In an earlier blog post about back-to-school products we showcased a non-traditional product category, dietary supplements and pain relief. Now we turn our attention to a more mainstream and expected category, writing instruments. For our purposes, we looked at everything from pens to highlighters to identify what’s important to consumers for the back-to-school season.
This is a highly incentivized product category with 21% of the reviews being promoted in some way. Given that fact, we filtered out the incentivized reviews for the purposes of this blog analysis. We looked at organic reviews from Amazon, Staples, Walmart, Target, and Office Depot from May 2021 – July 2023.
For this blog post, we focused on the design topic to understand more about consumer sentiment. Design can mean many things to consumers. It can mean being ergonomic or how it feels in the hand. Design can also refer to the actual look of the pen. What color is the pen? Does it have some extra sparkle to make it wow?
What’s clear is that consumers value a pen that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Consumer Sentiment and Pens
The chart below highlights the leading pen products based on the design topic. The average sentiment here is 83% with a number of Pilot Pen products with high sentiment and high share of discussion. The Pilot G2 Premium Gel Ink Pens, Fine Point stands out as the pen with the highest share of discussion.
When we dive into the Best and Worst products we see the emphasis is on aesthetics rather than functional design. We see the top pen is the COCOBOO 20pcs Diamond Pens Cute Ballpoint Pens Retractable Metal Crystal Pens. This pen is designed to attract the eye with bright, sparkly colors and is crowned with a diamond. The other product images below also showcase the visually appealing designs.
What’s important to consumers
We wanted to understand the main themes for the overall pen category and then dove into what consumers had to say around the design topic. Already, design bubbles up in a number of different ways like aesthetics and functionality when it is somewhat tied to durability.
- Aesthetic appeal: Many customers mentioned the pens’ cute, beautiful, and attractive designs. They appreciate the vibrant colors, cute prints, and overall visual appeal.
- Writing quality: Customers have varying opinions on the pens’ writing quality. Some find them smooth and easy to write with, while others mention issues like smudging, fading ink, or poor performance.
- Durability and build quality: Several reviews touch upon the pens’ durability, mentioning that some pens break easily or have issues with the tips falling off.
- Nostalgia and familiarity: Some customers reminisce about owning similar pens in the past or appreciate the vintage or classic design styles.
- Color variety: Many customers appreciate the variety of colors available, and some specifically mention pastel, vibrant, or metallic colors.
Now the below themes emerge when we only focus on consumer reviews and the design topic.
- Visual design: Customers consistently comment on the pens’ appearance, including the use of cute prints, attractive colors, metallic finishes, and nostalgic designs.
- Ergonomic design: Some reviews mention the pens’ design features, such as the retractable design, angled grip, low center of gravity, or comfortable feel when holding the pen.
|“This is my writing & signature pen because of the brushed barrel and fancy grip it’s no hassle whatsoever to hold. The clip is too stiff so I don’t use it, just store in pocket…”|
- Packaging design: Reviews also mention the pens’ packaging, highlighting the cute boxes or cases that complement the product.
- Customization and personalization: A few reviews mention using the pens for decorating, adding color, or customizing various items, showing how customers incorporate the pens into their creative projects.
|“Been using this style pen forever; in all colors. Love how it feels in my hand & how it writes!”|
- Functional design: Customers appreciate features like retractable tips, click-type opening, and highlighters with erasable ink, highlighting the pens’ practicality in addition to their aesthetic appeal.
- Product range and variety: A couple of reviews express interest in seeing more designs, indicating a desire for a diverse range of pen designs from the same brand or product line.
Overall, the themes revolving around pens and design indicate that customers value not only the functionality but also the visual appeal of pens, often seeking ones that align with their personal style and aesthetics as another means of expressing themselves. As we approach the upcoming school year, which functions will parents prioritize for their children? What fun designs will make a significant impact? The consumer data extracted from online reviews tells a compelling story about the steps brands can take to make pens more exciting for their consumers. For more information about Revuze, click here.