Luxury Business Cards

This business card blog is about small cards and small budgets, however I wanted to write a quick piece about some of the luxury business cards being handed around. Cheap business cards on the internet print for under $100, but I've seen more and more people spend up to $1,000 and beyond on their little pieces of card. Luxury business cards aren't just an inflated price (most of the time), but a product of multiple, customized design and printing processes.

3D-UV Gloss Varnish
What is this pricey print-candy?  Let's start with letterpress printing with embossing and debossing; premium card stocks; metallic foil stamping; duplex and triplex stocks adhered together; painted edges; spot UV gloss and celloglaze; custom die cutting, perforation and folding. Some of these special printing and finishing techniques can cost an arm and/or a leg, but then combine several of these, and prices start getting real!

Do these business cards give a return on investment to the business owner, or are they just an ego-boosting show-off card? Perhaps both, as I've always believed in the power of business card branding. Can you put a price on impressing a prospect for your brand? Of course you can, but to do this you need to be aware of your business card metrics.

I rarely see a business card get reprinted with all of the same luxury features. The next reprint often cuts out the the excess, as the cost per card is just not translating to conversion needed.

My advice for printing a "luxury" business card while not spending more than what you need to?  Don't be afraid to ask your designer and printer how to reduce the price naturally - without a blatant discount.  Ask which printing techniques naturally goes with another.  Just like a chef uses produce in season, there are certain printing and finishing techniques that are easy or inexpensive due to the type of print. Business cards become very expensive when you want the best of all worlds - like full colour, letterpress, textured stock and spot UV gloss.

Now go and print your thousand-dollar cards, but make sure they make you a million dollars!


Social Links on Business Cards

Modern business cards today for a modern business should have the following details included, so that your prospective customers can easily contact you:

  • Full name
  • Qualifications
  • Job title
  • Phone number, perhaps direct line
  • Mobile number, perhaps Skype too
  • Fax number, if you must
  • Email address
  • Company address, building, floor, office, street address etc
  • Postal address, if that's different
  • Web address
...and then comes the social links for your business card:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Tumblr
  • and any assortment of online portfolios, blogs, showreels and profiles.

Then if there is room on your business card, you should also include the brand's logo, corporate identity... and pictures are nice too!

Most business card designs that I see include one to three social links, but even this can take up precious line space on the business card. Each social link often also has it's own icon or name, and account username or URL (web address). Are these links best hidden away on your business card so they dont't distract the main brand, or are they best featured upfront where they can do their thing socially, and reach out to the customer better than anything else on the business card?

I come across this dilemma several times a day designing business cards, so here is my advice for business card branding, and how to include --or exclude-- social links.

1. Keep it simple

Even though we have much more content to include in modern times, the business card is still the same, small, limited piece of card. Space is precious, and so consider these questions in your business card printing:

Can people find your brand on social media easily, or will they need your exact user name or account name? Test this out on different computers and with different social accounts. Search for your social account with different words and spelling to see if your social page is easily found.  If you are difficult to find, consider printing the entire name or URL on your business card. If you are easily found, consider saving space on your business card and simply including the social logo.

Do you really want prospective customers to go to you third-tier social account, at Google+ --for example-- when the last time you posted was 10 months ago? Focus your customer's attention on the social link(s) that you desperately want them to click first, and then they can make their way to your other accounts in good time.

Just like the fax number that isn't essential for you networking business card, or the company registration number that appears as content overkill for light-hearted marketing cards, sometimes the Blogger icon is best reserved for the Links page of your website. Like all content on your husiness cards, every social account does not need to feature on the first point of printed contact.

2. Incorporate your brand

Adding someone elses logo --like Facebook-- to your business card should only be done if it adds-to or embeds-in your overall brand. If the foreign logo cramps the style of space of your business card, then consider these work-arounds:

Alter the colour or style of the social icon to compliment your brand. Consider this a co-branding effort to show that the foreign social link is incorporated into your brand, and is not just a social obligation. Remember that changing an official Facebook logo could affect how legitimate the link appears to be, so make these design decisons carefully. Also note that using or editing someone elses logo should be done respectfully, and with appropriate permission in the circusmtance.

A simple method of removing the social link's branding from your business card is to simply use type, in the style of the rest of your layout. Consider ditching the intrusive icon for just the social link name or URL, so that the social link blends in with everything else on the page.

3. Go all the way!

Completely contrary to my last point, don't waste time and space by slapping an obligatory social icon in the footer of your business card. Go all the way and make your business card a social media rockstar!

If your online social endeavors are really worth the visit --for both the customer and your brand-- then why not design your business card around this marketing funnel? Ask a bold question on your business card, use a startegic hashtag, or use every part of your business card to get the customer to check out your social link. This can be achieved by using the whole front side of your business card as a social link for example, while the back side lists other essential contact details.

