4 Things End-Users (and Buyers) Want in Promotional Pens and Writing Instruments
In a world where technology is king and the average person switches between a growing variety of devices throughout the day, it’s perhaps tempting to believe that pen and paper are becoming obsolete. That's far from the truth, however. Despite the prominence of screens and keyboards in daily life, writing instruments remain big sellers, and there are multiple encouraging reasons for this. Here’s why promotional pens and writing instruments are still a trusty source of sales business for promotional products distributors.
1. All About Ink
While each year brings with it a new fleet of promotional pens and writing instruments that double as handy gadgets such as USB drives and laser pointers, it still holds true that one of the biggest factors in a pen’s success is its quality of ink.
According to Carrie Lewis, trade marketing communications specialist for BIC Graphic, Clearwater, Fla., ink is crucial to an end-user’s impression of a writing instrument. “Smooth ink is still the most important thing to end-users when it comes to writing instruments,” she said. “That’s why BIC Graphic has developed new InstaGlide Hybrid Ink that glides as smooth as a gel pen, but dries instantly to prevent smearing.” Smooth writing not only feels good, it can also help the writing process flow easier. This allows the transfer of language from brain to paper to take place as naturally as possible.
Amy LaPlante, marketing specialist for Pilot Corporation of America, Jacksonville, Fla., echoed that sentiment, showing how ink quality contributes to an end-user’s impression of a pen. “Many of our pens have benefits,” she explained. “They’re pens that write for a long time. They’re pens that have uniquely formulated ink to write smoothly, to dry faster, or to basically give the look or feel of a fountain pen without having to take out a bottle of ink.”
The necessity for quality ink is perhaps not surprising considering the utilitarian nature of writing instruments. No matter how good a pen looks or feels, if it doesn’t write well, people won’t use it. This is a testament to the continued need for writing instruments as a tool in society, a need that is based in a long and storied tradition.
2. Strength of Tradition
Lewis noted that writing instruments are successful as promotional products because of the strength of tradition. “The writing instrument is over 6,000 years old and will continue to evolve with time, but never become obsolete,” she said. “Since the debut of Apple Pencil in 2015 there has even been a resurgence of pen and paper across Silicon Valley. Technology advancements and traditional writing practices are interwoven and our recorded history will continue to rely on pen and paper.”
Despite advances in technology that would suggest a movement away from traditional writing instruments, pens remain popular and reliable, continuing a tradition of handwriting that has lasted for millennia. This type of longevity speaks to the usefulness of writing instruments in daily life, as well as to the continued significance of handwriting in society.
For LaPlante, tradition is also key. “We’re a pen company that’s been around for almost 100 years,” she said. “Pilot Corporation in Japan, our parent company, turns 100 in 2018. We’ve been around for a while, and we’re a pen company that started and remained in writing instruments. It’s a method of self-expression, and we come from that culture that reveres writing and communication, and making writing beautiful and expressive.”
Another key feature of a writing instrument is its ability to channel self-expression. Think of a signature, or of the unique nature of an individual’s handwriting. There’s a powerful connection made between the physical act of writing and the human mind, a connection that creates both an outlet for expression and an environment in which memory is formed and retained. “There’s a growing body of knowledge that demonstrates that writing something down helps you retain it, that writing something down helps you solidify your knowledge,” LaPlante said. “It improves literacy. It improves hand-eye coordination. There’s a lot of developmental benefits to handwriting or to writing things on paper.”
Not only does this speak to the continued importance of handwriting in our society, but it also demonstrates the capability for writing instruments to connect with end-users on a personal level.
3. High End, Low Cost
One of the biggest draws of certain writing instruments is perceived value. Coupled with the fact that they are cheap to produce and ubiquitous enough to create multiple impressions, it makes sense as to why writing instruments make great promotional items.
Trina Bicknell, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Hub Pen Company, Braintree, Mass., elaborated on the elements that help to make writing instruments so successful. “They are gender neutral, with one of the lowest costs per impression,” she said. “With the right packaging a beautiful metal pen can give a very high-end impression as a gift.”
Lewis also commented on the high-end, low-cost nature of promotional pens and writing instruments. “Pens are a top performer in the industry because 50 percent of U.S. consumers own promotional writing instruments and the cost per impression is less than one-tenth of a cent,” she said. “The range of price points, interesting features and recognizable designs make writing instruments ideal for both giveaways and high-end gifts.”
The low-cost nature of writing instruments is perhaps obvious, as promotional pens and related products are small in size and often easily replaceable. As for their high-end status, however, one word stands out above all others as explanation: quality.
4. Quality Control
In today’s market, according to LaPlante, quality is key. “People are looking for writing instruments that work well and that help them do their jobs, whether that’s in an office, or in a truck, or at home,” she said. “Whatever that job may be, quality and longevity are a big part of that, as well as innovation.” With a business built on tradition, Pilot Corporation of America isn’t comfortable just resting on its laurels. People want quality products that look good and work well.
In order to achieve this, Pilot depends on third-party data to keep track of consumer needs and opinions. LaPlante explained that this research has led to the discovery of a discernible trend in promotional pens and writing instruments that points to an increased demand for gel pens. “So, one of the things we’ve noticed in that data in the last 12 months is a number of people have basically traded up to gel pens, because we see a higher dollar value, we see increases in the dollar sales of gel pens, and we see a decrease in the dollar sales of ballpoint pens,” she said. “We think this supports our theory that people are willing to pay for quality.”
According to Bicknell, quality isn’t just about the look of a pen, or how many
different functions or gadgets it has.
Quality still predominately consists
of the way a pen writes and feels.
“Users are looking for multifunction, with unique shapes and features, that still write smoothly and last a long time,” she said.
Part of this quest for quality, according to Lewis, consists of a willingness to update and adapt styles, but never to sacrifice quality and consistency. “BIC Graphic is always working to keep our line of writing instruments on the forefront of industry trends,” she said. “Updating styles with new materials, colors and imprint methods while developing new ink technology like InstaGlide ensures traditional writing instruments remain relevant.”
Even though promotional pens and writing instruments are successful, low-cost items with a dominant place as useful tools in society, it’s still crucial that companies pay attention to consumer demand in order to ensure that a timeless product stays with the times.