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For Those Who Hate Montblanc....why? Just Curious...


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#21 Bobje

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 01:30

Montblanc is an outstanding marketer and excels at theming special editions, managing the distribution channel, pricing, and protecting its brand, service, and message. It’s like Rolex in that as a product it’s both a statement and a form of currency. There’s little question that many other firms match or better the quality of engineering and craftsmanship. Many do as well at design, but nobody matches its ability to build a story around a pen, and very few, if any, match the value of the brand. In the vocabulary of Steve Jobs, it’s a company that imputes.

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#22 OMASsimo

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 01:35

Half of my family used MB for almost a century but MBs are not my cup of tea. I can't say much about the current models, the last time I tried a new one in the shop (and didn't like the nib) was a good ten years ago. So, my experience only spans pens from the 1920s through 1990s.

 

During that period, the reputation of MB varied quite a bit and so did their offerings. I think that most of their pens were quite pedestrian, though in the golden age (1920s-1940s) as well as quite recently they produced some stunning models. I don't care if that's luxury or not but if the price is high they better have something to offer. For me that means design AND function. Design, of course, is a matter of taste, function not so much. Their piston mechanisms are OK, the early Meisterstueks even were great (telescope mechanism), they used good, robust  materials as well. The nibs I now were decent but nothing I'd call outstanding. The best in my collection is a "wing" nib of a 254 which is really nice. But hey, I have a few dozen pens of that period of time which are much less prominent but are at least as good or even better.

 

So, by now it's clear that I don't consider their products outstanding. What I consider outstanding is their marketing. They managed to create a brand that seems to stand for THE high quality/luxury fountain pen so that every fool will recognize the MB pen when yanked out of the pocket of you shirt or jacket. They managed to give their brand the image of classiness though you can buy a 149 at every good stationer or international airport worldwide. I remember times when you could find MBs in tobacco stores together with magazines, Zippo lighters, and Laguiole knifes in France and other European  counties. Not exactly my idea of exclusiveness. At the same time it was next to impossible to find other high quality fountain pens anywhere except in exquisite stores. So, I think their marketing is admirable but their pens are not so much.

 

But here is the bright side: I can use my outstanding and embarrassingly exclusive pens shamelessly in public because they are not MB and nobody except enthusiasts will know.:) And my vintage pens will get more exclusive by the day because MB destroys smaller quality makers with a less professional marketing (e.g. OMAS last year).

 

That's my two pennies.



#23 max dog

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 04:09

Fountain pens are all luxury items whether you like it or not in this day and age of ballpoints and iphones.  From the average Joe on the street perspective, all you need is a $39 BIC to write period.  Joe would think anyone who would put out $10 for a Pilot Metro using fancy inks from bottles are snobs, never mind a $30 Lamy Safari (insanity).  It's all relative folks.  Montblancs are just further up the scale.  A $900 149 is not all that exclusive considering the latest iphone costs well over $1000.  So maybe we should lighten up on the snobbery accusations against Montblanc.  All our favourite pen manufacturers would kill to have the kind of success and brand recognition Montblanc earned. 

 

Almost all pen manufacturers today offer expensive pens, often much more expensive than Montblancs.  Montblanc at one point in the 90s saw the writing on the wall as the PC took off and decided to focus more upscale because they knew they couldn't compete against the ultra cheap Biros and BICs in the low end and remain profitable, and it turned out to be a smart move and they became successful.  Parker and Sheaffer remained status quo, and they are just shadows of their former selves.  Perhaps if Parker and Sheaffer left the "writing tool" for the BICS and went more upscale, the Janesville and Ft Madison plants would still be busy producing quality luxury pens as Montblanc still does in Hamburg.

 

In Japan fountain pens are still mainstream with the general population, so the big 3 Japanese manufacturers were not forced to go upscale to survive, mind you some of the higher end Japanese pens cost quite a bit more than most Montblancs.   

 

Here is an excerpt from an interview with a former Montblanc CEO who explains their strategy quite well.  

