BANISH BUSINESS CARDS?? A rankled re-look at a 17th century invention

Somehow my tweetdeck served up an old Xconomy column by @wroush about how to Banish Business Cards Yet, in carefully re-reading Wade’s commentary, I found he never did ‘banish’ them, but rather, he was able to transform them into Digital Business Cards. I was left disappointed as I too have piles and stacks of cards that I have collected and wondered how best to file them. The information they contain is important.

This whole topic and a drawerful of cards got me to thinking. Why are some cards more useful to me than others…and that’s why I always look at the other side. Side two sometimes contained extra information but more often it contained my handwritten chicken scratchings – contemporaneous note taking about the owner of the card, where I met that person and why I might want to retain the connection and follow up.

BANISH BUSINESS CARDS? No, not quite yet. I can answer in two words, Wade’s musing of mystery as to “why the traditional paper business card, a descendant of the 17th-century visiting card, seems to hang on so tenaciously, at a time when other manifestations of our old paper culture—snail mail, personal checks, faxes, newspapers, magazines, books—are fading away so rapidly,” INSTANTANEOUS BRANDING.

The instant you hand over a card to another human being, you are making a total branding statement. The color, the texture, the thickness, the words printed on it all communicate nearly instantaneously many things about you beyond just how or why to get in touch. These little 2 x 3.5 inch darlings are as fast as or are even faster than digital and more persistent as we all have found. There is a great article by Michael S. Rosenwald as to why business cards thrive.

BANISH BUSINESS CARDS? Look around. Does anybody dare go to a networking event or job search without them? No, even job seekers and children’s playgroup participants exchange cards and not those puny little moo cards that you see. Too small to record even the slightest observations and easily lost, the moo card offers no more value than cow tipping after a long night out on the town.

Should we digitize our business cards so we can rapidly sort through information? Maybe yes, maybe no. Seems like what we need to do is strike the right balance between #paperNpixels the tenacious business card and it’s digital opponent. The reinvention of the business card is not something the public and particularly the techno leadership part of the public is clamoring for. iPhones and Androids may snap pictures of cards and sort them…but their owners are still trading cards like the Topps baseball cards of a winning team….. Your name in print on a card of your design, handed to a worthy friend or fencing with a worthy competitor as in The Business Card Scene in American Psycho.

BANISH BUSINESS CARDS? No thank you. I like to see my name in print. Don’t you?

Keith

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