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Business Cards: Still a Valuable Networking Tool

photo credit: Walnut Studiolo ErinBerzelPhotography-4428 via photopin (license)

photo credit: Walnut Studiolo ErinBerzelPhotography-4428 via photopin (license)

The way we network and connect may have massively changed in the past few years thanks to an explosion of social networking tools and apps, all ready to help us collaborate with a single tap, but one staple of old business practices remains: the humble business card. A simple, elegant slip of paper featuring a person or business’ name, branding, and contact information is still a very common tool for making important business contacts and establishing potentially fruitful relationships.

Business cards have evolved in the last few years. On the one hand, there’s a nostalgia for the elegance of old. Lately we’ve noticed a trend in letter press business cards, which have a sophisticated, textured presentation. There are also a wide range of different sizes and formats, and special die cut shapes and effects like foil stamping, or super thick cards made possible with new printing technology.  On the other hand, business cards have also gone digital, and some of them offer digital engagement features like QR codes that you can scan with a smartphone to download contact info or visit a website.  There are also several apps out there to help you scan and organize the business cards you receive, some of which sync with popular cloud-based contact databases you may already use, and startups are busily creating apps that all hope to become the digital business card of the future.

If you’re looking to shake up how you make business contacts, drop us a line! We also create unique and memorable business cards, and we’re here to help.

5 Tips for Staying Safe Online in Honor of Cyber Security Awareness Month

zuckOctober is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and in honor of the occasion we’d like to share some tips on how you can better protect yourself and your company online. These days it seems the headlines are always filled with news about a massive data breach—Yahoo is just the most recent example. Business owners everywhere are wondering how they can avoid an attack or unwanted intrusion. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg even tapes over his webcam, as people who saw Snowden know (we recommend dark tape, by the way, not transparent tape). Here are 5 cyber security tips you and your business can use right away to stay safe and secure online.

5 cyber security tips*:

  1. Keep your computers up-to-date and virus-free. You know those software updates that keep vying for your attention as you’re working on your computer? They’re there to help you. It’s wise to keep your computer, mobile devices, and any other connected devices you may use fully updated so they have the latest patches. Don’t forget to run regular anti-virus and malware scans to keep your PCs safe as well.
  2. Safeguard your login information. Regularly update your password and make sure that it’s secure. If your online accounts offer additional security tools such as two-factor authentication, one-time security keys, or biometrics, take advantage of them. You’ll be glad you did. It’s also wise to have a unique username and password for each site you use. A password manager can help you safely keep track of them all.
  3. Be careful about how you connect. Phishing and spear phishing are common exploits that cybercriminals use to stage their attacks. If something looks fishy about an email, it’s best to delete it. Likewise, be judicious about using Wi-Fi hotspots. Open, unsecured wireless networks are generally not safe for conducting online transactions of any kind. Also, make sure the sites you do business with use HTTPs, a secure form of HTTP. You’ll notice it by the ‘s’ that follows the HTTP in the web address (i.e. https://).
  4. Stay on top of emerging threats. As Internet users become more sophisticated, hackers do too. Inform yourself about new threats as they emerge and adjust your online behavior accordingly. Promote safe online practices at your business, and don’t forget to back up all of your data regularly.
  5. Be aware of how you share your information. Although we might take steps to protect our money and assets in the real world, we don’t always stop to think of how our valuable our digital identities are as well. Protect your login information, never share it with anyone else, and be cautious about which websites you choose to give it to. Take advantage of privacy settings on the websites and apps you use—they’re there for your protection.

Although it can sometimes seem challenging to keep up with best practices on staying safe online, there is some good news: There are a lot of places where you can get the information you need to protect your business. Stop Think Connect is a good place to start, as is the Department of Homeland Security’s page on National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

branded webcam-coverIf you want to promote your brand while encouraging your team or clients to be aware of cyber security, we have small, easy to mail brandable webcam covers that put your name in front of your client while they’re using their computer. That’s just one of the many branded items we have that can help keep your business top of mind with your clients. If you’ve got a campaign or promotional initiative in mind, we can assist. Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise you on the right products that can represent your company with grace and style.

