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The Power of the Pen: 12 Fun Facts You Never Knew About Pens and Pencils

There are a lot of pens and pencils here at Quality Logo Products. Both have been around a long time, and it’s easy to take advantage of the dependability and longevity offered by these famed writing instruments. They are used to sign multi-million contracts. They remind us of important meetings, dates, and events. They’ve even designed some of the tallest buildings in the world (before technology took over).

Did you know typical ballpoint pens can draw a line between 4,000 to 7,500 feet long?  The pencil can draw a line about 35 miles long, which is about 45,000 words. I’m not sure I even know 45,000 words.

By now I’m sure you’ve seen our post looking back at the novelty pen, but this time we’re going to strip it down to the basics. Bottom line, pens and pencils are still a great way to advertise your brand, and you can still get a lot of “bang for your buck,” as they say.

Just check out some of these stats. We’ll get into more specifics later on!

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Pens and pencils are part of a pretty big market, with over $4 billion in sales each year, according to the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA). Yes, WIMA is a thing, and it actually has some information about pens, pencils, crayons, and other instruments we write with that will probably surprise you.

Fun Fact: Dreaming about a pencil might indicate you plan to make a temporary impact in a situation, or that a relationship might not last long.

For example, pencils are painted yellow because the best graphite came from China in the 1800s. Pencil makers in the United States wanted to tell people that their pencils were made with Chinese graphite. Since yellow is associated with respect and royalty in China, pencils were given that color to create that connection.

By the end of this blog you’ll probably know more about pens and pencils than you ever thought you would need to know. So grab your lucky pen, take some notes, and learn how valuable that writing instrument is!

 

All Bow Before the Mighty Ballpoint

By far, the most popular type of writing instrument is the ballpoint pen, which isn’t the most surprising fact I could share with you. Like me, you probably have a cup full of pens sitting on your desk right now, and I’d bet money that most of those pens are ballpoint. But the total numbers are pretty staggering.

Fun Fact: The Rollerball Pen, introduced in 1977, is still a ballpoint pen, but uses a low-viscosity ink.

About 3.4 billion ballpoint pens have been imported into the United States each year since 2008, according to WIMA. In 2013, (the most recent data available) there were 3.7 billion ballpoints imported. Another 456 million refills for those pens are imported each year. Fountain pens came in second place, with imports at about 12 million since 2008.

Pencils aren’t nearly as popular, but the numbers are still pretty impressive. WIMA says on average 24 million pencils with rigid lead (those are like your standard Ticonderoga pencils) are brought into the country every year. Mechanical pencil imports have actually fallen the last few years, with about 800,000 in 2008 to about 500,000 in 2013.

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However, imprints on writing instruments are actually older than the ballpoint pen. In 1908, inventor A.C. Steward created a press that could imprint rounded pencils, WIMA says. The standard ballpoint pen that we use today was commercially available around 1938.

When it comes to QLP, the basic ballpoint pen is king among orders. Specifically, the Hedgehog Pen has been in the No. 1 or No. 2 spot for sales since 2008. The Bic Clic Stic Pen and the Krypton Pen are the Tails and Amy to the Hedgehog’s Sonic with both coming in second or third in sales since 2011. The Metallic Viper Pen took the first or second spot between 2008 and 2010.

Impressive Impressions

Even though imprinted pens and pencils have existed for decades, and despite there being billions of writing instruments out there, it might come as a surprise if I say the writing instrument is still a worthwhile place to put a company logo. But that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Fun Fact: Plant growers use a pencil to mark labels because it is the only marking that doesn’t fade in sunlight.

In fact, when you compare the cost of imprinting a pen to other forms of advertising, it’s not really close. A study done by the Adverting Specialty Institute (ASI) showed that imprinted writing instruments cost about 1/10 of a cent per impression, which comes out to about $1 per one thousand impressions. For comparison purposes, the average cost of a television ad is about $9 to $10 per thousand views, and online ads are about $20 to $23 per thousand.

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ASI also found that 56 percent of consumers in this country own a logoed pen or pencil, and on average when a person receives a pen or pencil they keep it for about six months. During those six months a person will use it three to four times per day as long as they keep it. So when you pick up a pen today, chances are it’ll be a ballpoint with some sort of logo on it.

But even ballpoints come in a number of different styles, like ones with clickers, caps, or styluses. When looking at different trends throughout the years, there’s a strong correlation between technology and changes in the type of pen people use.

Technological Advances in the Pen

The style of pen has changed in some pretty significant ways over the last few years, and believe it or not, technology has affected the types of pens people buy and use. At least that’s the conclusion I drew when comparing QLP’s pen sales data over the last six and a half years.

