Think Ink


Despite the rise of digital technology and the omnipresence of keyboards, traditional writing instruments aren’t going anywhere. It turns out that consumers still want to take notes, make lists, keep journals and doodle the old-fashioned way. 

Counterintuitively, it’s not just the Baby Boomers who won’t give up handwriting—Millennials and Generation Z are attracted to the throwback element of longhand, perhaps as a result of screen fatigue. MarketWatch compares the analog preference of some young consumers to the surge of interest in vinyl records. Anti-technology products speak to the desire for individuality, similar to the anti-fashion trend in apparel.

In its Global Writing and Marking Instruments Market 2018-2022 report, market research firm Technavio predicts strong growth in the writing instruments market for the next four years, with the potential to reach revenue up to $24 billion. Developing countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, will account for the most growth due to the rise in literacy rates. 

The report indicates that pens will continue to be the most popular item in the writing instrument category, and that the demand for multi-functional pens will increase. The Technavio research also reveals that over half of Americans own a branded pen, underscoring the broad reach and staying power of pens in the promotional industry. And, writing instruments account for over six percent of sales in the promotional industry, according to PPAI’s 2017 Sales Volume Survey. 

“Promotional pens become a direct reflection of a company’s or individual’s personal branding,” says David Klatt, CEO of supplier BIC Graphic USA (PPAI 114187). “With a cost per impression of less than one-tenth of a cent, pens offer big bang for your buck. The compact size of writing instruments also works in their favor—a pen easily travels from pocket to pocket and person to person.”

Interest in luxury fountain pens is strong, too, according to MarketWatch. Much like a fine watch, a premium pen is the ideal executive gift, with rare pens selling for thousands of dollars. Collectors refer to these luxury pieces as “useable art.”

“We think of pens as conversation starters that also happen to write—in all languages,” says Tom Killion, owner of supplier Bentcil Company (PPAI 113387). “We love humor because humor sells. Customers keep our pens, remember the imprint, remember the shape and, most importantly, remember who gave it to them.”

Klatt adds, “The range of price points, stylish details and recognizable brands make writing instruments ideal for both giveaways and high-end gifts.”


Case Histories

Winning The Vote
Nothing shows patriotism more than displaying a country’s colors. Wanting to demonstrate patriotism while promoting his candidacy, a politician had red, white and blue Double Exposure Highlighter and Ballpoint Pens printed with his name and campaign website. He handed them out at local parades and county fairs.
Source: Beacon Promotions

Camouflage That Stands Out
A client wanted a camouflage carpenter pencil. Supplier Shepenco had not created one before, but its in-house art department was able to separate the camo and create a six-color, two-sided imprint. The client was ecstatic about this true one-of-a-kind pencil.
Source: Shepenco

Supporting A Good Cause 

What makes a pen unique doesn’t always have to do with the business—sometimes, it’s best if it doesn’t. Mike’s Mechanic Shop handed out pens with a bikini top shape. The shop owner had them made in pink and gave them out in October for Breast Cancer Awareness month. The imprint on the barrel read, “We’re here to support you! Mike’s Mechanic Shop.” Both women and men loved them and showed them off to friends.
Source: Bentcil Company

Unexpected Overtime

A law firm gave out heart-shaped pens to potential clients to help drive business. Why the heart shape?
It was proof attorneys really do “have a heart.” It was so unique, a recipient—needing an attorney seven years later—remembered the heart pen. The attorney was surprised to hear the promotional product from many years prior was still doing its job.
Source: Bentcil Company


Put Pen To Paper For A Digital Detox

The Census Bureau reports that close to 80 percent of Americans own a computer and 75 percent own a smartphone. Thanks to all that screen time, workers are looking for ways to unplug.

According to research firm The NPD Group, the 2018 Paperworld conference in Frankfurt, Germany, was dominated by traditional office space trends with tactile objects such as notebooks and file storage rather than technology. The shift is geared toward wellness-motivated consumers looking for a calmer work environment to promote overall wellbeing.

Bloomberg reports that digital detox retreats and expeditions are becoming a standard offering at spas and as part of luxury travel packages. Advertised benefits include better sleep, improved memory and deeper interpersonal interactions. Millennials with disposable income are embracing the digital detox concept with enthusiasm. The first step is the hardest, though—all digital devices, including phones, are locked away until the end of the experience.

Digital detoxers can look forward to quality time with hard-back books, print magazines, journals and pens while they commune with nature or get pampered at the spa. For this crowd, experiencing the nostalgia and joy of a simpler, wireless way of life is like a juice cleanse for the brain. 


For specific product ideas, please refer to the flipbook.

Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.

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