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Beware of Budget Pens!

Alyssa Mertes

Published: October 28th 2020

It's a classic dilemma: should you splurge and go for the high-end promotional item, or get a lot of low-priced items to hand out everywhere? Anyone who knows me probably thinks I'll say high-ticket items all the time (hey, why order pizza if you don't get all the toppings, you know?). But sometimes a budget item is the way to go, and sometimes it's not – especially when it comes to pens.

Pens are one of the most popular choices for promotional items among businesses and nonprofits. And why shouldn't they be? They're lightweight, easy to distribute, and used by just about everyone.

Oh, and most are affordable too!

Budget pens like the Hedgehog Pen and the Bic Clic Stic Pen regularly top Quality Logo Products' lists of bestselling pens. In fact, pens are usually among the lists of bestselling items in general. It makes sense: because they're so easy to give away, pens and other writing tools imprinted with a company logo provide some of the best advertising bang for the buck. Buy a bunch of low-cost budget pens, and the value is even better. You need to be wary of budget pens for a number of reasons. Let's dive into what you need to know!

Bubba Blue pen

The Build of the Pen Barrel

You've probably guessed that the most affordable pens are made with the most affordable material – in other words, plastic. That can be great for the writer who doesn't want to be bogged down with a bunch of heavy items in his or her bag, or more specifically, for someone like a medical assistant or other healthcare professional who's on the move and is toting a bunch of pens in the pocket of a work uniform.

Bubba Blue pen

A plastic pen isn't necessarily a low-quality pen. However, metal is usually regarded as more durable, meaning a pen made from brass or even aluminum is likely to cost more. Many people regard it as something of a trade-off: you may pay more up front, but your pen is more likely to last.

All in ink

The Way You (and Your Customers) Write

Just as important as the pen itself is the ink that it contains – you can't write without it! The most affordable budget pens are going to be your basic ballpoint pens. Ballpoint pens use a thick, viscous ink that's oil-based. It dries quickly, which means it doesn't smudge very easily (unless your fingers graze the page immediately after you write something down – shout-out to all the lefties out there!). This is why ballpoint pens are a great choice for people who need to write their notes in a hurry, like students.

All in ink

However, some writers prefer a dark, solid line, created by ink that flows heavily and smoothly. This is the kind of writing you'll see among people who sign a lot of documents. For these writers, a rollerball or even a fountain pen is the better choice. Both of these types of pens use water-based inks (and rollerballs can use gel-based inks as well). With these darker, high-quality inks often comes – you guessed it – a higher price.

The Purpose of the Pen

There's another factor that can influence your choice of pen, one that exists beyond the pen itself: your customer expectations!

According to a report produced by the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), customers generally tend to have more favorable opinions of the companies that give away promotional gifts with high perceived values. That makes sense, especially if you ever received the enormous toy of your dreams for one of your childhood birthdays and can remember how you felt.

Gift giving

To Splurge or Not To Splurge?

There's a little more to it, however. While customers prefer to receive more expensive items as gifts, they're also accepting of less pricey items that are given just for the sake of advertising. In other words, if you're just handing out freebies at a trade show to promote your company, budget pens will still make a great impression! If you're giving your customers thank-you gifts or loyalty rewards, however, the high-end pen might be worth the splurge.

Bubba professor breaks it down

What the survey ultimately determined is it's not the cost of a promotional item that determines how long a person holds on to it, but how useful the person feels the item is. Considering 93% of respondents in another promotional products survey listed pens as useful – the highest percentage any promo item in the survey received –we'd say you're in good shape no matter what kind of pen you use to spread your brand name!

Quality Logo Products are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!

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Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a super cool Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. She's a fan of diving into the history of some of the earliest promos on the planet. If you need her, you'll find her buried in research, in the middle of a phone interview, or singing way off-tune in her office.