Of Pens, Pads, and Paper

I love going to office supply stores. I think of Staples and Office Max as great places to browse for ideas and sparks of innovation. Why?

Close your eyes.

Think about paper.

Think about pens, pencils, envelopes, paper clip. If what you initially thought in your mind's eye was just paper, pens, pencils, envelopes, and paper clips then you most likely thought about bland items. Would you want to go shopping for these items if these were bland? No.

So to get people to want to come in to buy, papers, and other office stuff, designers take the pen and make it a PEN. Or paper turns into cool paper with fun pictures and colors. What about note pads? Note pads of interesting sizes, covers, and shapes. Just last week I found these cool little notepads from myndology.

The office supply industry has to take a common product and make it so remarkable that you just want to buy that neat little note pad right then and there. And they have to frequently create new designs of "old" things so that every time you visit there are new pens, pads, and paper.

Addendum: Sharpie is one of those common products. How do you take this mature common product and make it interesting and remarkable that makes you want to buy more every time you are in Staples? Here are some their tactics:
  • Customized personalized Sharpies=> "Put this back where you found it!" or "Happy Halloween 2007" or your name can be printed on the side of each Sharpie. This is made interactive by the Sharpie website which shows you the custom pen before you say yes.
  • Sharpie line extensions with new colors, pen sizes, pen point sizes, and function. You can get metallic colors, chisel pen tips, and markers for autographs or china.
  • Co-branding: Dale Earnhardt, Jr's signature style Sharpie!
  • Sharpie name product placement: Getting Sharpie on TLC :: Clean Sweep and other media places.
So, take an afternoon off and visit the office supply place. Take a note book (buy one there!) and note how many items that you take for granted are actually interesting products.

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