Pen Appreciation

Capitalize On Latest Writing Instrument Trends

Quill PenDespite the rise of high-tech gadgets, pens have seen a worldwide increase in value. Here’s how to capitalize on the latest writing instrument trends within four markets.

With more and more people typing emails and text messages, it’s reasonable to assume writing instruments have taken a dip in public consumption.

Nope. In fact, as high-tech gadgets continue to rise in popularity, pens have actually experienced an increase in value. According to a Wall Street Journal study from October (, pens and pencils are “not only still around, but they’re selling well.”

The study notes the worldwide retail value of pens has increased steadily year over year from 2009 to 2014 – from roughly $6.5 billion in 2009 to over $8.5 billion last year. It’s a trend that Euromonitor International expects to continue for at least five years, the Wall Street Journal reports.

But successful companies know it’s a smart move to marry pens with modern technology whenever possible. Even the world’s oldest pencil maker, the German-based Faber-Castell, recently introduced a pencil with a rubber top that can be used as a stylus for tablets and smartphones.

With that in mind, here are tales from distributors who continue to flourish in the writing instrument world by tapping into the needs of four crucial markets.

Reach the College Crowd
It’s difficult to think of another demographic in today’s world that’s more tech-savvy than college students. A university in Michigan kept that in mind when seeking the perfect writing tool to promote its online info for first-year students during the school registration period.

“With most of its students using mobile devices, a large university developed a special app that would deliver college news and events to students and faculty. They wanted to promote this app with a tech item that would be frequently used,” says David Fiderer, director of marketing for Prime Line (asi/79530).

Prime Line’s distributor partner met with the university’s decision-makers and recommended its Billboard Pen/Stylus to hand out to new students. The Billboard features a soft silicone tip for use with mobile touchscreen devices, and it comes with a large imprint area that, in this case, was used to print the university slogan “Stay Connected” on each pen. The university’s seal was placed on the pen’s barrel, and a Web address that provided instructions for downloading the app was also included.

“This pen works because it really is designed for apps and social media,” Fiderer says. “We created this particular pen with that in mind. One of the nice things about the Billboard is its two imprint areas: a big imprint area at the top and one on the barrel. I would say multiple imprint areas are a plus with universities.”

The university placed an initial order of 5,000 pieces in white with a blue imprint, at a cost of 59 cents per unit. “Obviously they would expect a tie-in with the colors of their logo, so that’s another thing we think about: bringing an item like this out in multiple colors,” Fiderer says. “The research says red and blue are the most popular corporate colors, but we also wanted to reverse it or to put their colors on white or black – just give it as much flexibility as possible.”

By the end of the first month of the new school year, 74% of first-year students downloaded the app on their phones or tablets, leading to a reorder of 10,000 more Billboard pens.

Think Multifunction for Medical Market
The phrase medical industry can cause headaches for distributors. Few markets are so vast and have so many wide-ranging rules and needs.

The chiropractic field is an oft-overlooked but important subset of the medical market. Chiropractors do much more than adjust the bones of people involved in auto accidents, and they seek to reach a much larger audience than many distributors might realize. But Sherry Kennedy, owner of Proforma A-Z Specialties (asi/300094), understands this need, and she has taken full advantage.

Kennedy, who has known the owners of a chiropractic office since they opened several years ago, has fulfilled a major need with a BIC Graphic (asi/40480) Digital WideBody Message Pen, which allows the owners to inform clients and others about their services, and reach people beyond the customers who walk through their doors.

The Message Pen has an area on its barrel for a logo. But what makes this pen unique is it flips to a different message each time it’s clicked. The pen allows for a total of eight messages. “They can put messages on it, so that way they don’t get boxed into, ‘Oh, you just do chiropractic,’” Kennedy says. “They do massages. They do physical therapy. They do workers’ comp claims.”

Chiropractors can give the pen to their patients, as well as attorneys, insurance companies and other workplaces so that they understand all the services the chiropractic firm offers, Kennedy says.