Holiday Gift-Giving Part One: Tech Products

Holiday Gifts

With the holiday season in full swing, many of us are drawing up shopping lists and trying to find the right gift for that valued colleague or client. Tech products and accessories are some of the most popular choices this season as always. Here are a few gadgets that are sure to inspire warm smiles of appreciation this winter:

  1. Phone chargers – Smartphones are becoming a ubiquitous part of the business landscape—an indispensable communication tool. We all know too well that sinking feeling that happens when battery life shrinks below the double digits. There are a lot of excellent power banks on the market now that will recharge not only your smartphone but also your other devices so you can stay connected on the go. With so many people traveling for the holidays, they’re an especially thoughtful and timely gift.
  2. Mobile accessories – Ever lost your smartphone charger or your earbuds? A mobile accessory kit can come in handy in just that kind of situation. Some also come equipped with USB car chargers, which are also useful when traveling around this time of year.
  3. Headphones – A pair of stylish, quality headphones might be a good pick for the music lovers that you know. Everyone’s familiar with the standard issue earbuds, but those who want a higher-definition experience might appreciate a proper set of headphones. More comfortable than earbuds, many headphones come with noise canceling features that allow you to block out distracting ambient sounds so that you can focus on enjoying the harmonies in your favorite song or the sound effects in the latest blockbuster you’re watching.
  4. Bluetooth speakers – Music lovers and especially party hosts may appreciate a set of snazzy Bluetooth speakers that can wireless deliver the high fidelity sound to a celebration anytime, anywhere. Small, compact and portable, they’re a great choice this holiday season.
  5. Lap desks – Many of us like to unwind while catching up on our shows and movies over the winter break. Rather than awkwardly propping up a tablet or laptop on a pillow, it can be extra comfortable and cozy to curl up with a lap desk. Although it’s ideal for the couch or bed, a lap desk is a fine option for travel as well.

Did you find a gift that matches some of the people on your holiday shopping list? If so, terrific! If not yet, stay tuned for the next posts in our holiday gift-giving series, in which we’ll introduce gifts for gourmet food lovers as well as writing aficionados. And if you have a special case that might benefit from some creative brainstorming, we’d be happy to recommend some tasteful holiday gift choices for the occasion. Reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook—or call us at 877-881-6845 and we’ll be glad to advise on ways you can share your holiday spirit through well selected gifts.

Everyone’s Crazy About Selfie Sticks: Here’s Why They’re So Popular

custom selfie stick

Selfie sticks are phenomenally popular this year. The handy gadgets, used to take perfect selfies on smartphones, are being now being used everywhere from New York’s Times Square to Beijing. President Obama was recently spotted snapping pictures and video clips with a selfie stick on a trip to Alaska to raise awareness on climate change. Even NASA’s Curiosity rover used its robotic arm to take a stunning selfie of Mars this summer. Why are selfie sticks so red-hot right now? Here are a few reasons:

  • You can use a selfie stick to take a great photo of yourself from almost any angle.
  • It’s easy to get a clean shot: no blurry thumbs or arms will show up in the picture.
  • If you’re in a group, you can get everybody into the picture. The more the merrier!
  • It’s much easier to take a selfie using a selfie stick than it is using just your smartphone. If you have a selfie stick, you’ll have better control over the timing and setup of the shot.
  • When using a selfie stick, you don’t have to set a timer and rush back into place or ask a stranger, who may or may not be a good photographer to take the picture for you. Or you may not feel comfortable handing your device over to someone you don’t know. After all, unlike the analog cameras of old, our smartphones are the center of our digital lives and contain sensitive personal data like contacts, photos, and even digital wallets.
  • Selfie sticks are inexpensive, typically ranging from $14-$40.

With this week’s release of the new iPhone 6S and its upgraded camera, we can expect the boom in selfie sticks to continue well into the holiday season and beyond. They’re already one of the hottest and most popular ideas for custom promotional products this year! Here at, we have a wide selection of selfie sticks including custom branded selfie sticks to represent your brand with a unique sense of style. We also have models in a range of colors and sizes, selfie sticks with Bluetooth connectivity and remote control options, and mobile kits for taking incredible photos on the go.

Are you interested in getting a selfie stick but not sure which kind is right for you? Check out The Starter’s Guide to Selfie Sticks, which traces the history of selfie sticks and shares a few helpful tips on how to buy one that meets your needs. Give us a shout on Twitter, drop us a line on Facebook, or call us at 877-881-6845 for personalized service and expert advice.

