Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pilot : The World's Most Reliable Pen

Brand : Pilot
Company : Luxor Writing Instruments Ltd
Agency : Lowe

Brand Analysis Count : 337

Two days back, while looking for a pen, I came across the good old Pilot Hightech Point 05. The pen brought back memories of student days where Pilot used to be the favorite pen especially for the exams. I gave in to the temptation and bought Pilot pen. The pen is just the same. The same style, same smoothness and same quality.

Pilot is a global brand. Ryosuki Namiki, a Professor at Tokyo Nautical School invented a gold writing tip for fountain pen. He along with hid friend Masao Wada established Namiki manufacturing co in 1918. In 1938, the company name was changed to Pilot Pens Ltd.
Pilot pioneered the fine art of writing by introducing path breaking products and evolved itself to be a leading brand in the writing instruments market.

Pilot came to India in 1982 in collaboration with Luxor Writing Instruments Ltd. The market at that time was dominated by ballpoint pens especially Jotter pens. The first product from Pilot in India was Pilot 05 micro-tip. Retailed at Rs 10, the brand gave a new writing experience to the Indian customers. The pen was lot smoother and the micro-tip gave a new freshness to the writing. So even though the product was expensive, it became a huge success.Micro-tip virtually changed the pen's market in India by creating a segment in itself.

Then came the Pilot 05 Hightech point . Priced at Rs 25, the brand had the USP of ' three dimple technology which enabled consistent flow of ink. The pen could also be refilled. Pilot had by then established its reliability and quality in the mind of the consumers. The pens became aspirational for most of the students.

Success of Pilot pens can be attributable to its ability to satisfy a need in the Indian market. Pilot pens combined the positives of both fountain pens and ball-point pens. People favored fountain pen because it enhanced one's handwriting and ball-point pens where popular because it was easy to use . Fountain pens was messy and refilling it was a boring routine. Pilot was a pen which had ink but it was not messy compared to a fountain pen.

The brand was also promoted heavily by Luxor. At one point of time, Pilot was endorsed by the actor Shekhar Suman. The tagline of the brand was " Pilot : Reads well, writes well ".

But during the late ninetees, the brand became stagnant. The reason was the increased competition from me-too products. Soon consumers had a lot of choice. Luxor also focused more on its other brand Parker. Hence in the media also, Pilot was not active. The high profile entry of Add Gel Pens also sidelined this brand.

One of the important reasons for Pilot's fading relevance is that the brand now does not have any meaningful Point of Difference. All the competitors have achieved parity with Pilot interms of technology . Even some have came out with superior technology than Pilot.

But still Pilot holds a unique position in the mind of the consumers. The brand still is one of the oldest and largest selling pen in that segment ( I do not have figures ).Luxor has launched a series of new pens under the brand Pilot. Now Luxur holds 15% marketshare in the Rs 1500 crore writing instruments market.

After using Pilot 05 after many years, I wonder whether this brand is being under- utilized by Luxor. According to reports, the brand has been focusing more on below-the line promotions. But the brand has the potential to do more.

Indian consumers also have become more choosy in terms of this category. There are customers who like micro-tip , some like a more heavy tipped pens, some go for style and image, some for the ergnomics etc. Pilot has to adapt to the varying customer requirements. Luxor has not been able to launch the new products of Pilot which are available in other parts of the world.

It is time for Pilot to ladder up to a higher plane rather than closeted as a mere pen. So far the brand has not compromised on quality and image . But the equity is slowly fading because of lack of promotional support.

The brand is a highly functional, reliable and quality writing instrument. Worldwide , Pilot takes the core brand value on reliability . But here Reynolds has already taken the reliability position. But Pilot can always take the core value of " Fine Writing ". It is something that all Pilot users will vouch for.