Having had some lessons related to the Marketing Management, I can’t hold myself from thinking my previous job before coming here — the launching of the stationery project of my friend’s design studio, and the negotiating with the the most famous Chinese fountain pen maker—Shanghai Hero Pen Factory, a factory that honorably met the initial thirst of practical pens of the newly established PRC in 1950s, a company once was the one of the first listing companies in the 1990s, a small assets with humble ambition for the future of a state-owned business controlled by Putuo Dis., Shanghai in the year 2016.
China is surly the biggest potential market for any kind of personal durables, and in the case of fountain pens, things are still changing and even gaining velocity in a way that you can never imagine. According to the market survey made by me and my ex-colleagues, every month in mainland China:
- At least 356,000 units of newly made fountain pens are sold out online.
- At least 50,000 units of entry-level Parker and Lamy pens are sold out.
- At least 60,000 units of Chinese counterfeit of LAMY Safari are sold out both online and offline.
In a word, the market of fountain pens is still huge.
Considering the fact that Chinese consumers are upgrading their behavior when purchasing personal durables by turning to the brands that emphasize the reasonable balance between price and quality, design and branding, the emerging of a series of corresponding stationery brands is not a hard conclusion to draw and I can say that some of them are doing quite a job, i.e., Shanghai-based KACO, Taiwan-based TWSBI.
What had Hero done these year?
Beside authorizing its partner to keep on the manufacturing of the Chinese version of LAMY vigorously, literally speaking, they have done nothing.
50 years ago, following the enlightenment given by Parker 21\51\ 61, it have invented the Hero 616\329\100, which are, believe it or not, still playing a major role on the assembly line of Shanghai Hero Pen Factory. After TWSBI becoming the top-notch brand in producing pens with classic and filling system with affordable price, they didn’t even attempt to add a cartridge design to its classic lines or come up with a standard piston filling system. When KACO has find its own language of design, Hero keeps on copying Parker\Stipula\Mont Blanc when making its flagship (i.e., #2003).
When hearing its manager told me during one meeting that their strategy is “to compete with the entry-level LAMY and Pilot pens with our mid-range flagship, Hero 100, a gold-nib pen”, I was staggered. I feel sorry for the humiliating positioning of the Hero 100, whose situation is just like a Benz C Class tagged the same price as a Toyota Corola.
Philip Kotler said that “Authentic marketing is not the art of selling what you make but knowing what to make.”
Hero has not even a single sense of what to make. RIP.