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Writing Instruments & Ink Trends

Writing Instruments continue to be a top selling product category. According to PPAI’s 2012 Sales by Product Category, Writing Instruments are #3 behind Wearables (always #1) and Bags. In the US, Writing Instruments are the most commonly owned promotional product and are used most often – over 18 times per month! As simple as they seem, pens can get technical. The evolution of ink technology continues.

Ballpoint Pens are the most popular ink system. The cartridge is filled with a viscous ink that is dispensed at its tip during use by the rolling action of a small ball.

Roller Ball Pens use a similar mechanism, but the ink is water-based liquid or gelled ink. These inks saturate more deeply and widely into paper and offer a richer writing quality.

Gel Pens are hot right now. The pigment is suspended in a water-based gel and supports a higher proportion of pigment allowing it to show up more clearly on dark or slick surfaces.

Hybrid Inks glide smoothly like a gel pen, but dry instantly like a ballpoint pen to prevent smearing. These are gaining in popularity and are often trademarked technologies.

What about ink COLOR?
Black ink is still the majority of sales (approx. 80%), however blue ink is on the rise as many financial institutions require signatures in blue ink. Some writing instruments are available in a variety of ink colors. These bright, trend-driven ink colors are more becoming more and more popular in both retail and promotional product industries.

Ever wonder what people like when choosing a pen for personal use? Smooth Ink Flow was the number one response. Smudge proof ink was a secondary concern and the pen’s overall functionality was third.

Wondering what happened to the Fountain Pen? Well, they are still around and fall into the category of Luxury Writing Instruments. Even while we have clearly adopted technology such as tablets and smartphones, the pen is still the preferred choice for note-taking and is often considered an accessory and expression of personal style. There is a trend toward nostalgia, as consumers rediscover the joys of fine stationery and an elegant pen, similar to the trend a few years back of the rediscovery of the vinyl record.

The industry is seeing increased demand of low-priced metal or aluminum Writing Instruments that target a more youthful demographic with miniature styles and vibrant colors. There is also increased demand in technology driven products, particularly for business gifts. These pens can include a touchscreen stylus, LED flashlights or USBs.

Finally, the highest echelon of luxury Writing Instruments are considered gift pens and are often given to commemorate events or awards. These pens have high-end finishes, a heavier weight and higher quality. And of course, often include the option of a fountain pen for added elegance.

~Margit Fawbush

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