The chiropractic office has placed several 1,000-piece orders for the Message Pen during the last six years, and its success in spreading the word about its multiple capabilities has opened the door for other promotional items. Kennedy says the office has also purchased back-scratchers and T-shirts that they give to every new patient. And she has printed their business cards and brochures. “The owner likes a pen stylus himself, so he buys some of those,” she says.

It’s the functionality of the Message Pen that allows Comfort Rehab to let clients, lawyers and others know its services go well beyond what most people would consider traditional chiropractic care. “Normally a pen has two inches by two inches of imprint area. The message pen has something that’s more usable,” Kennedy says. “Every time you click it, it’s a different message about their services. They use it for trade shows. They give it to customers. They give it to people when they walk in. They give it to lawyers, because you never know what services you’re going to need.”

Highlight Sleek Styling for Auto Shop
Just like businesses within other markets, auto repair companies want promotional items that reflect their brand and will remind their customers what they can do for them.

That’s why the Mardi Gras Jubilee pen from Hub Pen (asi/61966) made sense for Tri-Care Automotive in Louisiana. “The quality of the pen is at the same par as Tri-Care’s service,” says Pam Baker, executive assistant for Hub Pen. “The association of shiny and new can be met with any modern-looking or metallic pen – particularly those in colors which mimic those of vehicles.”

The Mardi Gras pen has a high-end look – a rubber grip, a smooth writing cartridge, a sharp-looking barrel and multiple color options – but it’s sold in the price range of a low-end writing instrument. Tri-Care typically orders 2,000-4,000 of the Mardi Gras pens per year through Hub Pen’s distributor partner, HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000).

“With automotive companies, quality and function is key, and the Mardi Gras pen has top-quality ink and construction,” Baker says.

The pen proved so popular, Baker says, that people would call the shop asking when they were getting more in. Tri-Care fans also autograph the pens wherever they’re found and send the pictures to the auto shop’s owner. “He’s a firm believer in brand recognition and putting his advertising dollars into the community with ads on bus stop benches,” Baker says.

Tri-Care even created an ad campaign around the pen. The pens were placed in the hands of the “signers of the Declaration of Independence” for a 15-second TV commercial ( “They do a lot of TV spots in Baton Rouge, and since the pen had become such a huge part of their business, they decided to make it the star of the commercial,” Baker says.

If you’re looking for other ways to use writing instruments to crack the automotive industry, Baker says her distributor partners have had success in selling stylus pens to clients within that market. “It’s a great giveaway to keep in the glove compartment or cup holder, and it’s also a great accessory for the GPS,” she says.

Naturally, including vital company information can come in handy when customers need to make a call to have their car serviced. “A logo with a phone number and website is nice to have in the car to remind someone of their local dealer or service center if and when they need to call,” Baker says.

Push an All-in-One Solution For Finance
Employees and customers within the financial industry share two traits: They’re always on the go, and they like to have everything they need right at their fingertips.

They’re looking for an all-in-one solution that limits the amount of items they’re required to carry on flights and to business meetings – and those needs go beyond what even the most single-function high-end pens can provide.

That’s why Duff & Phelps, a corporate financial advising firm, places order after order for Logomark’s (asi/67866) Ballpoint Pen/Stylus/LED Light pen through Axis Promotions (asi/128263).

The pen comes with a capacitive stylus that works with any touchscreen device. Underneath the aluminum cap of the pen is an LED light. Three mercury-free AG3/LR41 batteries are included with each pen.

“The number-one reason for its popularity is its multi functionality. They love the functionality of the pen – stylus and LED light included,” says Lauren Gula, branding associate for Axis. “People are using the stylus for their iPads and phones. The LED light comes in handy if you’re on a plane and when it’s dark.”

Duff & Phelps orders at least 500 of the ballpoint pens each month for trade show giveaways, as well as internal employee usage. They have ordered those pens for the last three years “because it’s such a popular item with employees and their own clients,” according to Gula.

Having a pen, a stylus and a light conveniently located in the palm of your hand? It doesn’t get any easier than that – and in the industry in which people are always on the go, simplicity combined with convenience is always a net positive.

“Their clients and their employees are tech savvy,” Gula says, “and it’s all in one pen.”


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