In his great Inc. article, “LinkedIn Subtly Released a New Networking Feature and It Just May Kill the Business Card“, Tom Popomaronis shares how branding on LinkedIn is about to change. You see, LinkedIn is trying to integrate itself into business relationships at their inceptions and possibly kill the business card in the process. There are so many pluses and minuses to this approach, all of which he covers clearly. Today, we would like to go one step further and talk about how companies can continue to build their brands even without their little, colorful blocks of paper.
For some people, business cards are intensely important. When I was managing a global brand, it was mind-numbing to think about the hours we spent creating guidelines and sometimes simply refereeing fights over who could put what on business cards where. From individual contributors to heads of billion-dollar businesses, people cared about those business cards!
Brand managers also care about business cards because they’re small and subtle tools, that make an economical but lasting statement about brands. Inasmuch as inconsistency is a plague for strong brands, business cards are marvelous little multivitamins that help keep them healthy.
Kim Vanni, Spencer Brenneman’s senior art director, explains:
“On one hand, they are tangible direct marketing leave-behinds, for corporate and personal brands, that make a lasting impression and—when really well designed and unique—can even be passed around and talked about,” she says. “And in an era when most business is conducted behind the obscurity of a keyboard, the receipt of a tactile card is akin to getting real mail…it just feels good.
But Kim admits she is torn on the need for traditional business cards in our digital age. As the world in which we need to connect becomes ever more global, it’s not always possible to hand a physical business card to a contact.
That makes it even more critical that we have ways of sharing our brand with others, beyond the logo and URL in an email signature.
“My hope is that LinkedIn will take this to the next level—by providing a way for these virtual cards to be branded, and truly customized beyond the your-logo-here construct. I’d actually look forward to collecting virtual cards in which companies can set up templates that include real flair, a real look at what it is like to do business with them,” she says.
But fret not all ye who are addicted to the little blasts of brand building that business cards bring. There are other ways to reinforce your brand’s unique identity without those pieces of paper handed out and thrown away by the millions each day.
If you end up dropping the business card from your arsenal, here are five possible ways to pick up the slack:
- Audit your current touch points. Take a step back and retrace the steps of your customers’ journey. Are there other places to insert reminders of your brand’s unique visual identity?
- Join in the fun! Embrace the LinkedIn QR code business card and create phone cases with your company’s LinkedIn page QR code or salespeople’s individual codes. Too expensive? Create a cool image they can keep on their phones’ lock screens or in their favorites.
- Reinvest. All that money and energy sucked up by your business cards? (Trust me, there’s more than you realize.) Reinvest that in your social media program by adding more people or a social media amplification effort.
- Take back the narrative. If you abandon the cards, spell out the reasons behind the decision. Make it relevant to your brand’s story and align it with the value you bring to your customers.
- Pin it. Still coveting a physical, tactile, and memorable visual manifestation of your brand’s identity? Create high(er) end swag for your customer-facing teams, such as lapel pins, ties, even socks!
Inspired by Tom Popomaronis’ bravery, I too will share my QR code. Use it to tell me what you think (or, comment down below).