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The Mountain Will Not Come to You

Posted by Dirck on 4 October, 2012

I am not a captain of industry.  That’s probably clear from almost everything I’ve said previously, but I wanted to make clear that what follows is the opinion of the untutored.

I have been mulling over an item of intelligence which I saw yesterday on the Fountain Pen Network, and I find my initial reaction remains in place.  The item, which you may of course read for yourself, indicated that a major UK retailer is in the midst of replacing Mont Blanc pens with Diplomat pens.  The reason given by staff at the store is that Mont Blanc was insisting that their pens be presented in the jewellery department, and the store, unfashionably thinking pens to be an item connected with stationery, would not move them from the stationery department.  Thus, a parting of the ways.

My initial reaction, which takes Mont Blanc as its subject: “What a bunch of silly buggers.”

I am unmoved from this position by the information that to those who think $1000 is the natural unit, it is not uncommon to enter retail environments in which “department” is defined not but the nature of the merchandise (shoes, underwear, crockery) but by who makes it (Huge Bass, Scaramanga, DoNKeY, and yes, I am cocking my snook).  That reveals a whole different batch of silly buggers, who I’m not here to deride… today.

Silly buggers, front one: Mont Blanc is trying to separate their pens from the general category of pens.  These are not pens, they cry, they are precious gems.  This is problematic, because it can then lead to abandoning any idea of function whatever, and should the bubble that the ultra-expensive limited edition pens float upon ever burst, the owners should at least have the solace of it writing very well indeed.  Which, at those prices, it should.

Silly buggers, front two: How big, exactly, is the market for furiously expensive jewel-pens?  We hear much about the gap between rich and poor widening briskly, but we do not hear about the rich side doing a whole lot of recruiting.  Now, I, being a mere non-MBA, sub-$500,000/year peasant, can’t really comment on the wisdom of Mont Blanc’s marketing plan; I’m sure they are paying some people with appropriate degrees huge amounts of money to direct their ship.  However, it seems to me that lopping off an income stream because the owners of it don’t want to rearrange their business to suit your notions is not going to harm anyone but you.  The retailer in question has a replacement for the empty shelf space, and the difference in cost between Mont Blanc and Diplomat suggests to me that the volume of sales of the newcomer will handily balance the lost profits on the infrequent vast-ticket purchases.

As I say, I’m not a marketing guy, so my opinion has no weight, but it seems to me that there is a limit to the number of times a company can say,  “Screw you if you don’t want to sell our stuff” before they run out of places to sell it.  Since Mont Blanc’s humblest pens are well beyond me, I’m only concerned about this in an academic manner, but I’d still hate to see a venerable pen-maker disappear because it mistook amputating a limb for nail-trimming.  On the other hand, if the emperor doesn’t accept that he’s naked and going after his fingernails with a tree-chipper, he’s only got himself to blame.

Today’s pen: Parker IM
Today’s ink: Quink Blue

By the way, I should own up to taunting the pen-maker in question throughout.  Although one might not know it from the way they print their name on many of their products, or the fact that they are frequently refered to as MB, they would like us to write their name “Montblanc”.  I assume this is because they don’t want their valuable exercise in branding mistaken for a common mountain which anyone might look at.

4 Responses to “The Mountain Will Not Come to You”

  1. That does seem like cutting off your nose to spite your face. As expensive as Montblanc pens are, you’d think they’d be grateful for any retail exposure they get. This is the sort of snobbery that will have a negative impact on their bottom line sooner or later.

  2. […] be cut off from the source.”  This is a style of jack-bootery one has come to expect from Mont Blanc, but it’s disturbing to see it creeping into the realms of pens normal people can […]

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