Some people love the cartoons in the New Yorker magazine. Others don’t get the droll humor the iconic publication is known for. Either way, a cartoon in this week’s issue makes fun of promo in a not-so-funny way, with a panel suggesting cheap, poor-quality pens distributed “to the four corners of the earth” as a brand strategy. Not that dreaded “brandfill” thing again!


Let’s be real: Nobody wants a pen that doesn’t work, and nobody with any sense would want a “crappy” promo product that makes their brand look equally subpar (or worse, wasteful). And while some buyers definitely lead with price, they still want some bang for their buck – they want people to keep and use their branded pens, not chuck them in the nearest trash can.

              READ MORE: Editor's Picks: Put A Pen In It

That said, some promo pens can be as extravagant as others are inexpensive. A quick SAGE search reveals ultra-fancy writing instruments in the promo market that are made in Europe and cost hundreds of dollars each, featuring gold plating, fine wood barrels and other luxury elements.

Such pieces might be appropriate for the C-suite or very special clients, but most promo pens are definitely more workaday, and the industry has something for everyone. Here are a few writing instruments in the middle of the price range that show off the potential for finer promo pens:

two branded pens in white gift box - Bowie Softy Ballpoint & Rollerball Gift Set

The Bowie Softy Ballpoint & Rollerball Gift Set starts under $10 and includes a ballpoint and rollerball pen (in black or white, with blue or black ink), both featuring a metal barrel with soft-touch rubberized finish. Both pens and the outside of the matte white gift box can be customized with a full-color imprint.

Goldstar / PPAI 114031, S10

fancy engraved metal pens with caps - Crown Collection Executive Pen Set

The Crown Collection Executive Pen Set includes one ballpoint and one rollerball pen, both with metal barrels and contrasting accents, presented in a gift box. Laser engraved with your client’s brand or message starting under $20.

Empire Pen / PPAI 255936, S3

teal pen engraved with business name - EnerGel Style Premium 0.7mm Twist Action Gel Ink Pen

This EnerGel Style Premium 0.7mm Twist Action Gel Ink Pen, comes in five colors with silver trim and features a sleek metal barrel and durable twist-action mechanism. Its high-performance black ink combines the best of liquid and gel for super smooth writing that dries quickly without smearing. Prices start under $25 and include a one-color imprint and individual velvet-lined gift box. Optional blue ink refills available with an additional charge.

Pentel of America / PPAI 113818, S5

USA-made brass pen with logo and gift box - Baronfig Squire Limited Edition Clear Habit Pen

Made in the USA, the Baronfig Squire Limited Edition Clear Habit Pen features an industrial-grade aluminum barrel with twist action and 0.6mm stainless steel tip with black ink. Baronfig is a 100% employee-owned brand committed to creating products that people love to use, all designed with simplicity, usefulness and community in mind. Comes with a cylindrical gift box and laser etching or color print pad decoration. Starting under $85.

PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15

fancy metal pen with screw-on cap and gift box - Provano Bettoni Rollerball Pen

The Provano Bettoni Rollerball Pen, presented in a triangular gift box, features mother-of-pearl and black onyx inlays, a checkerboard pattern barrel and chrome trim, plus a secure screw-off cap. Add your client’s logo with laser engraving starting at $85.

Logomark / PPAI 110898, S11

modern fashion custom branded pen - Hugo Boss Chevron Pen

The Hugo Boss Chevron Pen, available in ballpoint or rollerball, is inspired by the classic herringbone print. Its gunmetal barrel contrasts with black matte braided accents for a bold, modern writing instrument. Gift box and single position decoration included, starting under $150.

St Regis Group / PPAI 230188, S6