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Ink Different

Stan Mattox, president of Shamrock Pens, a mail-order business in Rancho Mirage, California, is concerned. His flagship product, a four-in-one premium pen, has pooped out in small-space ads, so he's wondering what he can do to boost response.

My first thought is to recast this product's persona. The current "Management Tool" label gets a generous 2-plus on the intrigue scale. In an era where disposable pens can be bought in bulk at the local office-supply emporium, the universe of the premium pen may be shrinking-but it certainly still exists. There are a few brands serving the tastes of those wanting to brandish writing instruments with executive-suite cachet. Plus, nice pens still have a niche in the gift market. The Shamrock Pen fits into both categories.

My idea for Mattox's ad is to offer a different take on its four-in-one uniqueness, as embodied in the new headline, "The Only Pen with a Ph.D." That designation should catch the eye of the target audience. The ad goes on to define the "educated" skills the pen can perform. For price-sensitive customers, it's noted that at $30, The Shamrock Pen is "a third the cost of other premium pens having only one function."

An example of product-personality recasting that may inspire your own efforts was applied to the individually controlled, over-the-headboard reading light. It was dubbed The Marriage Saver.

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This article was originally published in the May 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Ink Different.

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