Pen Views

Pen Views

January 2007

Who Buys a Good Pen Anyway?


Sometimes when I am discussion pens with others, others who can't run away, the question comes up: Who buys a good pen anyway? This question certainly comes up when the relative cost of a good fountain pen works it way into the conversation. Well I know I do, but in asking the broader question about who the other people are, it is interesting to talk with pen distributors and pen retailers about the elusive pen market.

In terms of who the pen companies are targeting it is men in the 20 to 50 agre bracket. According to the pen industry it is "success oriented people who desire premier products that distinguish the owner as someone of accomplishments and potential". While that statement did not startle me, the target age range did: ages 20 to 50 with a heavy emphasis on marketing to the front-end of the age group (25-40). In my business circle it is lawyers, arbitrators and business managers that tend to use fountain, rollerball or ballpoint pens. They tend to be well past the 35 age bracket.

What are the brands that match this profile? The table to the right shows the results of the Highline Awareness & Imagery Study (2005) reported by the International Pen Association. It reports on consumer perceptions towards brands of pens..

The high ranking of Montblanc was no surprise. The company has to be applauded at the success of its marketing and the level of consumer recognition of the Montblanc line of pens.

I was a little surprised at the close ranking of "one of the best" and "better than average" for Waterman. I was very surprised as the ranking of Parker - especially given the status of its Duofold line of pens.

BRAND "One of the best brands" "Better than the average"
Montblanc 58% 29%
Waterman 40% 41%
Cross 28% 51%
Parker 11% 47%
Brand Market Share

Sanford, the company that owners Waterman, projected the market share of fine writing instruments (2005) having Montblanc leading the pack.

I was surprised to see the relative size of Aurora - a line of pens I have perceived to have a more limited range of distribution. I had toured the Aurora factory in Italy last year and had to admit that their line of pens had limited exposure in Canada. I simply did not know enough about their various lines of pens.

Montblanc $90 mm
Cross $42 mm
Parker $37 mm
Other $34 mm
Cartier $8 mm
Aurora $5 mm
Dupont $ 4 mm

So who is buying these really expensive pens? Just a few it would appear. The International Pen Association 2005 survey which was updated in 2006, reported on the type and average price of writing instrument.

Men buy pens for themselves. Women buy pens as gifts. Of pens purchased, it is reported that men buy 60% of which 80% purchase the pens for themselves. Women buy 40% of the pens of which 70% purchase the pens as gifts.

Average Price/Type
Fountain pens ($175) 35%
Rollerballs ($100) 28%
Ballpoints ($75) 28%
Mechanical Pencils ($75) 5%
Other 4%

Now what was really not expected was the conclusion that the demand and sales of limited edition pens is down. This is contrary to what those in pen manufacturing companies have told me, and state of the business that individual stores have reported.


Your pen, an expression of you.