 

Q: Could you give us a little background on the company—where it has come from and where you see it going?
A: 
The Montblanc brand is world-renowned for its writing instruments. It was established in 1906, in Hamburg, Germany. Most people do not know that we are a German company, by the way, and that we are still based in Germany, still producing all of our writing instruments in Germany. We have, in fact, never moved from our roots, which is part of the brand strategy. The brand has flourished wonderfully because, from the beginning in 1906 to sometime in the 1980s, it was associated with a needed product, a functional product. In the business world, actually in your life, you needed a writing instrument to write—a pen. We were a functional product brand at an appropriate price point. We were not premium, as we are today.

Then our environment changed radically and a couple of things happened. First of all, distribution changed dramatically. Prior to the ’80s, throughout the world there were pen specialists—mom-and-pop stores, independently owned. They were like record stores. Remember them? In any case, all of a sudden our entire distribution broke away with the advent of the computer. The consumer didn’t need a fine writing instrument anymore as a day-to-day tool the way they used to. There was also a behavioral change. Letters used to be handwritten, too, and all of that changed. Hence, our whole business was under siege, and we had to decide what to do about it. We needed to figure out how we could develop our future. Our slogan at the time was, “The art of writing.”We had a long history with literature, writing, and education, so we began to focus less on the function of our product and much more on the meaning of our product and how it relates to you as a person. Also, in the bigger picture, we began reaching into the arts, reaching into culture.

Q: And that’s a marketing decision, right?
A: 
Clearly it’s a marketing decision. It’s based on lifestyle. A pen in the 1980s was a tool that people needed every day; it was functional, and we made a decision to move away from functional writing instruments. At that time, our average price points were maybe in the range of $30 to $70. When I joined the company in 1994, I vividly remember our products were sold at Staples for $89, and that obviously was anything but premium or luxury.

So we decided to build on our history. We were, in a way, lucky that we had our company roots and craftsmanship in Hamburg—I believe this was a very smart thing. As I said, we were established in 1906, and we never moved away that city. We have since maintained the art of crafting and hand-making pens.

 

For the full interview:

http://www.cmo.com/i...ck-schmitz.html


Edited by max dog, 29 December 2017 - 05:01.


#24 Parkette

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 05:18

I was asking my father about this topic, he bought his first 149 in 1978 and paid 125 GBP. He worked in the City and signed slips most of his day, it was one of the few pens that didnt need refilling during his work. A very functional pen.

 

He has a few 1950s 149s and would like a 139 but cannot justify the price. He doesnt like most of the Limited Editions because they put form before function.

 

I like my MBs, but only the simple black pens, they work well for me. I also like the company, pen world would be the worse if they were not around because they keep the buying of pens to be aspirational for the non pen buying public.

 

It is a pity that they are so expensive, a lot of money for an object that is mainly plastic with a little bit of gold.

 

I have a BMW M5, as someone pointed out to me, I have paid for that little round badge on the front, the car came for free. With an MB, you pay for that little white splat of plastic.

 

And people will do so for evermore.


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#25 Chrissy

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 05:42

These types of topics can be entertaining to read. The passion displayed is often impressive. Careful reading of word choice often tells me things about the poster I find more interesting than their opinions on the topic. As I like to say when I am in my "country lawyer" persona: You can't tell people what they know ain't so. Their heart don't got ears.

 

+1. :D  I've decided to not give my personal opinion and just read and be amused by (some of) what others think.  :)



#26 flipper_gv

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 05:46

 

+1. :D  I've decided to not give my personal opinion and just read and be amused by (some of) what others think.  :)

 

Come on, don't tease us like this! We're not talking about anything actually important after all. Feathers can't be fretted all that much and I doubt your opinion differs much from what have already been said in this thread.



#27 Chrissy

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 05:51

I believe that most readers who know me will already know what I think about Montblanc pens.  :)

 

I think it's fair to say that there aren't any pens I would say I hate.  :)



#28 DasKaltblut

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 06:03

Pelikan, of course, haven't yet reached there(maybe they never will), but as mentioned, that's where they are aiming for. With falling unit sales in their key markets, Pelikan and others have no other option other than to increase prices and make a beeline for the luxury market. They already have a successful role model to emulate: Montblanc.


You keep saying that, but Pelikan has actually, recently, adjusted their prices in the the US down. There are even a few threads here about the pricing adjustment. One example is the pricing of the M605 Weiß-Transparent. Overall the pens may be more expensive, but most still come in at half of a montblanc and (importantly) a color other than black. (only exaggerating a leetle bit)

Edited by DasKaltblut, 29 December 2017 - 06:09.


