Desk Accessories

Copyright © 2005 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in January 2005, Volume 30, No. 7 of The Engravers Journal

     In today’s business world, boardrooms set the tone for a corporate structure that can be anything from formal to fun. It might be a completely “traditional business,” à la Donald Trump, with polished wood-paneled walls, gleaming brass fixtures and gold-encrusted doors. Or the business might have a much more informal, even “funky,” image like the Googleplex, where you can find large rubber exercise ball “chairs,” ping pong tables and lava lamps. Whether the corporate client is more like “The Donald” or Larry Page and Sergey Brin, they are going to need desk accessories, albeit very different desk accessories.
    Today’s marketplace in the recognition and identification industry offers more in this category than ever before. There’s something to suit everyone’s taste. The big benefit of selling desk accessories in our industry is that we can profit not only from the sale of the merchandise, but from our unique ability to personalize and customize it. And as technology continues to develop, more and more products and marking capabilities are on the horizon. We took a look around the industry for current trends in desk accessories, and here is what we found.

Choose from elegant marble bookends (left) by N&R International, Marietta GA, or a sleek crystal version from CIP Creation Corp., Garden Grove, CA.  

Traditionally Speaking
    When it comes to “The Donald” type of business office, wood is still the reigning champ, whether it’s a pen holder, notepad or desk bar/name block. Customers wanting to promote this type of image look to the rich, warm feeling of high-end wood, such as walnut and rosewood.
    “The walnut name blocks are consistent sellers,” says Michael Hicks, Plastic-Plus Awards, Charlotte, NC. “Solid American walnut desk accessories have been around for a long time. That used to be the only thing we had. It still sells really well because it’s a traditional look that a lot of people really like.”
    One of the biggest changes to hit this segment of the desk accessories market (as well as others in our industry, such as awards), has been wood products with a high gloss finish. The smooth, shiny finish on many of today’s desk accessories has added to the traditional, “big money” image that many businesses like to portray.
    “A lot of the new products that I have seen have been in the high gloss finish, such as the piano finish or the high gloss walnut. Those items are very popular,” says Hicks. There are a variety of high gloss wood desk accessories available, including clocks and name bars, for example. These pieces can be laser engraved directly or an engraved plate can be added. Plastic-Plus Awards, for example, offers an attractive black-coated brass plate adorned with a Florentine edge that can bring out the elegance of a traditional-looking wood name bar.
    Mike May, JDS Industries, Sioux Falls, SD, says, “Desk wedges and rosewood piano finish desk clocks are very popular items right now.” For 2004, the company introduced new rosewood piano finish desk wedges in both 8" and 10" lengths along with precut laserable black brass plates to fit those items. The company also offers genuine black marble desk wedges in 8" and 10" lengths; marble is another material that can appeal to traditional tastes.
    A variety of other items can be found on the desks of businesspeople throughout the corporate world. “Appointment books, which are fairly traditional, are now being offered with lasered company logos or names. I’ve seen some designs that are quite ornate and unique,” says Jennifer King, Gravograph-New Hermes, Duluth, GA. And Topmost Designs, Montclair, CA, offers a selection of high end desk accessories, including marble pen holders that can be laser engraved and color filled, and crystal paperweights in various shapes designed for sandcarved or engraved corporate logos.
    Of course “traditional” doesn’t have to mean boring or old according to Bob D’Andrade, ATdesigns Insignia, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, points out. “I would say the most popular traditional desk accessories are still the letter openers and paperweights, with a close third going to picture frames. However, though the products themselves are traditional by category, we’ve never been a company content to provide ‘traditional designs.’
    “Our customers come to us for something extraordinary, not the mundane. We promote totally custom and unique shapes, designs, textures and colors—the more unique the better! We learned a long time ago that the more unique the design, the more cherished the item will be to the recipient, the more memorable the event will be to the buyer, the more respected the selling company will be to their client and, of course, the more repeat business we all receive from the investment in creativity at the beginning!”
A letter opener (top) can be a work of art like this pewter piece from Johnson Plastics, Minneapolis, MN, or as sleek and fun as these pieces from ATdesigns, Toronto, Canada.

