When A Pen Is Not 'Just a Pen'

'This might seem an odd thing to photograph. This pen belonged to a waitress in Oxford, Mississippi. She took our order at the Old Venice Pizza Company and forgot her pen. It came from General Electric Aviation's composites plant in Batesville. I carried it with me for two years and used it to document travels, mark up manuscripts and finalize paper work for my application to Remedy in Finland. That's when it died. When I came here for the face-to-face interview, I kept it in my pocket as a kind of charm. It seemed somehow wrong to have come so far with it as a talisman only to do away with it at the last hurdle just because it had run out of ink.

"Using that pen most days reminded me of where I'd been and what was important and what I was chasing. I found it again, just now, still tucked into my jacket pocket. I suspect it'll stay there for some time."

Instagram Post by: Cameron Rogers Novelist, Travel Journalist, Photographer Melbourne, Australia

I don't think that there are too many of us who go about our day even considering that our jobs in the promotional products industry can effect someone's life, touch a heart, inspire others or change the world. Here a simple promotional item from Batesville, Mississippi ceases to be just a pen--it has become a sort of magic charm for a world-traveling writer. And no doubt, the General Electric Aviation brand has visited more countries then some of us could ever dream of in a lifetime.

Speaking as a product designer (amongst the many hats I wear), I used to design teddy bears for an Australian company several years back. I can remember how great it made me feel to get a letter from a kid who would tell me that a bear that I designed was his "most favoritist toy in the whole wide world!" Knowing that I was able to give a child a lasting happy memory, it made every late work night and little pay I got worth it.

I'm sure that everyone can remember their favorite bear, Slinky, Magic 8 Ball or View-Master when they were young and the emotional connection they might have had with it, and how it can still bring up those same feelings even as an adult. I still get a buzz when I design a toy even now for this industry, knowing that no one can bear to throw away a plush toy, and more than likely it will end up in the hands of at least one little kid who will fall in love with it... if even just for a little while.

Whether you are a supplier or a distributor, stop and consider the products you sell for a moment. Just think...you might be providing someone with a "lucky towel" that is drug out of the closet every year during golf season as a reminder of that first tournament win, a t-shirt from the concert where David first kissed Sarah, a lipbalm that smells exactly like the blueberry doll that Cheryl used to play with when she was six, or a mug from the steel plant were Louis retired and drinks his coffee from every morning with a smile.

You might also consider this when you are developing a creative pitch for a new client. If given the opportunity, select an item that could very well light up a little nostalgic flame or even one that connects with you on a personal level in a memorable way. If you love it or if it means something to you, it could very well make that same kind of connection with your client--especially if there is a special story attached to it.

And, hey... if you recognize the maker of that pen above or know of someone who handles the account for General Electric Aviation out of Batesville, you might want to think about sending Cam another pen... his is out of ink.

Thanks to Charity Gibson and Cheryl Kozak for their personal memories, Danny Rosin and his happy Coca-Cola music video for the positive vibes ... and of course, Cam and his pen. Feel free to share your favorite product story or memory below, we would love to hear them!

Visit Cameron Rogers' website: www.cameron-rogers.com His 'The Music of Razors' on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Music-Razors-Cameron-Rogers/dp/0345493192