It’s just getting a 21st-century makeover.
Today, business cards can mean much more than the familiar paper rectangles that were once traded furiously at networking events or tucked into the backs of wallets. Everyone from large corporations to freelancers are getting creative with calling cards by using unique designs, textures and even laminated beef jerky and plastic figurines to promote their brands.
“It’s the digital age, but people are still yearning for authentic connections,” noted Stephanie Shore, vice president of global marketing for Moo, an online printing company specializing in high-quality paper and designs.
Another non-traditional option in Moo's portfolio are mini-cards, Shore said, which are half the size of standard 3.5-by-2-inch cards and can be fashioned out of multiple layers of superfine paper and a color seam through the middle. "They always get a reaction," she said.
Other designers are disregarding paper altogether and going for metal, plastic or even edible stock in an effort to stand out.
Chris Thompson started MeatCards.com, a Philadelphia-based company that creates laser-etched beef jerky business cards, after brainstorming with some friends about what to order for their next sets of business cards.
The idea of edible cards came up. “The next day, I put some jerky in a laser engraver at work," Thompson said. "The laser etching left a mark, and meat cards were born,” he said, though he stresses that they are not edible.
Rethink, a Canadian advertising agency, created laser-etched beef jerky (edible for up to a year) calling cards for BC Adventure, an outdoor adventure company. For a baby clothing retailer, they came up with rounded-edge cards protected by soft "baby-proofed" corners to express the company's mission with a hint of cheekiness.
Start-ups are not the only businesses thinking outside the box, however. At the Lego Group, executives distribute personalized mini-figurines with their contact information. Kevin Hinkle, a senior community coordinator for Lego, described on a company blog that receiving the box of mini-figure cards was like joining "the cool kids club."
Hip Baby, a clothing retailer, distributes rounded-edge cards
protected by soft 'baby-proofed' corners.
As Luckow recalls, "I mentioned metal to him and he loved the idea, so I designed this card with an additional feature that allowed him to shoot a laser through the tiny logo at the top and project an image."
Now, Luckow said, metal cards are more common. Plasma Design, the U.K. designer that made Wozniak's original cards, has clients that include mortgage specialists, lawyers, a motor yacht maker, and Gold's Gym.
Demand for business cards has also spread beyond the corporate universe. Vistaprint, an online provider of business cards and other products, has seen more orders for "mommy cards," which let parents exchange contact, emergency and even allergy information on the playground or at school, said Adam Depelteau, a product marketing specialist at the company. Also in demand are cards that double as raffle tickets, bookmarks and punch cards for customer loyalty programs, he said.
Others believe the business card, in any form, is on its way to becoming as obsolete as a VHS tape.
"With the access to social media profiles and all the tools online to find people, there are just so many options," said Justin Nowak, chief operating officer of the Canadian Cloud Council, a nonprofit group promoting the use of cloud technology among businesses in North America. "I would rather have someone tweet me or look me up on LinkedIn, as that is more permanent and I don't have to worry about filing it."
Born of Sound's business cards, which were designed by Moo and feature different sound formson one side, are "critical" to its business and marketing strategy, she said.
"Instead of challenging (clients) to think about what sound looks like, we can show them," explained Mohan. "We often lay out a number of cards for people to look at and let them choose their favorite. This invites them to engage with the card in a deeper way than just adding it to their collection in a drawer."
Whatever the size or look, there's a sense of pride when handing someone your business card that isn’t going away, Depelteau added.
"The physical, disruptive nature of a business card is important," he said. "In today’s world full of digital clutter, being handed a business card does not allow the opportunity to simply hit 'delete.'"