For The Contemporary Taste
    Just as there are many customers who seek to create a conventional corporate image, there are a growing number of businesses looking to promote a more modern, more contemporary, maybe even funky image. Some of these customers may be just looking for something other than wood, while others are interested in something “totally custom” and still others want something far out and unique—a “conversation piece” as they say.
    For many customers looking for something “non-traditional,” acrylic is the answer. “Going from a traditional walnut name block to something that is made out of acrylic is a whole different look,” explains Mike Fruciano, LaserBits, Phoenix, AZ. “If you see the two of them side by side, they are completely different. That’s enough of a change for some people.”
    The sleek look of metal often appeals to customers with more modern tastes. “We’ve recently added a line of pewter products that I think has been very successful. It’s rich looking but relatively affordable from the corporate standpoint,”says Fruciano. Included in the line is a pewter coaster set, pen/pencil cup, memo holder and business card holder, all of which can be attractively laser engraved using a metal marking solution such as CerMark.
    Standard metal nameplate holders are also popular options for customers with contemporary preferences, especially those that have a limited budget to work with. “We carry a big line of JRS anodized products,” says Michael Hicks. “We get a lot of people who want something more modern and the JRS line fits that scenario. It gives you a lot more flexibility, too, with options in gold and silver. You can choose accessories that match the customer’s environment, whether it be a bank or some other corporate setting.”
    To other customers, being “different” or “modern” is a simple matter of showing off “custom” desk accessories. “Being in the business of ‘custom,’ everything is fun and different,” explains ATdesign’s Bob D’Andrade. “The most different in our business would likely be our photoetch process, which we can apply to the many fine pewter lines we offer. The definition and clarity we can deliver to any of these designs allows us to produce some very creative projects; for example, memorial images on paperweights or business card holders or historic photos on picture frames and keys to the city. The most ‘fun’ is likely in the creativity our customers bring to the design of their business cardholders. No matter how funky or complex the design or logo, we can normally recreate the essence of any design in these fine pewter products that anyone would be proud to display on their desks. And isn’t that what it’s all about—getting your customer’s name and logo on a fine quality item that is sure to be cherished and displayed for all to see!”
    Of course, there are customers who want something that defies any “category”—the more unusual, the better. “Victory has something more different than I’ve ever seen,” says Plastic-Plus’ Michael Hicks. “It’s called the resin hand. They actually took a mold of someone’s hand and made a resin out of it and mounted it to a high gloss rosewood rounded base with a plate area in the front. You can actually put a nice writing pen in the hand and it will hold it like it’s writing or it will hold business cards. One of them has a clock mounted into it as if it’s a wristwatch. It’s very unusual and it really appeals to some customers—it depends on their tastes. I’ve had some customers say that’s the best thing they’ve ever seen.”
Everyone should display their business cards. Is your style dramatic and dynamic like this pewter creation (left) from Johnson Plastics or crisp and clean like this example from Gravograph-New Hermes, Duluth, GA?

And The Selection Continues To Grow…
    One of the advantages of selling desk accessories is that the products continue to evolve as both the corporate climate and our industry are affected by trends and technology. For example, we all know that advances in laser engraving and sublimation have introduced a slew of new products and that includes the desk accessory market as well.
    “I think that many people don’t grasp onto the concept that the amount of materials compatible with the laser have definitely grown,” explains Mike Fruciano. “For example, with the advent of metal marking, laser engraving metal-type products such as pewter, chrome and stainless has become a reality. So from that aspect, I think that there’s a lot more that can be done now.”
    New Hermes’ Jennifer King agrees that advances in laser engraving have been great for the desk accessory market. “Sales for anything laserable, from card holders to pens to appointment books, have greatly increased over the past few years,” she says.
    The ability to add four-color images using sublimation has led to new product developments as well. “For 2005, Unisub is coming out with additional desk accessories,” says Michael Hicks. “One item is a wood name block with two pens attached. You sublimate the plate and slide it in.” The beauty of these products is the ability to quickly and easily add four-color sublimated images—logos, photographs, text and graphics are all very real possibilities. “That puts you in an entirely different market. If you can personalize it with photography or four-color images, suddenly the products become open to just about any customer where the image would make a difference versus just names.”
Just a few years ago, personalizing pens used to be a major hassle—it was basically hit or miss when it came to which pens could be engraved successfully or even at all. Today, however, there are pens available designed specifically for engraving and in designs that fit either traditional or more eccentric tastes. Plastic-Plus Awards, for example, carries I-Mark brand pens that can be either lasered or mechanically engraved, along with walnut and rosewood pens and pen sets, and metal pens and pen sets.
    “Personalization of pens is another market that has increased over the last few years,” says Gravograph’s Jennifer King. “Any time someone gets their name on an item, whether it be a pen or a folder, it makes the item special, even if the item only costs $5.”
    ATdesigns carries a complete line of fine pewter desk accessories that would look great on any desk—modern or traditional—including letter openers, candy dishes, coasters, notepad holders, business card holders, paperweights, clocks, picture frames, even drawer handles. Bob D’Andrade says, “We’ve expanded our prestigious fine pewter line this year to include custom high-end bookmarks and ‘key to the city’ awards that can be customized with our photo etch process. For us, it’s keeping our ideas and designs as creative and unique as possible—giving new life to established lines of products already accepted in the marketplace. For 2005, we’ll be introducing stand-up medals that allow the recipient to show the world the reward of their extraordinary efforts. Instead of hiding that hard-earned medal away in a drawer at home, you can display your medallion as a desk accessory.”
    Suppliers continue to offer new products to meet changing tastes and trends. For example, the industry is seeing an increase in interest for technology items like PDA’s, cell phones and MP3 players.
    Crystal items remain an elegant desk accessory choice and we are seeing more options here, as well. Topmost Designs, for example, is in the process of launching new optical crystal paperweights. And, as Diana Shih points out, desk accessories can extend beyond pens and name blocks. “In addition to desk accessories, more and more companies with larger budgets purchase decorative items, like crystal vases, for their important customers. Those higher-end gifts would be more appreciated by receivers,” she says.