QR Codes Get More Creative

The folks over at Mashable have a nice slideshow of QR (quick response) codes that break the mold and show just how much flexibility there is in the form.
We have mixed feelings about QR legibility.

On the one hand, it is sort of exciting to point your reader at an image without any idea where you are going to be taken. On the other hand, inserting something recognizable into your symbol might be the very thing necessary to get someone interested enough to scan.
qr code, Japanese Red Cross
Following the installation of a QR billboard advertisement for TIME Magazine near Time Square in New York City last winter, self-proclaimed Captain of The QR Code Galaxy, Nick Ford, reported on some issues between unfriendly designer codes and code readers, as well as questioning the quality of some of the linked content.

source: qranywhere

Incompatibility issues and the “gee whiz” factor of technology trumping content…do these issues sound familiar to anyone?

If you are new to QR codes and want to know more about them, check out 20 Interesting Things: QR Codes by the folks at the Lucky RethinkTank.

qr code cut into agricultural field

  Hello, World

Gadget Clutter and Sushi Rice that Doesn’t Stick

OK, we all know that clutter is something to avoid, and that piles of unopened mail is a major cause of clutter.

But what about gadget clutter? For some, this is an issue.Too many devices, too many different chargers, too many tangled wires. Where is that phone, pod, pad, kindle anyway?

Mashable recently ran a post on multiple-device charging stations. They come in a range of prices and styles, seemingly inspired by everything from Tupperware to Star Trek to the lawn out back. Functionally we might not be ready for a gadget declutterer, but aesthetically, we’re voting for the grass.

Mention something and we may think of its opposite. Black white, hot cold, tall short…clutter organization. On that note, we’d like to share the Sushi Memo Block, featuring egg, salmon, tuna, and fatty tuna. Once you eat through the top third or so, you have only rice left. And while sushi rice is sticky, the Sushi Memo Block is not. Each sushi is a small pad of paper, not adhesive post-it notes.

via Acrylo via Colossal via Matomeno

Where Tweet Meets Seat

We stumbled across Chris McNicholl’s TweetingSeat at modern design site Design Milk. TweetingSeat is “an interactive park bench which is designed to explore the potential for connecting digital and physical communities.” The bench takes photos of its environment and users and uploads them to a live Twitter feed. McNicholl’s interactive installation encourages users to interact with other users and communities in a cool and novel way. It makes us wonder what other ways we can fuse digital and physical to promote brands and ideas.

QR Codes: Scavenger Hunts

By now you probably already know that Quick Response codes are two-dimensional codes similar to traditional bar codes that, when scanned by your mobile phone’s camera, can be decoded using downloadable software. We’ve talked about some basic ways you can use QR codes to promote your product or business – or even yourself – and there are potentially countless other creatives ways to use this new technology. Spring is officially here, and who doesn’t love a fun scavenger hunt? In an eggshell, hunters can search for printed QR codes throughout a building, city or other location and redeem digital prizes for finding them. This is a fun way for a small business to boost its brand exposure locally.

Need some ideas for how you can use QR codes to boost your online presence, or got some ideas we haven’t thought of that you’d like to share? Let us know!

Swag Goes Digital?

South by Southwest, one of the country’s biggest film and music festivals, wraps up this week in Austin, Texas, and for their 25th year, festival producers have ditched traditional gift bags filled with swag from companies looking to promote their products and brands in favor of “digital gift bags” accessible via an exclusive online social network. The move is an effort to be more eco-conscious and to meet the demand for their ever-growing guest list. We wonder if recipients would prefer “tangible goodies” they can open and hold in their hands, but it certainly reduces physical and financial waste, and we’re all for that!

Read more about SXSW’s digital gift bags here.

QR Codes: Advertising

If you live in a metropolitan area, you’ve no doubt seen Quick Response codes on billboards, subway banners, and other highly visible advertising. You may have also seen them in those old fashioned things called print ads. QR codes are a fantastic way to translate your offline presence with your online branding plan. And like online advertising, QR codes are a great way to track the visibility and success of your print ads, though you should note that some users may have privacy concerns. Either way, not only are you communicating with present and prospective consumers, you’re gathering data to determine the most cost-effective way to reach them. Whether you’re a local business or have a more national presence, using QR codes are a great way to expand your reach!

Read about more way to use QR codes here.