This is what all branding, design and marketing should be about-- creating action!

4. Take social links off your business card

Speaking of strategic, targetted marketing funnels, your website should be a far better landing page than a social network --based on the fact that you have complete control of your website, and if you can get the customer to take the action in the first place.

If your business card is successful enough to inspire customers to visit your website, then there may be no immediate need to including distracting social links on your business card at all! Once customers have accessed your website, you then potentially have unlimited space to list all twelve social links without running out room.

So next time you print your business cards, think again about the social links to include, exclude or re-imagine.


Quick Response, No Response


Do QR codes still have a place in print-to-web marketing, and do they deserve the precious space on our business cards?

You've seen them around, QR codes - which stands for "quick response". They're meant to be quick because all you have to do to access the web address contained in the code is:

  1. Get your capable smart phone
  2. Download & install a QR code reader app
  3. Take a clear photo of the QR code
  4. Take another photo, one that is in focus
  5. Voila, you will be taken to a web address.
This not-so-quick response to a printed code creates more marketing mystery than convenience, as most humans have inbuilt cameras and storage devices (called eyes & brains), which allow them to read words on your business card, and then take appropriate action.

While I am cynical of the general usefulness of QR codes, and I have failed to see a well-executed marketing campaign using a QR code, there still may be untapped potential hidden in these codes. QR codes usually contain URLs, however they can actually contain up to 160 characters of text in a range of formats, including the vCard format.

This makes more sense to me, scanning a vCard in one shot, saving minutes of awkward finger typing on a small screen. A vCard can contain all the extra contact details of a new business contact that you wouldn't usually be bothered to type into your phone's contacts. The down-side of a vCard such as this is that the code becomes a static one, and doesn't allow for the printed business card to change when details change. Perhaps we will see some innovation in this space with hosted vCard solutions, connecting printed business cards.

My advice on QR codes on business cards is to think practically about what you are storing in the code. If your printed codes point to an easy-to-remember URL, then while not save the space and time, and print the words out for the human to read.


Brand in the Hand

Business cards and printing is an important part of your brand's sensory experience for it's members.  It's the brand in the hand that gets to be touched, felt and experienced in the real world, as opposed to visual and aural branding on media screens in a virtual world.

Even though a business card may display the same graphic as an online ad, there is something organic and natural that humans feel when they experience your brand on real matter in their hands. Television and internet really is a virtual world of make believe and fantasy, and even thought real content and truthful messages are delivered on screen, we have learnt to be cautious of what you hear on television, or read on the internet.  Printed material such as business cards, handed to you by a real person are hard to beat in terms of authenticity.

Touch, is the one human sense that will always keep print alive, as an effective branding medium. Sure you now touch your iPad or tap your mouse, but it's not the same as flicking a business card between your fingers, or turning the glossy pages of a catalogue.  Printing has different stock weights and textures, finishes, cuts and shapes.

Smooth and silky matte laminate adds sophistication and class to a brand, while sleek and shiny gloss finishes adds excitement and "wow" to a marketing message. Foils, inks and special-shaped die cuts of different print media are all physical attributes that are gifted to business cards, that will always keep print alive.

Business card branding may be old school, but don't forget that people like to touch, and see a real brand in their hand.


Business Card Des'irony

I added a new business card to my arsenal of networking handouts. I have a different business card with different title and layout, brand and content for different networking circumstances.

Recently I attended a networking event for creatives, designers and advertising types. As I sat down to design the most incredibly creative business card I could think of, I thought it might be a little more bold to design the worst card possible.

I thought of the countless thousands of examples of bad artwork I've seen over the years, and thought it might be fun combine all the artwork faux pas in one cracker design. So I designed a low resolution, very lossy, crop marks included, watermark left-in business card to shock and amaze my creative network.

When I printed these business cards, both my prepress and press manager both asked me to resubmit my artwork, even though it was technically perfect... it just looked horrible. It's funny though that non-designer types just take this card and say thanks, while designers smirk and see the des'irony.


Free Airport Advertising

Another free and "simple" advertising idea :P

Step 1. Change your legal name to the brand name or URL you would like advertised.
Step 2. Always board your airline flights as late as possible so that your brand name is declared over the PA to thousands of ears throughout the airport.

It's just crazy enough to work! Can you think of any other customisable variables where you can easily "INSERT BRAND NAME HERE"?


Odigo Logo

This nice little business card caught my eye, from Odigo Media.  I must admit it did actually catch me, as I turned the business card upside down, and then around again... possibly a third time to confirm what I was reading.

It's what every logo designer dreams of, getting a reaction from everyone that looks at your design. Of course, the reward for the brand is that I turned over the card to read more about what this web agency has to say.

This palindromatic logo takes full advantage of a simple idea, and gets a great reaction. Perfect business card branding!