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Friday, June 19, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Pens & Pencils

If there was ever a useful swag item--this is it. Who doesn't use a pen or pencil? They get scoffed up at conferences faster than candy. Plus they last longer. What's not to love?

You know I'm going to tell you, right?

Pens: The cheap ones dry up almost as soon as the package arrives. Years ago I had a freelance design business and bought a couple thousand pens with my company name and phone number.

Worst. Mistake. Ever.

I was constantly testing them to make sure they worked before I handed them out.

Recently, I found a few in a forgotten box, and of course none of them worked, but my company name and phone number was still deeply embossed and very much legible.

I've mentioned in the past that I am a pen kleptomaniac. But I will toss out a pen if it skips even once. Where do your promo dollars go then? Right into the garbage.

If possible, see if you can try a sampling of pens, so you can get a feel for each one. Better to spend $200 on 200 pens that work than $200 on 2000 pens that don't.

When choosing pens, consider:

• pen quality
• ink quality
• Is the engraved name clear enough?
• clip or no clip. Many people love pens with a clip. But don't assume that's true for everyone. Consider getting a few of each kind.
• ink color. If it doesn't cost any more, I would offer both black and blue ink.

Pencils: I love pencils. Unfortunately, unless you have a pencil sharpener handy, pencils can be a chore to keep.

Show of hands. How many of you have a pencil sharpener in your house? (And I don't mean a kitchen knife, though that will do in a pinch.)

Unless you have kids (or you're an artist) it's not one of those things that lie around in the open. But if you do want to give away engraved pencils, you can put them out already sharpened.

Pencils are cheaper and you can usually find them in a rainbow of colors and designs. They last a long time too--sometimes even longer than a cheap pen.

When choosing pencils, consider:

• hardness: A #2 pencil is the standard. Don't go for anything fancy.
• width: You can probably err on a fat pencil, but don't get too crazy with the really skinny pencils. They're hard to hold and break easily.
• design: Don't let the design overwhelm what you're really trying to promote. You want your name or book titles to be the most prominent feature on the pencil.

Aside from leaving your pen and pencil booty at conferences and book signings, leave your pens at:

• Drive through banks. Leave your pen(s) in that plastic cylinder that travels back and forth between customer and teller.
• Restaurants. If you're a regular, give a big handful to your server so he can pass them out when people sign their credit card slip. Be sure to leave a nice tip too, so he can brag that an author dines there often.
• Bowling alley or miniature golf. Why use those teeny little pencils?
• Beauty salon
• Health club
• Doctor's offices. They're a big hit there!
• Leave them at work. (I was never comfortable mixing my author life with my office life. But if you are, by all means pass them around.)

Pen & Pencil dealers:
Marco Promotional Products
Hub Pen Company
Graphite Pen & Pencil Company
National Pen

For past Killer Campaign posts go here.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini --

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Jannette Johnson said...

I have a son, so pencils are all over the place (he plays with them), but I share your ire over pens that refuse to work, but sometimes it's not the pen's fault.

I bought a package of five a few months ago, and found the ink would skip. They worked fine on everything else, except this lined paper I have! And of course, I use this paper to plot everything out. I have under 500 sheets, so now I'm on the look out for any pen that will write on it. So far, it's only been one brand.

Maria Zannini said...

How weird! I wonder if it has a coating on it to keep it from curling in humid weather.

But at least as long as you have a kid around the house, you'll always find a writing implement. lol.