The Evolution of the Business Card

Poken shot

Business cards have traditionally been the ultimate representation of your company’s brand. However, in the current technological age, new mobile applications such as Bump, CardMunch and Poken, are becoming increasingly more popular. Are conventional business cards becoming obsolete?

Business cards have been around for centuries, although originally they weren’t used specifically for business purposes. The earliest form of business cards date back to the 15th century, and were known as “visiting cards” to announce one’s presence when visiting another wealthy person. The trend carried through to the 20th century, but started to die out in the 1950s when the use of servants became scarce, and they no longer needed to deliver the calling cards directly to the home owner.

Although the “visiting” card almost died out, the idea remained and eventually evolved into our modern business cards that we use today. No longer used to announce oneself when visiting, these cards convey who we are and how we want to be represented professionally. Although most cards are the standard 3” x 2.5”, some people opt for a less traditional size, shape, material, or design to catch the interest of their prospective clients. And, with the constant flood of advertising that we are faced with today, companies are competing to find ways to make their cards stand out—even to the point of pushing the boundaries of what business cards have typically represented.

Over the past few decades, business cards have been a tool for the promotion and marketing of a company. However, with the constant advancements in technology, are business cards actually necessary anymore? Many would argue that business cards are easy to lose, take up valuable room in your wallet, are expensive to print, and sometimes even outdated with old titles or contact info.

In addition, many new services and mobile applications have been created that may cause the traditional business card to become obsolete in the near future. Here are just a few of these alternatives that are becoming increasingly popular (note: the following companies are not Sterling clients, and we have no affiliation with any of them):

Bump – The Bump App for iPhone and Android allows users to bump their phones together to share photos, music, apps, calendars, invites, and connect on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. And, of course, you can also share your contact information that would traditionally be on your business card. And, what if your contact information has changed? Merely update your info in Bump, and you can remotely send that new info to anyone you are connected to with Bump.

CardMunch by LinkedIn – CardMunch is a mobile business card transcription service that automatically recognizes, captures, transcribes, and creates the contact information in the user’s phone. Merely hover your phone over a business card, and take a picture to submit it for transcription. The service creates a mobile rolodex on your phone, which you can easily flip through to find your contacts. And, after scanning a prospective business lead, users can connect via LinkedIn with just one tap to expand their professional network.

Poken – Poken enables users to collect people, places and objects simply by touching them. Merely touch the other person’s Poken hand icon on their app screen, and your “social business card” will be shared with friends and colleagues. Alternatively, if you don’t have Wi-Fi or cellular access at the moment, you can scan the object’s pokenTAG or QR code, and the information will be uploaded later.

Although most professionals still have business cards (whether or not the cards are carried on their person at all times is another story), many people are beginning to use these new mobile applications to share their contact information. Just as the traditional Rolodex is no longer used, are business cards starting to die out as well?

I’m interested in hearing what others have to say on the subject, so please feel free to share your thoughts on the issue.

Kristi Cabot can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @kristicabot.

Photo credit: Luke Avsejs via Flickr