Survey Says Everyone Steals Pens

by Larry Triplett

Well, everyone who works in an office, that is. Paper Mate® (who has quite an interest in pens) commissioned a survey of 1000 people from around the US who are full time office workers. Scott Crist, global director of marketing for Paper Mate says “I am surrounded by people who have ample access to pens and still my own pens go missing.” The usual excuses come from those who claim it was a mistake or that they absent-mindedly walked off with a pen. Seventy-eight percent reported it was an accident.  Twenty-two percent said they took it knowingly.

Curiously, while 70% of office workers reported they’d had pens “disappear”, every single person surveyed admitted having taken one at least once. There certainly doesn’t seem to be much guilt felt by the practitioners of this theft. In fact, a sense of entitlement might be a more apt description. In an office setting, writing utensils disappear more often than other office supplies. Seventy percent say pens vanish most, followed by pencils (55%) and highlighters (55%). A pen is about twice as likely to “be lost” as a stapler (35%), a pair of scissors (36%) or tape (38%).  Paper clips and binder clips account for 43 percent of the losses, rubber bands for 38 percent.

So why does this topic get our attention as a promotional marketing company? Because writing instruments are the 2nd largest category in the promotional products world. (Apparel is number one. There’s nothing like a walking billboard.) Over $1.5 billion dollars worth of custom branded pens and pencils are sold every year. This doesn’t happen accidentally. It happens because businesses of all sizes perceive pens to be an inexpensive and effective vehicle to extend their branding far beyond their doors.

The smooth feeling and smooth writing pen that's everyone's favoriteLet’s put these two things together, and you’ll see that a pen with a promotional message, already having a low cost-per-impression, actually can get up to double the mileage as it gets “borrowed” by someone in need. Advertisers sure have no problem with that. I’ve left plenty of my favorite pens lying around where they might be “found”.

But let’s not forget that what makes a pen a really effective promotional item is the message it carries. Not just a logo or company name. When a pen can be tied to a campaign or program – something that brings a benefit back to the advertiser – then you’re really doing something!

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