Great Lakes Institute of Management
November 18, 2011
Caesar had perished from the world of men, had not his sword been rescued by a pen. Abstract
In this study, we look at two strategies adopted by Parker Pen. The ﬁrst is a highly successful strategy of product diﬀerentiation through technological innovation. The second is an unsuccessful execution of globalization strategy.
A brief history of Parker Pen
The Parker Pen Company was born in 1888 when George Staﬀord Parker tried to repair some fountain pens that were leaking and in the process began to manufacture his own pens. Six years later in 1894, Parker Pen won the patent of the ”Lucky Curve” feed, which was claimed to draw excess ink back into the pen body when the pen was not in use. This technology remained the diﬀerentiating factor for Parker pens until the arrival of the Duofold in the 1930s. 1 2
The forty years period ranging from 1920s to the 1960s, in the pre ballpoint pen era, was the golden period of Parker Pen’s reign when it consistently ranked either number one or number two in worldwide writing instrument sales. In 1931 Parker Pen created 1
Key words and phrases. Parker Pen, fountain pen, ball-point pen. This study was conducted for completion of the group project for Strategy Execution.
the Quink (quick drying ink) which eliminated the need for blotting and led to the development of the most widely used pen in history Parker 51 which generated over $400 million in sales. A Parker pen stood for quality, prestige, tradition, steadfastness and strength highlighted by the fact that Parker pens were the pen of choice to sign important documents in history such as the World War II armistices. Parker Pen expanded its business and by 1980s the company had extended up to 154 countries. The company adopted globalization strategy to establish market presence. However the execution of this strategy was unsuccessful; the managers failed to create proper marketing strategies that would have made them compete in international markets with inexpensive products from other parts of the world. In 1993 Parker Pen was acquired by the Gillette Company, which already owned the PaperMate brand, one of the best-selling disposable ballpoints. In 2000, Gillette sold the writing instruments division to Newell Rubbermaid, whose own Stationery Division, Sanford, became the largest in the world owning such brand names as Rotring, Sharpie, Reynolds as well as Parker, PaperMate, Waterman and Liquid Paper.
In recent years, Parker Pen has abandoned both the entry level market as well as the traditional retail outlets in North America and moved into up-scale luxury retailers.
Innovation as a diﬀerentiation strategy
Throughout its history, Parker Pen has used technological innovation as a strategy to diﬀerentiate itself from the competition. The company has been a pioneer in research on writing instruments and introduced several revolutionary products . In this section, we look at some of the iconic products from Parker Pens which have driven both the company as well as the pen market. (The current portfolio of Parker Pen’s products can be found in Ref.)
Duofold - 1921
In 1921 the company introduced the Parker Duofold (Ref.) fountain pen. It was a state of the art pen for its time and Parker Pen positioned the Duofold in the premier segment and priced it expensively $7.00, equivalent to about $85 in 2011. In 1926 the Duofold became the ﬁrst pen in the world to have a guaranteed life of ”forever”. It was an instant success. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used one to write the exploits of Sherlock Holmes. General Douglas MacArthur signed the document ending World War II in the
Paciﬁc with his 20 year old Duofold (Ref.).
By the early 1930s the Duofolds design had grown dated in the USA but it remained popular in Europe until the...