Fun Fact: Inserting an unpainted pencil into soil can reduce mealy bugs on plants.

One trend that stood out was the popularity of pens with styluses. Whenever I think of styluses, I always think of that rigid plastic stick that came with PalmPilots in late 1990s and early 2000s. Just like the handheld digital devices, styluses have changed a lot since then, and are geared mainly toward smartphones and tablets.

In 2008, QLP had one sale of a stylus/pen combo, the 4 Way Laser/Pen/Stylus/Light, which has since been discontinued. That was just a year after Apple introduced the first version of its iPhone, and officially made awkward silences among strangers and acquaintances a little more tolerable.

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Between 2009 and 2012, there were 25 total orders for a pen with a stylus. By 2013, we had 224 orders, and last year there were 713 stylus/pens ordered. So as the popularity of the iPhone and other smartphone devices increased, so did the popularity of the stylus pen.

Actually, last year was the first time a stylus pen (the Stylus Grip Pen) cracked the top 10 in sales for QLP. So far this year we’ve had 484 orders for pens with styluses, and the Stylus Grip Pen is in pretty good shape to make the top 10 again by the end of the year.

Science Is on the Pen’s Side

If that doesn’t convince you about the power of the pen(cil), then maybe science will. There is scientific evidence that shows it’s easier to remember information if you write it down longhand as opposed to taking notes on a laptop. A study done by researchers from Princeton University and the University of California proved that students who took notes down on pen and paper did better answering conceptual questions on tests than those who typed notes out on a computer.

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The study suggested a few different reasons why this is the case. One obvious reason is the lack of distractions that come with a pen and paper. When I was in class, I would often find myself wandering to Facebook, Twitter, or ESPN rather than taking notes.

Note-taking with a pen also requires the writer to listen more intently and write down only the important information, which leads to retaining the information. Laptop note takers tended to write down everything verbatim without absorbing the material they were listening to, the study found.

Fun Fact: In 1963 the first porous-paint pen was introduced to the market.

The inexpensive cost of imprinting a pen or pencil might not be news to you, but the brand recognition and recall is a powerful tool to use in your business. History, technology, and science all support the pen and pencil as an effective advertising method. So take a look at our website for our entire pen and pencil collection. The options are nearly endless!

Have you ever thought about the kind of pen you use every day? Do you use one with a stylus? Let us know in the comments!

expand your brand



Shaun Zinck

Raised in the Chicago suburbs, Shaun is a recovering journalist, but still considers himself a news junkie. You can probably find him browsing the endless depths of the Internet reading about both news and sports, or watching the latest viral videos on YouTube. He enjoys cooking dinner for his wife and annoying his two cats until they scratch him. You can connect with Shaun on .

Comments

  1. Chase

    Great article!!! I am a pen nut myself and knowing even more detail about not only the history of pens, but the statistics that make it such a great promotional item really help! I actually thought that the percent of people that own a Logoed pen would be much higher. I feel like many people do not even know that they have one. Pretty crazy to think that over half of the people actually know that they do have one. Really cool stuff!

  2. Kelly Bird

    Such fun facts!!! I love the info about the history of the pencil color being yellow. Sometimes seemingly minor things have such interesting backgrounds.

    I’m a firm believer in writing being the key to information retention. You can tell me things a hundred times and I may not remember it until I write it down. I took notes when studying and to this day I’m an avid list maker.

    I find it so hard to believe only 56% of the population owns a logoed pen or pencil. We definitely need to do something about that and QLP is the best place to shop for all of your writing needs. Fun to think we are changing that statistic in history one pen (or pencil) at a time!

  3. Shauna

    I feel like I should be writing this comment in pen instead of typing it right now. This is great! I had no idea pencils were yellow because it signifies royalty and respect in China – how cool! And I distinctly remember getting my first stylus pen and thinking “What is this pointless tool and why did you give it to me?” but then was actually surprised how often I not only used the pen (from a local soap company, who’s name I still remember today — great advertising!) but also actually used the stylus feature. Super handy for doing small detail work on your phone or tablet — you can also make marginally more incredible SnapChat art while using a stylus. At that low of an imprint cost, pens & pencils are a great way for anyone to get their name out there and make it memorable.

  4. Chris

    Keeping a pen an average of 6 months, you say? I still have Click Stic pens from 15 years ago! It’s by far my favorite writing instrument of all time. OF. ALL. TIME. Being able to customize any combination of colors is pretty rad, too.

    I hadn’t seen the stylus pens until joining QLP a couple months ago. They really do have insanely good precision when writing on smartphone or tablet screens. I brought one home with me and everybody I showed was equally impressed. Ever try writing Japanese kanji with your finger? ‘Nuff said. They’re also great for mobile gaming if that’s your inclination.

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