Heed the Handwriting on the Wall
THERE ARE FEW things more attractive than a strong hand holding a weighty, well-designed pen. Maybe it’s a combination of the pen’s sleek finish, its brilliant gold or silver accents and its often intricate engravings coupled with the way the scribe’s pristine cuff (complete with cuff link) brushes the mahogany desk as the hand purposefully moves across a sheet of paper. Perhaps it’s the sheer idea of power associated with the whole thing that makes this a lovely sight to behold. Whatever the case, there is no question that writing instruments continue to be one of the industry’s top sellers, and with good reason.
According to a 2005 survey conducted by PPAI in 2004 and 2005 respectively, writing instruments accounted for 10.61 percent and 10.39 percent of total promotional product sales, ranking second only to wearables. So, what does 2006 hold for this market?
In the my-way-right-away society in which we live, it comes as no surprise that writing instruments would morph to suit the times. “With the iPod generation entering the job market, more and more promotional product recipients see tech tools as the norm,” noted Damian Want, senior vice president at Logomark, Tustin, Calif. Although some may think these high-tech gadgets are a fad, “multi-function, technological writing instruments, such as Logomark’s LS1000 USB Pen, will be seen as less of a trend and will become the wave of the future,” Want stated.
Jeff Robertson, marketing manager at Indianapolis-based Souvenir/Norwood, said dual-injection items and those with interesting grips are hot for 2007. “Also, the more muted color trends that we are seeing in other areas of the industry are starting to make their way into the writing instruments category,” he added.
Some of the newer technologies found in 21st century writing instruments include: styluses, USB drives, flashlights and lasers. In addition, Want said Logomark’s new Bettoni LS4640 pen introduces a WiFi detector. When was the last time a laptop signal could be detected from a baseball cap?
Are the days of writing tools sans bells and whistles gone? Far from it. “Traditional writing instruments will never become obsolete,” assured Want. “The status and impact of pulling out a high-quality, luxury writing instrument is something that can never be replicated by simply adding a technological element to a pen.” Besides, nothing can take the place of the plastic pens found in the front lobbies of banks, real estate offices and insurance companies the world over.
What is it that gives these seemingly unimposing items the charm that has allowed them to hold court for so long? Want said the item’s universal appeal, and Robertson noted writing instruments’ price points make them stand out from other promotional products. “Writing instruments fill a huge number of markets with one product type,” explained Want. “They are incredibly versatile, and Logomark has found that even lower-priced writing instruments can be long-lasting.”
As testament to the items’ versatility, Robertson said writing instruments can be used to “up-sell items, such as with a padfolio or bag.” And higher-end pens “with nice packaging can be used as gifts or as part of a goody bag for attendees of a corporate event.”
Logomark offers writing instruments ranging from $0.50 to $100. Within that span, Want said the company’s four independent lines provide everything from plunge-action pens with full-color logos, to presentation tools featuring lasers, lights and styluses. “Writing instruments are one of the most cost-effective and functional promotional products available,” commented Robertson. Souvenir/Norwood’s top sellers are the Contender and Element, two plastic pens in the $0.20 to $0.25 range. “No other promotional product changes hands as many times as a pen does. A writing instrument changes hands eight times in its lifetime on average, which maximizes exposure,” he added.
Should there ever be a question as to how appropriate writing instruments are to fill every promotional need, Want said, “Writing instruments are a necessity for all ages, genders and industries. From the time we’re small, we’re using crayons, and as adults, not a day goes by that we don’t use a pen or pencil.”
For the one or two distributors who are not yet selling writing instruments, Want continued: “If a distributor isn’t selling writing instruments, he is overlooking a necessity that generates incredible sales. Logomark’s four writing instrument lines encompass more than 1,000 products.”
When it comes to selling writing instruments, the inevitable next step for distributors is to distinguish themselves from competitors. “Ordering spec samples goes a long way,” noted Robertson. “End-users love to see samples with their logos already imprinted on them, and since writing instruments are so inexpensive, you could order a few styles for them every month or so. It’s a perfect way to keep your name coming across their desks.”
Even with every “t” crossed and “i” dotted, there remain some challenges writing instrument manufacturers must face. “Our biggest challenge is sourcing new and unique products,” acknowledged Robertson. “The writing instruments category is extremely competitive, and with so many items out there that look very similar, it’s a constant challenge to find the balance between fresh ideas and off-the-wall designs that might not sell.”
However vast the challenge, Want said Logomark is happy to meet it. “Searching for the best refills, testing moving parts and providing creative solutions to our clients’ needs are challenges we love to take on,” he said.
And so, as the sturdy hand continues to move, take a closer look: writing instruments have penned a perfect script.