How to Provide Promotional Writing Instruments End-Users Will Love
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” Well, he said something like that, anyway. As with most idioms, the original quote is a bit different. But the meaning is the same. It’s an ode to progress, to continuous improvement. And boy does it apply to the world of promotional writing instruments.
Yes, sometimes the classics are what people want. But new features that go along with technological advancements keep popping up on items like ballpoint pens. Think stylus tips for smartphone devices. Think smoother-gliding ink. Heck, think mechanical pencils! Can you imagine someone from the 1920s seeing that?
In the promotional products world, distributors can keep progressing by finding new client bases they might not have thought of when they think pens and pencils. They can also look toward companies creating pens that look just like those tried-and-true models, but feature new design elements or environmentally friendly construction.
Melissa Bettua, director of sales for HPG, Braintree, Massachusetts, said that her company has recently expanded the Eco - Sustainable product models to match consumer demand for greener products. Specifically, she said that the Javalina Revive has been a favorite among end-buyers lately. “[It has] all the key features of our iconic staple, made from 40% recycled materials,” she said.
Rhonda Reilly, MAS, director of sales for promotional products at Pilot Pen, Jacksonville, Florida, also said she’s noticed an uptick in demand for sustainably made products, and that Pilot has been creating eco-friendly products for upwards of 20 years with now nine different pen styles made from recycled materials.
But what Reilly has noticed the most is that when people find a pen they like, they want to keep it forever. Or, at least, they want that same model again when the first one dries up or goes missing. In Pilot’s case, she’s found that people really grow attached to the G2 Gel pen, which comes in a variety of colors and tip sizes.
“I’ve talked to others who say, ‘Oh, I only write with the precise tip,’” she said.
Bettua compared your favorite pen to your favorite pair of jeans. They feel the most comfortable and you know exactly what you’re going to get from them. They just feel right. And, believe it or not, physical comfort is something that she and HPG take into account when working with distributors looking for writing instruments, too.
“Customers love a soft-to-the-touch barrel grip, like our Cache Touch Stylus,” she said. “And it’s the reason why we’ve considered this attribute in every product launch. It’s a feature that adds that extra panache and elegance, and gives any logo a lift—perfect for rebrand opportunities!”
Finding Your Audience
Like blue jeans, pens are universal. A quality pen never goes out of style. Sure, the silhouettes might change, and certain colors start trending a little more than others. But, at the end of the day, everyone needs a good pen. Because of that, there are some customer verticals distributors might not think of for pens, but they need writing instruments just like the rest of the world, if not more so.
“Generally, people think of pens more for trade shows, events, product launches, things like that,” Reilly said. “But I’m really finding that a lot of our pens, like our permanent markers, are very good for the optical market. Anyone that writes on glass, like a Petri dish or something. We have a permanent marker that does well in that segmented market. Title companies are huge. Schools are really into offering our erasable pens for orientation.”
And, once you have a client hooked on their new favorite pen, they’ll come back.
“I hear a lot of times when I’m at meetings, ‘Oh, I don’t sell pens,’ and it’s like, pens are an annuity,” Reilly added. “Once you get them in a program, they’re there forever. A pen goes into every market. It just depends on how much your client is willing to pay for it.”
In an increasingly digital world, where we have apps to track our progress on just about everything, people find comfort in writing things down on paper.
“While pens might not be an item that someone thinks of as self-care, think again,” Bettua said. “When we put words to paper, it helps us crystalize our thoughts and ideas. Plus, when we make an action list, our goals become clear. Crossing things off once they are completed is the perfect way to release dopamine. Writing instruments can be a great addition to a self-care regimen kit, encouraging people to break from the screen and jot old school.”
Putting It All Together
Speaking of kitting, a pen is the perfect item to throw into an onboarding package, care package, you name it. They’re small, light and available at a wide variety of price points. And they’re surprisingly versatile as a marketing medium.
“Pens are an easy way to ensure your new team member has their employer top-of-mind with a bonus: encouraging good note-taking,” Bettua said. “You don’t need to limit yourself to a logo or a name. Kitting pens together as companion sets, using words of affirmation—[e.g.] ‘take good notes’—over logos is another way to use branding like a message in a bottle. If you don’t want to appear too ‘brand-y,’ taglines are a gentle subtlety that gain awareness without being overstated.”
You can still incorporate a pen into the world of social media with things like calls to action or other tie-ins. Bettua suggested things like a special hashtag instead of just a logo.
Sadly, no matter how attached we are to our favorite pens, sometimes they disappear on us. Maybe we loaned them to a classmate and never got them back. Maybe they fell out of our pocket on the subway. While it’s sad for us, it’s good for a brand, because their logo is about to hit a new audience.
“A pen has 10 lives—at least 10 lives,” Reilly said. “Ten people are going to touch a pen. It’s the additional advertising that you get from a pen. If you put it on a T-shirt, yes, you get that visual as well, but [with] the pen you get the experience of writing with a nice, fine writing instrument as well as promoting your brand and company.”