Pigra Pens: working hard for a brand called Lazy

Portrait of Eckhard Sohns, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Pagani Pens.

Pigra Pens: working hard for a brand called Lazy

It’s not every day you help an established company launch an entirely new brand – especially one as wildly original as Pigra. Taken literally, the name means “lazy” in Italian, but as our year-long content and copywriting collaboration for the promotional pen brand proves, Pigra is anything but. Earlier this year I talked with Eckhard Sohns, the Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at parent company Pagani Pens about the new brand launch, their communication strategy, and just what creating an Italian brand means to a strongly Swiss company.

Pagani Pens already has a very strong player in the promotional pens market, Prodir. Why did you want to create a new brand?

When Rossana Porotti [Pagani’s Chief Operating Officer] and I started on the executive board of this company, we soon realized that we would have to review our brand portfolio in a rather important way. We needed to clearly differentiate our offering, with three distinct brands: Prodir, Premec and now Pigra. Premec is our components business, meaning pen tips and refills and other components that make up a complete writing system, but they’d also been present in the promotional and retail pen market. We decided to keep Premec for components, and rebrand and reinvent their writing instruments as something else. Prodir is our most important writing instrument brand, it proudly carries the Swiss Made label, and we had to safeguard that. Which meant the new brand needed to be very clearly different from Prodir and to have a value portfolio that clearly identifies this new brand as something fundamentally different from Prodir, even though it belongs to the same group.

That’s where Italy comes in?

The key differentiator that we wanted to have is now the claim of what Pigra is about: Made By Italians. Which is completely true, by the way, because in fact our products are made by Italians working in very nearby Switzerland, and we’ve now started to move some production into Italy. For the new brand we wanted a very Italian mood, and it goes through every single detail, from the type of catalogue to the language that we use, to the photographs to the trade fair booth. That allows us to keep Swiss Made for Prodir in the premium segment, and lets us price Pigra, which has completely different features from Prodir, in a lower segment.

What are Pigra’s brand values?

One of the first questions Italians always ask me is, Why the hell did you call it Pigra? You know, “lazy”? I understand this perfectly. We live really close to the Italian border and we know that they really work hard. There’s a great service mentality in the production sites and in cities like Milan and Varese and Bergamo people really work very very hard. And at the same time you have this perception that tourists have when they come here that they’ll live the Dolce Vita. But of course you can only experience that, and have a great moment on your summer holidays, because there are so many local people working hard to make it happen. They’re working hard to let you enjoy yourself. It’s true whether you’re here on holiday or you’re buying beautiful furniture which is made in Italy or beautiful fashion which is made in Italy. It’s made with hard work and skill and effort so that you can enjoy yourself.

And that’s what we want to do as well. We want our clients to find an offer which makes their life easier, more relaxed, allows them to save time because we produce it in a very efficient and high quality way so that they simply have less to do. So that that’s the unique selling proposition, that’s the mood we want to convey with this new brand.

Three men sit around a table in a cafe reading the Pigra Gazette.

The Pigra Gazette: a daily Italian ritual. Catalogue art direction and design by Studio Alfio Mazzei for Pigra.


Tell me about the catalogue. It doesn’t look like your typical catalogue, does it?

You know, many many years ago, one of the first times I was travelling in Italy, I remember going into a bar in the morning and having a coffee and seeing only men sitting there holding a pink newspaper and reading very intensively without talking to each other. That was the first five minutes. When they’d read part of it, they started to talk very intensively to each other. And I wondered, What the hell is that?

La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Exactly, La Gazzetta dello Sport, which is something which is really Italian in the way it’s integrated into a daily routine, into the bar. It’s the first thing everybody reads, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re a broker in a bank or a plumber. It doesn’t matter. The Gazzetta is something really present in the day to day life in Italy. What could be more Italian than Gazzetta dello Sport? So we created the Pigra Gazette which sort of takes the form and color of the Gazzetta but in a very light and slightly ironic way. There’s storytelling about our brand but it also includes everything you need to find your product. It’s also a catalogue based on the model of Gazzetta dello Sport.

In the catalogue, we wrote articles about napping, relaxing, stories about an Italian town called Pigra, interviews with lifeguards, business people, even the horoscope…

The Pigrascope, as we say.

Right, Pigrascope. With all this other content in there, is there a danger that the catalogue-ness of it is lost on your clients?

Yes and no. There could be the fear that people reading the Gazette don’t actually go to the parts that talk about the products. If that’s the case, then I hope they just had a good time reading it and they go online and find everything they need on our website. But in terms of a catalogue we’re really offering something different, and it’s something that reflects the spirit, mood, and values of our brand in a way that will put a smile on your face. Which is usually what happens. What we’ve seen in the fairs in Lyon, Milan, Madrid and Copenhagen is that people pick up the Gazette and wonder, what’s this? But then they get to a certain point where you can see their face relax and there’s suddenly a big smile.

Which is not something that many product catalogues can claim.

No, catalogues usually don’t have this effect. That’s the point. That’s exactly what we wanted and that’s exactly why words are so important to us, and why your work on the catalogue was so important, and why we’re so careful about storytelling. It’s not just that we like stories. Well, yes, we do, but it’s more than that. In the promotional market, our clients are marketing managers who need to tell stories in a credible way with our products, through our products. So while we’re making great writing instruments for the final consumer, what we’re offering with Pigra to our direct clients isn’t pens, but communication. And so when this catalogue lands in the hands of marketing manager, and they find something funny, and smile, we want to them to say this is good marketing, and my job is marketing and Pigra clearly understands marketing and I want to work with them. That’s hopefully how the circle closes.

Maybe the good coffee helped, too.

Well that’s true. For our kickoff at the Lyon CTO fair we had the most eye-catching booth at the fair. It’s a medium sized fair, and we created a 60m2 beach hut. And we brought one of those old 1950s espresso machines with a real expert barista from Italy who made the best coffee you could possibly make outside of Italy. Not quite as good as coffee in Italy, but close. I don’t know what the difference is when it comes to Italy. Maybe there’s just something in the water?

Kyle is a Copywriter and Content Manager at Moskito Design, part of the team since 2014. He got his start selling books door-to-door in America, taught English as a foreign language for years in Turkey, and translates from French and Italian. He loves telling stories and helping people and brands tell theirs.