GQ Feature Leads to New Business for Distributor
GQ ran a story on Sept. 11 about a pen they used at a Brooklyn restaurant, and how much they loved it. The pen in question was the Chrome Trim Push Action Retractable Pen from HPC Global, Hanover, Pa. Promo Marketing spoke to Michael Kogutt, vice president of sales for HPC Global, and Peggy Hess, owner of Blue Ribbon Premiums Inc., the Greenwich, Connecticut-based distributor that sold the pens to the restaurant, about what sets the pen apart from the competition, and how the nod from GQ led to new business opportunities.
Promo Marketing: Is there anything unique about this pen that you think has made it so popular with users?
Michael Kogutt: It’s truly retro. I think that appeals to any customers that want to have a ‘we’ve been around for a while’ kind of look. We sell a lot to banks, restaurants and other types of customers that try to portray an image of stability or that they’ve been around for a long time.
One thing, I think, that's made this pen so popular is that it's not only U.S.-made, but it's U.S.A Made-certified. The pen is also refillable, which is very unusual for a pen at this price point—it's a very inexpensive pen. At that price point, [it's unusual] for it to have a tungsten ball, which is a more premium writing experience. [...] Typically pens at that price point would have a stainless steel ball, where they skip and jump, especially if you're trying to write on glossy paper that would be typical on restaurant receipts. The only piece in the pen that is not made in the U.S. is the ink, which is high-quality German ink, and German inks are recognized as the best in the world.
Peggy Hess: It’s a wonderful pen and it’s given me a lot of business—that, and referrals from satisfied customers, which is always a great thing in this industry.
PM: How long has this specific pen been on the market?
MK: Over 50 years. We were trying to look back to see exactly when we started selling it, and we didn’t have the records that far back. But it’s definitely been over 50 years.
PM: What was your reaction when you saw the GQ feature?
MK: It was a surprise to us and to Peggy. She was the one who actually notified us. It was a cute article. Certainly we love that he was raving about the pen so much.
PH: I was very pleased. A week ago Friday, I got a call from the gentleman who wrote the article, saying that he had been talking to the people at the diner, and he loved the pen and he wanted to know where they bought it, and they told him to contact me. He went on my website but didn’t have the code to buy the pen, so I gave him the code and he put it in, and that was the extent of it. He never told me he was interested in writing about the pen.
PM: Have you seen an increase in sales for the pen since the article came out?
PH: I had inquiries from a lawyer in Mississippi and the University of Texas – Austin. I’m used to getting inquiries from customers who own restaurants who have seen this pen someplace else and ask where they can get it, so I asked [the lawyer] where he had seen the pen, and he sent me a link to the article in GQ, same with the college. This started out with a pen in a restaurant in lower Manhattan, and now I sell the pen to about 10 or 12 restaurants strictly from referrals.