Pens can be as simple as a Bic or as simply elegant as these traditional examples (top left) from Gravograph-New Hermes or as fun and funky as these examples from LaserBits, Phoenix, AZ. A paper weight can hold downg the weight of the world in this stylish crystal design (left) from Topmost Designs, Montclair, CA or this creative crystal mouse from CIP Creation Corp.

Selling Strategies
    Just about any business with desks can use desk accessories, whether it’s a corporate office on Wall Street or a small den in someone’s home. In any case, desk accessories can serve different purposes; they might be used to promote the company name, they might be used as an award, they can function as a personalized gift or maybe a combination of these functions.
    Is It a Pen or a Promotion? Sure, desk accessories are functional. They make it easy to grab a pen or a piece of notepaper, glance at your calendar while you are setting up appointments or even relieve a little stress (by grabbing that stress ball). But for most businesses, they also have another purpose—one that is equally important to many corporate customers—and that is advertising and promoting the company name. As an R & I professional you can easily assist customers with their promotional needs by showing them that you can customize any desk accessory with the company’s information that they, in turn, can give to their valued customers.
    “The concept is to have your company name and phone number on somebody’s desktop. There are a lot of nice products, like a pen holder or a paper clip holder or a notepad holder, that you can accomplish that with,” says LaserBits’ Mike Fruciano. “I think that the core concept of desk accessories, where you have your company name on a product that sits on someone’s desk, is a simple one but it’s a great marketing concept.”
    Bob D’Andrade emphatically agrees with the concept of selling desk accessories as promotional items for a company. “I’m not sure why a corporate customer would ever buy a desk accessory unless it did have his logo or slogan. It’s all about getting your name out there! Unless a corporate client is buying office supplies for internal use, why would they ever want to give their clients a gift without their logo or slogan prominently displayed? What better item to give a good client than a product of high-perceived value he will keep, that offers prestige to the recipient in clear view of his colleagues and that provides abundant advertising for the original corporate client to all that come into his office. It’s an ideal product for any corporation to consider.”
    The range of products available in the marketplace make it easy to fit the tastes and budgets of a wide variety of customers, whether the company wants to hand out a large quantity of (less expensive) paper clip holders or give a few higher-end desk clocks to valued customers.
    “There are a lot of affordably priced desk accessories made out of materials like wood that make nice desk accessories for this purpose,” says Fruciano.
    “Paperweights fill that niche a lot,” adds Michael Hicks. “A lot of our customers do big volumes of three-inch and four-inch paperweights. We have a huge variety of those in acrylic and other materials. Also, many customers will take the Italian marble paperweights and put a brass plate on them with the company logo or other company information on it.”
    “This is an excellent method of advertising,” says JDS’ Michael May. “Laserable pens, for example, work great for this type of client.”
Other corporate customers often look for more expensive items to give to select customers. “A desk accessory such as a clock could be engraved with the company logo as a thank-you or as a year-end gift,” says Hicks. “In that way, the business is advertising in a ‘thank-you’ type of way with products that they would display which, in turn, constantly puts their name in front of their clients.”
    Desk Accessories Are Rewarding. While traditional award products certainly accomplish the goal of recognizing the recipient, many businesses look for something that the recipient can use—a functional award. Desk accessories are an excellent choice for this application, because not only do they recognize the recipient, they can also advertise the company name.
    Although any desk accessory could be personalized and given as an award, there are several products that are actually designed as awards/desk accessories. For example, Plastic-Plus Awards offers several products with this theme, such as an acrylic upright (that can be engraved with an award message) with pen holders attached.
    “The awards angle is a good one. A desk accessory as an award is a functional award that has a real purpose,” says Hicks.
Clocks are timeless desk accessories that make excellent awards. “I have seen more clock products being introduced lately. These can either be desk accessories with built-in clocks or the clocks themselves. On the awards side of the business it’s something that you can use as a desk accessory but it’s also a recognition product” Hicks says.
    Is It Personal? Desk accessories make ideal personalized gifts, another market avenue that you can pursue. How about a personalized picture frame for Dad’s desk? Or a paperweight for your favorite teacher? Desk accessories personalized with a photograph and/or other personal information make excellent gifts that are very specialized.
    Mike Fruciano says that in the laser engraving world, materials such as acrylic and marble desk accessories are making an impact in the gift market due to their “laser friendliness.” “For example, someone might be looking for a gift for a father to put on his desk at work. A marble pen holder or pen cup laser engraved with a photograph makes a treasured gift.”
    Sublimated desk accessories are also ideally suited for the gift market; this is an area in which we are sure to see more developments. Coasters, business card holders, desk nameplates, noteholders, paperweights, photo frames, clocks, etc., can all be sublimated with four-color photographs to make a gift the recipient will cherish forever.
It’s all in a name and you can present yours in any number of ways, patriotically (top) from Acrylic Idea Factory, Norcross, GA, on classic wood with a stylish spin (right) from Lee’s Wood Products, Rocky Mount, VA or with conventional simplicity from Gravograph-New Hermes. A clock can reflect the giver or receiver’s personality in crystal and brass like this beauty (left) from Gravograph New Hermes, or this cheery apple from JDS, Sioux Falls, SD.

