The Promotional Idea Showcase

Green Leaf- The Write Angle

by 2E - with bundles of thanks to Kelly Beamon

If writing instruments strike you as too run-of-the-mill, you should know that cutting-edge styles and designs that appeal to a huge number of markets are constantly being introduced. So don't write off using them before asking your counselor to show you what's new.

Whenever you started your career - or your company - no doubt writing instruments were already a staple promotional product. And they remain a tried-and-true seller, second in popularity only to wearables. But while the lasting appeal of writing tools might seem obvious, just how often and easily you can use them in promotions may not be as apparent.

Let's look at the numbers: Last year, manufacturers of writing instruments shipped over 8 billion total units, according to the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association in Marlton, NJ. Of course, that's retail as well as promotional. Meanwhile, imprinted pen sales have been growing by leaps and bounds as well. Demand is definitely strong and showing no signs of slowing. The firms using them as promotional tools must be onto something.

A word from some promotional consultants on the matter:

  • "Our business more than doubled in the past three years," says Charles Reichmann.

  • "Our pen sales have been going up 30% per year," adds Peter Herz.

  • "We just finished our biggest year ever," says Jodi Fishman, "with a 40% increase in sales for the period ending June 30. Pens are one of the top sales categories for us."

A Low Cost-Per-Impression

What does this mean for you? It likely means counselors just like yours are filling more writing instrument orders than ever - many of them for your competitors. And with good reason; writing instruments are not only surprisingly affordable, they provide a huge amount of exposure for a relatively small price - what's known in promotional circles as "cost-per-impression."

"What you're buying is advertising," says promotional consultant Dennis Sherman. "While a firm with an advertising budget of, say, $10,000, could buy a couple of ads in the local newspaper for $5,000 apiece or a billboard for $10,000, it could also buy 10,000 pens for $1 apiece to leave at sales calls. Taking the same money and buying writing instruments gives you more economic value. A study we did showed the average pen has about eight owners. People misplace them and they get passed along." Reichmann agrees: "I have 20 pens sitting on my desk right now, which aren't even my own company's!"

Of course, we're not just talking about pens. Recipients value all manner of writing tools, from pencils to markers to rollerballs to fountain pens, in addition to the omnipresent ballpoint. And they're available with all sorts of price points and all sorts of looks. They come in plastic, metal, wood, or combinations of these materials. They can be fat or thin, long or short, compact or full-sized, brightly colored or more sedate. They can be fun or serious, light or weighty, single- or multi-functioned, modern or traditional, silk-screened or engraved.

Best of all, there are many that look and feel far more expensive than they really are. "Inexpensive pens started making inroads in the '80s," says Herz, explaining that about that time cheaper imitators of high-end European pen designs suddenly flooded the market. Now pens ride high on perceived value, even when they don't cost that much.

Often, the appeal lies in functionality. There are wider, imprint-friendly surfaces and mailable lightweights around than ever before. Some writing instruments seem "on-the-go," much like the mobile phone-toting executives who use them. Shorter-than-average pocket-sized models travel well. Other writing instruments, by virtue of materials, can flaunt advertisers' political agendas - how about an eco-friendly, biodegradable marker or a recycled cardboard ballpoint - the Green Leaf !

Of course, amid all the high-tech and practical packaging, the popularity of writing instruments still hinges largely on a single truism: People will probably always have some need or occasion to write and record by hand. "With respect to the so-called paperless office, people are always going to write stuff down even in a mostly electronic environment," says promotional consultant Dan Townes.

The Quality Question

Here's something to keep in mind if you want a writing instrument with your firm's name or logo on it to project an image of quality: Just because a pen (or pencil) looks upscale doesn't necessarily mean it is.

Quality goes beyond finish. It's also about the inner workings - ink cartridges, refills, spring/twist mechanisms, ease of refilling/reloading, how each half fits together, and so on. There can be vast differences, so each pen, pencil or marker should be "field-tested" on an individual basis. A certain 85-cent pen might unscrew with less hassle than a $16 one, but perhaps only in that instance. Conversely, a 50-cent pencil could easily outdistance a 20-cent model. Again, take the time to ask and inspect each choice.

After all, this is really the critical differentiator, says promotional consultant Joel Peterson: "It's a pen's usefulness - the quality of the mechanism and refill - that matter most," he says. No argument there; a $100 pen with a refill that skips quickly becomes an expensive piece of desk-drawer ballast.

The point is, it's hard to go wrong with writing instruments from a promotional perspective. They can be used with just about any other logo-ed merchandise, can be tailored to any budget, and have universal appeal and utility.

With elements that basic, maybe it's time you considered making the write choice.

2E Pens