Fountain Pens Today

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Nice Little Fountain Pen Piece

A little aside on the pleasures of fountain pen and paper...

Fountain pen has magic touch
A Nashua Telegraph Column By June Lemen


As I have mentioned before, I like to write by hand. On paper. Preferably with a fountain pen, but I will also use a pencil or a ballpoint.

I like the way my hand feels moving across a page, and I like seeing words appear on blank paper.I like to write on computers, too. Especially laptops. They are small and light, and they’ve come an incredibly long way in a short time.

The first laptop I owned was a Leading Edge 386 SX and had a 10-megabyte hard drive.The one I have now has a 40-gigabyte drive – 400 times the storage for less than a third of the price of the SX. I also have a cell phone, although I frequently “forget” to turn it on.

I’m telling you these things so you will understand that I am no Luddite. I use technology when I feel that technology is called for. But when I am writing in my journal, a letter or a first draft, I prefer paper and pen.

[In the interest of avoiding the Reprint Police, read the rest of the article at http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060512/COLUMNISTS13/105120128/-1/opinion]

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Will Customers THINK?

Is THINK (www.thinkpens.com) on the right track to cracking the code for grabbing new users? Could be.

Slick, in-your-face ad campaigns (one features a bloody boxer and the line “If THINK was a fighter it’d kick your ass”). A website that’s radically different. Pens with bold styling and nice feel. All is coming together to create quite a stand-out brand. Even their one small shelf visual display at my favorite Atlanta pen store – Artlite – is in sharp contrast to the staid offerings surrounding them. They even outshine the floor-to-ceiling lights, boxes and baubles of the Cross display filling the wall across the room.

(An FYI to Cross execs: while you’re packing up your boxes and moving overseas to cheap labor havens, grab a THINK pen and get a lesson in powerful branding.)

THINK is putting all the marketing pieces in place. But can they click with users?

For those who don’t know the company, THINK is the hipper, trendier kid brother line to Krone – the venerable pen maker that mixes up the stylish with the gilded and gaudy. (I’m not sure about Krone – some of their pens scream “Cool!” while some of their pieces remind me of my grandmother’s living room suffocatingly stuffed with cute Lladro statuettes. Who the heck is buying those overdone Charles Dickens pens?? We’ll leave that to another day’s writing.)

THINK – like other pen makers – is firing salvos at the tech world, screaming “put down the keyboard” or as the THINK website demands “Think In Ink”. According to marketing and product development director Dana Piet, the target is definitely Gen-Xers.

“So much of the world is going to technology. We have to capture the hearts and minds and fashions of modern users,” explained Piet. “We’re trying to keep the pen world moving forward.”

Piet talked about their advertising and marketing strategy. The new website encompasses the look, feel and attitude of the brand. Advertising so far is confined to Pen World and other trade pubs, but when pushed about plans to show up in more youth-oriented mass media outlets like Teen People or Maxim, Piet fell back on a cryptic-yet-smile-in-her-voice “never say never. All options are on the table.”

When asked about the competition, such as the colorful and funky Monteverde, and whether they have any influence over THINK’s moves, Piet scoffed “At Krone, we do our own thing. We set our own trends.”

I think THINK is definitely going to keep turning heads, especially when it catches on with the style and fashion influencers in the mainstream.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

News Item: A.T. Cross Dumps U.S. Factory; Tries to Get Stylish

During a recent announcement of first quarter financial results, A.T. Cross made known its plans to sell its corporate headquarters, freeze the employee pension plan (although help out with some additional 401(k) perks) and finish pulling all manufacturing out of the U.S. in favor of cheaper operations in China. The changes are expected to save the company about $6 million a year.

Cross officials, however, say they’re pinning the company’s hopes on transforming its past several years of lackluster performance in pen sales with a newer, more stylish approach.

According to news reports, “the company, which used to cater primarily to middle-aged businessmen, is aggressively courting a new, younger generation with trendy reading glasses, flower-print fountain pens and a line of colorful leather totes and briefcases. “The effort is consistent with the company's "goal of becoming a branded lifestyle company," David Whalen (Cross’ CEO) said. "Our direction is correct, and our result will be profitable.”

++++++++++++++++++++++

Fountain Pens Today’s observation: Has Mr. Whalen looked at the fountain pen offerings on their website lately? Cross is a great reliable product that would be welcome in my pen case any time. But I hope they have some special secret designer stashed away and ready to launch something hot because the stuff they have now is pretty staid. Cross is not a hip or fashionable company. And, please, drop the buzzword bingo – what’s a “branded lifestyle” company and does anyone aspire to live the “A.T. Cross lifestyle”? Best of luck in swinging that perception around.

(Sources: A.T. Cross press releases; The Providence (RI) Journal)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

An Invitation To Today's Fountain Pen Users

April 29, 2006

When I decided to start a blog about fountain pens I really wasn't too sure what to focus on. Even more difficult, how should I start it off?

Would this be a place filled with the types of writings about pens found in so many other places, dwelling on the tactile wonder of using a beautifully crafted pen and the comforting scratch of nib against quality paper? Or the familiar “low-tech”/“high-tech” contrast of pen versus keyboard? Maybe some snarky musings on the visual impact of pulling out a stylish pen during business meetings and the conversations it can prompt?

For now, I’m going to keep this blog more focused on contemporary pens. While I enjoy vintage pens, appreciate their value and have a couple of nice pieces that I proudly show in my display case, I don’t know enough to spend time writing about this vast arena of knowledge. I’ll leave that to the experts.

Like many today, I’m a creature of convenience, speed and easy use. That’s why cartridges fillers tend to appeal to me more than piston fillers. I like the durability and patterning found in modern materials. Fun and funky styles found today appeal to me.

Am I a philistine? I’m sure many will think so. But this will be space for the young (and young at heart) to explore the wild stylings of today’s pens. A place for fountain pen aficionados to rave about their favorites, and a place for novices to fall in love with these unique instruments like so many generations before us.

So watch this space for a variety of ideas, images, interviews, news and updates on contemporary pen makers and their offerings. From the low-cost to the eye-openers I’ll range over the spectrum of offerings.

But what do you want to see? Let me know! Chime in with your own opinions and offerings.

C’mon! Put down the pens and type me some words!