Marketing Matters
    Unfortunately nothing, including desks accessories, sells itself. Here are a few pointers for jump-starting your desk accessory sales.
    When selling desk accessories to corporate customers, you have to keep in mind that timing is crucial to building your customer base. “One thing that we always point out to customers at our laser clinics is that the buying cycle for corporate customers is a minimum of six months,” says Fruciano. “Retailers need to pick key accounts and actually engrave a sample for them and then sample them six to eight months in advance. Most corporate buyers have to go through a process of committee decision-making so that takes a little bit longer.”
    What do you do if you want to provide samples but the products you want to promote are too expensive to “mass engrave” and hand out? “In our end of this category, it’s not easy for me to advise customers to give free samples,” says D’Andrade. Although sending out pens with logos will bring in sales, for higher-end items the cost is simply prohibitive. “The best suggestion that we offer our customers is to engrave limited amounts of some of the more popular desk accessories with their own logo and give them to their customers in recognition of business received. That way, they enjoy the benefits of providing a prestigious gift to their customer and high profile advertising of their own name and logo everyday. They can also use the item for demonstration purposes with an eye to obtaining orders.”
    Going back to our Donald Trump and Google scenario, offering a variety of products is also key to making sales in this market, including different materials like walnut, acrylic and metal, different product designs and different price points. “It is very important to present many options to customers so they can find something that suits their taste and their budget,” says Mike May. “JDS provides retail sales catalogs featuring desk accessories for retailers to show their customers.”
    “It’s important to cover a variety of price points with any product that you sell,” adds D’Andrade. “The rule-of-thumb for any sales organization is to provide the good/better/best selection with any product line. The ‘good’ gets you the attention and volume of clients. The ‘better’ is where most customers will purchase to maximize their value and minimize their costs. And the ‘best’ is where you’ll enjoy the ‘cream’ of that product line and perpetuate your ongoing image of quality.”
    So how is the market for desk accessories faring in today’s somewhat turbulent economic times? By all accounts, the future looks bright.
    “The corporate market, just due to economic cycles, has been down the last couple of years but I really see it being much stronger in 2005,” says Fruciano.
    D’Andrade agrees, “I would have to say that the market for higher quality desk accessories seems to be on the rise. It’s reasonably easy to convince a corporate client that any desk accessory to be used as a gift or recognition award should be of sufficient perceived value so as to give the right impression to their corporate image. Who wants to put their logo on an inexpensive plastic product when something in fine pewter can be created in a totally custom design in about the same amount of time?”
    Innovative design will be the trend for desk accessories in the months to come as suppliers give traditional products makeovers and introduce more and better quality products. As JDS’ Mike May puts it, “The suppliers in the recognition and identification industry are a very creative and innovative group of people! Watch for exciting new developments in desk accessory items in 2005!”
Desktop awards come in different shapes and styles,
like this trendy #1 paperweight from Gravograph-New
Hermes or a traditional plaque from Tropar Manufacturing Co., Inc., Florham Park, NJ.
The memo pad is a staple item on a desk and you can offer your customers a choice of a clean compact model (left) like this from JDS or a thinking inside the box box from LaserBits.