The Right Instrument
WHEN AMAZON RELEASED Kindle, its wireless reading device, bibliophiles everywhere shuddered. It was just another instance of a new technology running up against a treasured pastime. As any book lover will attest, there’s just something irreplaceable about the look, feel, and yes, even smell of a bound volume.
The same change has already happened with
writing. Handwritten letters are rare today, in an age
of digital signatures and e-mail correspondence, and this scarcity has increased handwriting’s perceived value. If one really wants to make a good impression following a job interview or after meeting future in-laws for the first time, then there’s no more personal way than to put thoughts in ink.
As good, old-fashioned handwritten notes become more prized than typed messages, end-users will value their writing instruments even more, as objets d’art beyond the utilitarian function of the keyboard and BlackBerry. Distributors can even play the old-versus-new game, by offering a selection of classic old-world fountain pens and even some new space-aged options.
Pens Steeped in History
Sanford Business-to-Business offers two classic pen lines, Parker and Waterman, each loaded with more than 100 years of history. Both companies originated in the U.S. in the late 1800s and then opened factories in England (Parker) and France (Waterman), where their pens are still being manufactured today. It’s this storied history, combined with their styling and fine workmanship, that make these pens so highly valued by distributors, said Peggy Eagan, assistant marketing communications manager for Janesville, Wisconsin-based Sanford Business-to-Business.
“There’s a very strong international presence [for] both Waterman and Parker. A lot of the people in Europe call pens ‘Parkers’ like we call tissues Kleenex,”
she added. The pens garner international prestige in part because they’ve been repeatedly selected to commemorate such important events as the 1987 signing of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, at which Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev exchanged Parker pens.
Parker’s most classic offering is its Jotter style, created in the early 1950s and featuring the line’s iconic arrow on the clip. At the higher end of the Parker selection are fine-writing fountain pens with 24K gold nibs and lustrous, long-lasting finishes.
While Parker pens are known for their classic styling, reliability and exceptional performance, the Waterman line cuts a more fashionable figure with
its bold European flair. Waterman pens use precious metals and eye-catching designs to appeal to what Mike Bothwell, brand manager for Waterman and Parker, sees as its typical end-user: “A stylish and chic person who wants to augment their personal style by wearing a pen almost as if it were a piece of jewelry,” he described. The most classic Waterman selection
is the Hemisphere model, which has a sleek aesthetic and is available in lacquered, metallic and stainless-steel finishes.
Because of the pens’ high-style bodies, there’s an element of inherent sustainability: they’re meant to be reused. “The big eco push is that these are refillable; buy refills and keep these pens for a lifetime. And the same goes for the boxes; it’s a storage piece, it’s not meant to be thrown away,” Eagan commented.
A Pen Built With New Technology
During the space race, astronauts and cosmonauts had been using lead and wax pencils to conduct important experiments while in orbit, and that is precisely when Paul Fisher’s invention, a pressurized ink cartridge, got noticed. The device uses nitrogen to allow ink to flow in extreme conditions, meaning, a zero ravity environment was no longer a hindrance. His pens were first blasted into space aboard NASA’s Apollo 7 mission in 1968, and with that, Fisher Space Pen Company was born.
For people performing field work under extreme conditions, the pen is invaluable. It writes upside down, on walls, in weightless environments, underwater, in other liquids and in extreme temperatures. “We’re a very unique writing instrument; we write where other pens won’t. We are definitely the go-everywhere, writes-everywhere pen,” commented Timothy Lawson, director of marketing for the Boulder City, Nevada-based company.
The original astronaut model, a sleek rounded pen, is still available and usually piques the interest of those who collect space memorabilia—a built-in marketing angle for space- or technology-themed promotions. Another Fisher offering, the Millennium pen, also has a great hook: it’s equipped with a special ink chamber that is guaranteed to write for 80 years. “It’s a very interesting pen to think about giving to a newborn … engraved on it is his or her name, weight and birthdate, as it’s going to last them a lifetime,” Lawson suggested. It would also be great for a groundbreaking ceremony.
Today, however, the company’s most popular offering is its Bullet Pen, named so for its distinct shape. “It’s a very small pen, it fits into a pocket. If you pull the cap off and you put it on the back and it makes it into a full-sized pen,” Lawson said. Its unique design has led it to be a bit of a pop-culture phenomenon, as it was showcased on an episode of Seinfeld aptly titled “The Pen.” This type of free advertising has been quite a boon for the company, Lawson pointed out. In addition to Seinfeld, Fisher Space Pen Company pens have been featured on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, are currently shown on the Travel and Discovery Channels, as well as in an upcoming feature film, Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian. “You have American workmanship and a lifetime guarantee, and those are pretty unusual things,” Lawson concluded.