By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing
Many years of dealing with Japanese companies has given me an insight into their culture and rituals. For example, I will never forget being taken to a tea ceremony in a tea house in Kyoto by Mitsubishi Paper Mills. What takes me a matter of minutes Chez Mulvaney, extended to over an hour of ritualised preparation, consumption and general edification. For me the ceremony was one of the most insightful experiences of Japanese culture and values.
Japanese tea drinking ceremony
I learned a lot about the way business is done in Japan as a result of my visit. For example, the way business cards were used. Often in the west the business card exchange is almost an afterthought, a way of leaving your contact details with a potential customer or contact. But in Japanese culture the presentation of a business card is an important part of the introduction process, accompanied by bowing and handing over a card with two hands. The receiver of the card acts in the same way and treats the card with a degree of reverence, studying the contents for quite some time while absorbing the information it contains.
Japanese style exchange of business cards – first the swop, then the study of the contents
This etiquette owes its origins to 17th century Europe when visiting cards became a huge fashion amongst the middle class elite and any visit to a prominent household required the presentation of a card announcing the caller.
17th century European calling card ritual
Once the industrial revolution came along, the calling cards were taken over by merchants and traders to promote their wares. The etiquette that accompanied their use waned, only to be preserved in more formal cultures like the Japanese.
Exchanging Business Cards in the Digital Age
Business cards are a universal form of information exchange and there will be huge numbers of them swopped on the Landa stand at drupa in June. They will come in all types of shapes and sizes, colours and media. The impact of digital printing has meant that each card can contain variable information, but for general printers they are still a headache, fiddly to produce, low in value and margin, but a necessary part of the portfolio if you want the rest of a customer’s business.
Now a London based business called MOO, a specialist business card printer is introducing cards with Near Field Communication (NFC) chips embedded into the card, so that the recipient can tap the card onto a smartphone and transfer the contact details. It will also mean that the card giver can add other information, like product catalogues or video product demonstrations that will play on the recipient’s smartphone.
This merger of technology and tradition will add value to the cards and it will be interesting to see if it takes off. It is possible today to exchange vCards between phones without a printed version, but for the world’s businesses the traditional business card is still an essential tool, whatever the ritual used to present it.
Lobby image: http://bit.ly/1oyRUyJ
Main page image: