In its latest round of patent approvals, it seems that Apple has invented a hybrid business/gift card system.
The idea serves to improve the method in which company representatives exchange business cards at trade shows or events. Aside from having standard business information on the front of the card, the back of the card would feature a promotional code (or bar code) to download a free song, app, or other gift. The hybrid invention serves as a great tool for electronic marketing and content.
A combined business card and gift card or “calling card” is a physical object that can be shared with others at business and social functions. The calling card can include a gift code that can be used to redeem a gift online (e.g., songs, ringtones, coupons, physical merchandise) using an electronic communications device (e.g., a personal computer, mobile phone, electronic tablet). When a user attempts to redeem the gift online, the user can be provided with a web page, email, text message or other electronic document that provides the user with information about the card provider and allows the user to perform certain actions for the benefit of the card provider or a third party.
For Apple, this hybrid card would have a few advantages over typical business cards. First, the recipient of the card is provided with an incentive to keep the card and further use the card to, at the very least, redeem their gift. Second, the recipient is provided with the information of the representative and, due to the incentive on the back, is less likely to dispose of the card.
The third advantage, and the one that is probably the most useful, is the system provides recipients with an interface that can be used to not only redeem the gift, but provide follow-up material from the event that the card was received. In an example used in the patent application, the hybrid card can be used in job recruiting. Once an applicant submits the code for their gift, a user interface would prompt them to upload a resume.
Overall this seems like an effective networking tool. It will be interesting if such a card makes its way to local Apple Stores for both prospective customers (such as large-volume business buyers) or prospective employees in recruiting efforts.