Magazine article Marketing

The Penpushers

Magazine article Marketing

The Penpushers

Article excerpt

THE PENPUSHERS

Despite a plethora of innovative business gifts, companies are still sticking to old favourites -- pens, diaries, and calendars. In other words, they are refusing to take any risks, writes Brian Oliver What might Father Christmas bring you this year? Talking calculators and watches, credit card cases which self-destruct if anyone other than the cardholder attempts to open them, computer-shaped clocks, juggling kits, diamond-studded glassware, golf shoe bags, silver egg-timers, and bone china coasters are just a few of the new products now available from the business gift suppliers.

Despite the appeal of such novel gift ideas, however, most companies which purchase advertising gifts this Christmas are still very likely to stick to tried and tested items--such as pens, diaries, and calendars.

This was one of the findings of a recent survey conducted by management consultancy PE International on behalf of business gift company, Bourne Publicity. Despite the current economic climate, the study found 57% of the 313 companies surveyed did not intend to cut their expenditure on business gifts. Some even planned to spend more. Yet others have had to trim corporate generosity drastically.

Companies interviewed for the survey listed their top five "most effective gifts" as: pens (33%), diaries (23%), calendars (11%), calculators (11%), clothing and umbrellas (10%), and desk note pads (9%).

"While many companies are not reducing their budgets, they are not taking risks either," says Andrew Bourne, Bourne's managing director.

Simon White, sales director at JG Promotions and Marketing, agrees. "Because of the recession, companies are being less innovative in their approach," he notes "They are turning back to products which are safe." He cites pens, key rings, leather folders and diaries as the most popular items.

Derek Powell, a director of Regent Publicity, says his company's best sellers also include "old favourites" such as pens, calculators, clothing and credit card wallets. "Clients are going for more traditional items. There are no new products which have really set the market alight this year."

In an age when microchip technology has revolutionised promotional merchandise (almost any product can now be made to "talk" or play a promotional jingle), it is surprising to find pens still dominate the business gifts market.

Writing instrument manufacturer, AT Cross, first offered its products as personalised promotional items at the turn of the century. But Michael Trotter, national sales manager, believes pens and mechanical pencils remain popular because they provide a "lasting and useful advertisement" for the giver. With prices ranging from 19 [pounds] to just under 2000 [pounds], AT Cross' range of personalised products includes ball pens, fountain pens, mechanical pencils, ladies' pens and desk sets.

"Consumer demand for premium writing instruments has never been higher," Trotter adds. "With budgets restricted because of the current economic climate, more companies are looking for quality rather than price."

Pen manufacturer Berol offers a choice of budget pens, in 27 different colours, for between 40p-60p each. Its recently-launched range of fountain pens is priced at around 14 [pounds] per unit. Berol's Carol Gilchrist argues that the pen's continuing popularity as a business gift is due to the fact that it is useful to recipients. It is therefore more likely to be kept on a desk, she says.

"Despite the latest technology, everybody still needs a pen," says Gilchrist. "Since a branded pen will be used everyday, it is a cost-effective alternative to mainstream advertising."

The business gift houses admit that the recession has forced many customers to rethink their approach to buying gifts. Despite the findings of the Bourne Publicity survey, some cash-starved client companies have had to cut their budgets; others have delayed their purchasing decisions. …

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