedded on the card, making the images more 3D and tactile, enhancing the cardholder interaction.

“The flocking technique imparts a distinctive touch and visual appeal to the product,” said Xiao Wei, general manager at G+D China. “For the Starbucks gift card design, G+D chose the only mythical creature from the Chinese Zodiac, the dragon. With the flocking process, the vitality and mystery of the dragon can be more clearly displayed, thereby enhancing the allure of the gift card.”

On the card surface, the Year of the Dragon is adorned with festive red as the base tone of the card, symbolizing auspiciousness and prosperity. The main image reinterprets traditional cloud patterns and lotus elements, evoking the dragon, which in Chinese culture symbolizes strength and the dignity of royalty.

Every detail in the pattern is cleverly thought out:

  • The dragon’s eyes are gentle and spirited, conveying a friendly temperament.
  • The auspicious cloud patterns symbolize good fortune and hint that the new year is full of endless wonderful prospects.
  • The various ethnic patterns together create a harmonious and exquisite visual feast.

“This isn’t merely a gift card, but also a miniature work of art that embodies beautiful wishes and profound cultural significance,” declared Xiao. “It presents a fusion of tradition and modernity, plus a proud celebration of national culture.”

ICMA, the leading global card association for card manufacturers, personalizers, issuers and suppliers driving industry innovation, honored G+D with its Élan Award at the 2024 ICMA EXPO. Among the winners, G+D earned the award in the Manufacturer – Loyalty, Promotional, Gift Cards category.

“ICMA is the most authoritative organization in the smart card industry, and the

Élan Awards in the card manufacturing industry is a premier event,” Xiao exclaimed. “It’s a great honor for G+D to receive such awards.”

Xiao continues, “Simultaneously, during the process of participation, we discovered emerging industry trends, had open dialogues with our business competitors and smoothly communicated with issuers. These were excellent opportunities for overall industry improvement and the advancement of card manufacturers.”

Flocking Ties Into Latest Gift Card Trends

Xiao also provides the following details on how flocking ties into the latest trends in gift cards.

  • With the evolution of time, the digitization trend of gift cards has become increasingly prominent. However, it has not been able to shake the position of physical cards. As it’s well known, gift cards have always been an effective marketing tool for businesses.
  • Enterprises strive to issue appealing physical gift cards and growing their circulation has always been the goal.
  • As a result, gift cards are increasingly featuring eye-catching designs with vivid patterns and images. Card manufacturers also are using novel approaches like engraving, gilding, customized embossing and now flocking to achieve this.

Xiao concludes, “The G+D China team has always upheld the philosophy of nonconformist and always being innovative. G+D has been continuously helping enterprises to increase their share of the gift card market.”

More Insights on Card Trends

For more than 30 years, ICMA has represented the interests of the card manufacturing industry—which includes manufacturers, personalizers, issuers and suppliers—as its leading global association.

Throughout the year, ICMA members have the opportunity to share insights and knowledge by giving presentations during ICMA webcasts and events. The association’s main event is its annual Card Manufacturing & Personalization EXPO. The 2025 EXPO will take place from May 12-15 in Orlando, Florida.

ICMA offers regular educational opportunities, including ACE-Manufacturing, ACE-Personalization and ACE-Advanced Technologies training and exams at the ICMA EXPO. ICMA also offers ACE-Commercial training, which provides sales, marketing, customer service and other key personnel at ICMA member companies with the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of card manufacturing.

Learn more about the benefits of ICMA membership.