Writing instruments in the clouds?

Laura Bazzali speaks with Andrea Bogoni and Tom de Kleyn about writing instruments residing in clouds and why heaven and earth, sensual experience and digital freedom all go together so well.

Laura Bazzali: Tom, can you tell me what our writing instruments are doing up there in the clouds?

Tom de Kleyn: Actually, we’d rather leave them down here on Earth, Laura! But with the new Cloud Pens service, we are expanding their communication options by adding the digital dimension. In this way, haptic advertising becomes dynamic, measurable and flexible, while the sensual experience and practical benefits, its classic strengths, remain intact. Clouds and the earth form a strong team.

Very poetic indeed! But what does that mean in concrete terms, Andrea?

Andrea Bogoni: The core of the project is a proprietary web app. It acts as a dynamic interface between the digital and analog worlds. So for the time being, we are consciously bringing users to a hub for mobile content.

Why is that? Isn’t a link to a company’s website sufficient?

AB: The web app expands the scope tremendously. Thanks to the web app, content associated with Cloud Pens can be customized and updated and changed at any time. Companies can target the users of their brand ambassadors directly and with ever new digital offerings, or reach them in other digital locations through retargeting. Thanks to precise analytics data, the performance of a campaign can be measured, allowing content and CTAs to be optimized again and again. All this is only possible with a web app – and the possibilities are limitless.

Do you need any special knowledge for this?

AB: You mean on the part of the advertising company?


AB: No! The dashboard used to manage the web app works quite intuitively. Content and functions can be changed very easily and rapidly.

TDK: The same is true for users arriving at the landing page after scanning the QR Code. The page is clear cut, with no frills. The buttons are positioned so that you can easily access them with your thumb, so everything works just as you’re accustomed with mobile apps.

Can the landing page be customized, designed individually?

AB: Absolutely. The landing page can be seamlessly integrated into any brand presence; right down to the page URL, virtually every single detail can be personalized. And no special prior knowledge is required for this either. Customers can go ahead and do this themselves or have our graphic designers take care of it.

So only a QR Code is printed on the writing instrument?

AB: Precisely. Scanning the dynamic QR Code takes users to the landing page, where they will then find the offerings of the respective company.

Why did you opt for QR Codes in particular?

TDK: They fit in perfectly with our writing instruments! You will find them everywhere, they are reliable, and everyone knows how they work. Sustainability also played a role in making the decision. QR Codes are more environmentally compatible than chip-based solutions such as NFC, which are not recyclable and contain valuable raw materials such as copper. In addition, QR Codes are the most cost-efficient solution, already for mid-range quantities.

AB: By the way, every single QR Code is tested for functionality via video monitoring. That’s also important to know.

And who owns the QR Code in the end?

TDK: The customer, of course, for whom we develop and customize the code. Industrial customers can also use it, just like the associated web app, for other means of communication – haptic, analog or digital. In this way, entire campaigns can be managed.

AB: We are only excluding writing instruments from other manufacturers.

TDK: Correct!

Tom, can you give me some examples of Cloud Pen applications?

TDK: The web app can be used to manage a wide range of digital services – from special offerings to videos and contact functions to the latest information about products and services. People can shop, call, send emails, read or make bookings. For a fashion company, the app is the hub to drive pen users to its online store and social media; for a pizza service, it might function as a menu with an integrated Google map and ordering function; for an insurance company, it could replace the business card; for a furniture brand, the app could provide access to current special offers and designer interviews, in addition to a store finder function. The promise of the name applies here: The sky’s the limit!

What models are available as Cloud Pens?

TDK: All our Prodir models, only the QS models in the Stone version are not available.

Data security is also an important issue.

AB: The app’s website is hosted in Switzerland. According to the Data Centre Risk Index, this is one of the top three countries in the world in terms of security. Which means that customers can rest assured that their data is safe with us and will be handled in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). And when a campaign is over, naturally all the data can be deleted.

The final question goes to you, Andrea: What was the biggest challenge this project presented?

AB: We wanted QR Codes that were compact and filigree, so as not to interfere with the value perception of the writing instrument. That was a challenge in itself, but we were able to solve that in terms of graphics and print. But one problem remained that we couldn’t solve on our own: iPhones couldn’t handle the small QR Codes. We turned to the developer community and also to Apple itself – with no result. The problem didn’t even seem to be on the agenda in Cupertino – until the iOS 14.4 update was released in January 2021. Right at the top of the list of improvements the short sentence stood out: “The camera recognizes smaller QR Codes”. I remember it so clearly, it was just after midnight, and I immediately called everyone and got them out of bed. It was simply fantastic.

Thanks to you both for the interview!

Laura Bazzali is Product Manager, Andrea Bogoni Head of Marketing and Tom de Kleyn International Sales Manager of Swiss Pagani Pens.