When the check comes at a restaurant, my friends and I always debate. We whisper to each other, “Should we steal this pen?” Especially if it writes like silk, and we aren’t the only ones.

In 2017, Bon Appétit wrote that pens had become “restaurant postcards,” replacing the matchbook. The food magazine declared “the best way to remember a meal is to steal a pen.” It’s not just happening in restaurants, either. In 2012, Paper Mate surveyed office workers, and 100% admitted to stealing a pen. But one out of five did it on purpose.

Most (50%) will steal a pen because it writes smoothly or effortlessly. For others, it’s because they like the way it looks (36%) or simply because they like the color (34%). But there’s another reason why someone would swipe a pen—because it’s meaningful. It’s the pen they used to buy their first home, the pen from a first date, the pen they used to sign a marriage license or to open a new business.

Pens and other writing instruments aren’t just harmless wins for our kleptomaniacal tendencies – they have been known to steal (the show), too.

In animated movie Zootopia (2016), rookie bunny cop Judy Hopps, along with her reluctant fox partner Jack Wilde, solve a missing persons case with a carrot pen. This chunky carrot pen is multipurpose, functioning as a tape recorder, too. The pen is an invaluable tool, especially in critical moments.

Out of the hands of a bunny cop, writing instruments can still make a statement. Nearly 70% of promo pen recipients who had received one pen in the past year remembered the name of the advertiser, according to PPAI’s study “Writing Instruments in U.S. Households.”

Jaymie Cook, northwest regional sales manager at California-based supplier Goldstar Pens, says writing instruments are perfect for brand awareness, the No. 1 reason why people buy promo. “In California and the Northwest, I see people purchasing writing instruments for HR gifts, employee recognition (both in-office and remote) and conferences/executive meetings.”

According to PPAI’s 2021 Sales Volume Study, writing instruments are the third most popular promo product. The product category was also one of several to grow by 25% or more in sales.

Charles Duggan, MAS+, national accounts manager at Goldstar Pens, says, “One of the things we love most about writing instruments is that they’re a portable way to promote your brand. They land directly in the user’s hand and keep your business on the go. Whether they’re in a pocket, a purse, or on a desk, writing instruments push out your message on a daily basis. They can promote your updated branding, your current messaging, or even a specific value that you’re offering. Pens are like a megaphone: amplifying and increasing your impact. And a quality pen? That never goes out of style.” A report from Business Wire projects the global market for writing and marking instruments to grow by 3.7% from 2020 to 2027. Working professionals are expected to be the fastest-growing segment, according to a report by Grandview Research.

This is mostly due to the introduction of innovative multipurpose writing instruments, an increase in promo used by educational institutions and offices and the availability of recyclable materials to manufacture pens. Manufacturers are also combining customized pen body styles, clips and ink types to create unique scribing experiences. There’s one style Cook is especially looking forward to seeing mirrored laser imprinted items.

“I haven’t seen anyone in the industry using this method yet. Mirrored laser imprinting makes your logo shine on the pen. They are beautiful and will definitely be a trend next year, and will probably stay,” Cook says.

In this increasingly digital world, consumers haven’t written off writing instruments. They are relying on these tools for creativity and productivity. For your client’s next campaign, put a pen in it—a pen so great someone will want to steal it.

Coloring For Adults Only

It’s not exactly like taking candy away from a baby—but it’s close. Adults have claimed coloring books as their own. According to Nielsen BookScan data, 12 million copies of coloring books were sold in the U.S. in 2015, up from just one million in 2014. Today, adult coloring books are still popular.

According to Nielsen’s Books & Consumers data, Millennials overall are 29% more likely to buy an adult coloring book than all buyers. Coloring books are perfect for days at the beach, long plane rides or simply unwinding after a long day. All you need is some colored pencils or pens. In 2015, Americans spent $128.2 million, 47% more, on colored pencils than the previous year. By the end of 2025, coloring instruments are predicted to generate a revenue of $3.4 billion.

Writing Instruments

This ballpoint stylus pen with LED light is ideal for students and professionals. The battery is included. Simply push down on the cap to turn the light on and off. The ink is black with pen colors available in red, black and blue.
Hit Promotional Products / PPAI 113910, S13 / www.hitpromo.net

This Bowie Softy AM pen offers next-level protection with Biomaster, an antimicrobial additive included in the soft-touch rubberized barrel and the gunmetal gray trim. The additive technology provides antimicrobial protection against unwanted microorganisms. This medium ballpoint aluminum pen features a smooth writing high-capacity cartridge, available in black or blue ink. Your logo will be engraved in reflective mirror-finish metal.
Goldstar / PPAI 114031, S10 / www.goldstarpens.com

This Limerick Instant-Dry Gel Pen is perfect for taking quick notes. The black gel ink is smudge-proof and dries instantly. This soft touch gel pen has silver metal accents, including its clip, and a touch capacitive stylus.
Sweda Company, LLC / PPAI 113914, S11 / www.swedausa.com

Perfect for signing on the dotted line, this solid brass rollerball features a Euro-style screw-on cap design, a woven steel barrel and chrome metal clip and trims. There’s also a German-made black ink refill.
Logomark / PPAI 110898, S12 / www.logomark.com

Promote sustainability with this seed pen. The eco-friendly and biodegradable Kraft-barrel pen is filled with non-toxic writing ink. Herb or vegetable plant seeds are hidden in the pen’s push button top. Choose from seeds like basil, cherry tomato, arugula and more.
3D Promoplastic / PPAI 690397, S1 / www.3dpromoplastic.com

This three-in-one pen has a stylus and screen wiper. It eliminates the need to carry unnecessary products. The ballpoint pen is great for onboarding gifts for new employees or orientation for schools.
Seastar Promo / PPAI 602763, S3 / www.seastarpromo.com

This free-flowing fountain pen efficiently dispenses ink, using every drop. With an innovative ink system, no cartridge is needed to refill. With a 0.6mm fine point, the ink color matches the barrel color. It also comes packaged in a velvet sleeve. Available in black and green.
Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 / www.gemline.com

This uni-ball gel pen has a comfortable textured grip, allowing for fine control. The smooth, even-flowing ink locks in ideas, protecting them from water, fading and fraud. With a 0.7mm point size, the cartridge is refillable with ink that matches the clip color.
Starline USA / PPAI 112719, S10 / www.starline.com

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 Valdez is an associate editor at PPAI.