montblanc ballpoint pen refill Montblanc expands on Gertrude Stein to suggest that sometimes a pen is more than a pen
IT has been a pen, but can it be an umbrella?
The pen in question is a Montblanc the cigar shaped luxury writing instrument with the gold, individually numbered nibs and capped with a white star on the top. of Switzerland. New stand alone Montblanc boutiques will be offering leather accessories like organizers, agendas, wallets, briefcases and garment bags, as well as jewelry items like cuff links, pins and tie bars. And that’s just the beginning.
How to accomplish this transformation? “You must convey an image, that Montblanc isn’t only a writing instrument company, but a European luxury brand that can expand its expertise into other areas,” said James Caporimo, creative director of Waring LaRosa Inc., the advertising agency developing the new campaign. “We hope that the Montblanc brand will stand not just for a pen, but for a certain life style.”
The agency helped to create Montblanc’s current $2 million image campaign, which links the pens amorphously with “the art of writing,” featuring the words of scribes from Aristotle to Gertrude Stein. “Montblanc isn’t putting out products, but a concept,” Mr. Caporimo said.
The magazine ads depict “the pen as an art form,” said Genevieve Shore, the senior manager for Montblanc at Waring LaRosa. “The hallmarks are craftsmanship and quality.” In the newspaper ads, Montblanc pens will be grouped with leather goods and jewelry.
There will also be more subtle forms of marketing, supported by direct mail. “Throughout the year, cultural events will be presented in the boutiques, including museum quality displays of rare manuscripts, letters and autographs, and exhibitions of photography and other art,” said Stanislas de Quercize, president and chief executive of Montblanc North America.
And while the company has long had boutiques in such department stores as Bloomingdale’s in New York, the first of its stand alone boutiques will open shortly in Boston and Chicago. In mid October, the company will open a boutique in Manhattan, at 595 Madison Avenue at 57th Street.
“The boutiques are the next step in Montblanc’s evolution from a fine writing instruments brand to a cultural life style brand,” Mr. de Quercize said.
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Still, culture and life style go only so far. “It was easy to sell luxury goods in the 1980’s,” Mr. Caporimo said. “Everyone wanted the Montblanc cap sticking out of their pocket. But in the 1990’s you have to put more substance in the merchandise to make a sale. It is beautifully functional.”
Vendome Luxury Group, the Richemont unit that owns Montblanc, does not break out sales figures but luxury fountain pens seem to be flourishing in the age of the keyboard and mouse. The list prices for the regular roster of Montblanc fountain pens range from $235 to $13,500 for the platinum variety; there is also a $185 version of the Hi Liter. Montblanc leather goods will be priced from $65 for a a business card holder to $795 for a conference folder.
“There is a sizable group that is interested in these products,” said Janice Stillman, a senior editor of Robb Report, a monthly magazine that rates the goods of the affluent life style.
She said the magazine’s 100,000 readers who have an average income of $200,000 and an average net worth of $1 million voted Montblanc the world’s best writing instrument. “There clearly seems to be interest in the brand,” Ms. Stillman said, adding that the Montblanc extension can work “if the quality of the new goods is there.”
But the transition from one product into a brand catalogue is not always easy. “If they’re talking about selling Montblanc washcloths, they’re not going to make it,” said Bill Cosby, the comedian, with a laugh. He owns several Montblancs, which he uses in signing autographs, and is a pen collector as well.
“I think it all fits,” he said of the plans for the Montblanc umbrella brand. “It’s an ingenious domino marketing effect. You have a fountain pen, so you want other things: You want an attache case, a wallet, credit card holders, an address book. And soon you have a desk set.”