The Pen Story
I'm writing this Be Bold column at the end of April 2014. I get nostalgic at this time of the year because I was hired at the end of April 1982 by Preshia Humecke of The Walter Cribbins Company to file catalogs and do research for sales people.
That means I'm finishing up year 32 in the industry and beginning year 33. I think back to that first year with Cribbins and I remember a remarkable man at the helm of that company-the PPAI Legend Carl Rosenfeld. I met Mr. Rosenfeld on my very first day in the Woodland Hills office of Cribbins. He was down visiting from San Francisco and he spent about an hour with me, talking about the industry and his long history in it.
Now, Mr. Rosenfeld didn't know I'd stick with the ad specialty industry (that's what it was called back then, not promotional products, no sir!) for so many decades. I was a fresh-out-of-college kid looking to make ends meet before breaking into the film industry. But he spent that time with me and I never forgot it. I never forgot it because he told me, that afternoon, The Pen Story.
Mr. Rosenfeld (I can't bring myself to call him Carl, he was and always will be Mr. Rosenfeld) was quite famous for telling The Pen Story. It could take 10 minutes, or an hour. I got the 30 minute version. He began by pulling out a 35 plastic promotional pen from his pocket with his own self-promotion copy, and asking me how much I thought that 35 cent pen was worth? I calculated about 35 cents, give or take. And that was where he'd launch into The Pen Story, the story about each and every component of that pen: the roller ball, the ink, the spring, the barrel, the plunger.
He took it apart and discussed each piece, how it was made or extruded or cut or coiled, how many people touched each component piece of that 35 cent pen, how many careers were built about that piece, how many families were touched by the salaries earned to make that pen, how much other equipment was used to manufacture or make or spin the little roller ball with centrifugal force so it was perfectly round and the ink traveled smoothly from the reservoir out through the tip without imperfection and ... well, you get the idea.
Then he'd discuss adding the imprint and the art department and the screen department and quality control and production and packing and shipping, until literally dozens and dozens of people all had a hand in making that 35 cent promotional pen. And he convinced me that 35 cent promotional pen was worth a hundred dollars, even a thousand dollars! I was dazzled and amazed. I wanted to buy pens from him.
Thinking back on that story, I am reminded about stellar salesmanship, about selling value not price, about connecting with your audience and about the art of creating relationships. Carl Rosenfeld was a master and a legend and he opened my eyes about the POWER of promotional products on that very first day of my employment back in April 1982.
His voice still resonates within me, all these years later. 33 of them, to be exact.
Celebrate your mentors. Remember their lessons. Be better today than you were yesterday.
Sell someone a stick pen today, and convince them that it's worth a thousand dollars.
Because ... it is.
Be Bold. Be Different. Be Memorable.
Rick Greene, MAS, is the western regional vice president of HALO Branded Solutions, a past president of SAAC and on the PPB Editorial Advisory Board. His comic fantasy novels "Boofalo!" and "Shroom!" are available on Amazon.com.