#29 DasKaltblut

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 06:07

So it's not hate by any means, but all the affordable for mortals (and I have never paid more than 200 for a phone) montblanc pens are boring. Black and cigar-y. I barely tolerate such lack of fun in pens that are cheap!

Edited by DasKaltblut, 29 December 2017 - 06:09.


#30 inkandseeds

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 06:46

I don’t hate them, they just don’t appeal to me on several levels.

I don’t find them attractive, others might and i accept that.

There is nothing that i find exceptional about their engineering or design that makes me want one.

I buy pens to write with. Would a MB provide significantly more writing pleasure than what i currently use? I doubt it would be significant enough to justify the price.

#31 Parkette

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 07:20

Never fails to amaze how pompous some people can be about MB, the lovers and the haters.


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#32 Chrissy

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 09:53

People aren't just pompous about Montblancs. Many watch and bag brands instantly spring to mind....



#33 RocketRyan

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 10:09

I don't care enough about MB to generate any "hate." That would give them far more power than they deserve. But I do resent the ugliness of their consumerism.

Regardless the product, when a company positions themselves pretentiously it does not appeal to me. I have no respect for people attracted to a company that forces customers to buy only at their consecrated "boutique" stores or a few blessed online retailers, that bullies the industry to refer to their quite ordinary plastic as "precious resin" and uses questionable tactics to muscle out any sort of negative media representation. Whether their products are good or bad is irrelevant to me. I'd never support the image they are peddling.

Such pretense can deeply affect people who attach self-worth to such consumer items. One public figure in this business has banned me from his social media after I referred to a mediocre and severely overpriced MB unit as a toy for the idle rich or some such thing. Bit of an overreaction I think.

Personally, I'm attracted to the Japanese aesthetic. I respect people who dedicate themselves to excellence and who are quietly relentless about producing the best possible products from both a functional as well as a form perspective. One Pilot Custom 823 is worth more than the whole MB empire to me.


The 823 is hardly a bargain either, it's still an over priced plastic pen. The end of the day you buy what makes you happy. Very few pens are worth their price.
If you want to buy a Mont blanc pen to match your mont blanc wallet and watch, while wearing your mont blanc sunglasses because it makes you happy why not.
You may look a bit of a pleb, but I would say not as daft as you would in all that stuff with the pilot logo on.
And I can only imagine what pilot aftershave would smell like...

#34 TheRealMikeDr

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 12:26

As a veteran of the old Mac vs PC wars this sort of "discussion" is what the Internet was built for IMO :)



#35 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 12:55

Hi all,

MB pens.... I want those SOB's DEAD! I want them DEAD! The 149... DEAD! The 146... DEAD! The Writer's Series... DEAD! I want them all burnt down into the ground... I wanna go back there in the middle of the night so I can urinate on the ashes!

:unsure:

Hhhmmmm... oh,... was that out loud??

:blush:

:D


Actually, I have no particular feelings about MB one way or the other... I just like quoting gangster flicks. :D


However, if you were to ask my opinion; I'd say they were overpriced for what you get, but most "ultra-luxury" items are these days,... but if you want to drop four digits on a pen that cost a low to moderate 3 to make... that's your prerogative.

I'm satisfied with my L2K... :) ... and a few others... and just for the record, this doesn't stem from jealousy... I could easily afford a MB if I wanted one... I just don't think they're worth what they cost... and just enough of my dad's practicality rubbed off on me. ;)


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#36 Namo

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 12:57

Fountain pens are all luxury items whether you like it or not in this day and age of ballpoints and iphones.  From the average Joe on the street perspective, all you need is a $39 BIC to write period.  Joe would think anyone who would put out $10 for a Pilot Metro using fancy inks from bottles are snobs, never mind a $30 Lamy Safari (insanity).  It's all relative folks.  Montblancs are just further up the scale.  A $900 149 is not all that exclusive considering the latest iphone costs well over $1000.  So maybe we should lighten up on the snobbery accusations against Montblanc.  All our favourite pen manufacturers would kill to have the kind of success and brand recognition Montblanc earned. 
 
Almost all pen manufacturers today offer expensive pens, often much more expensive than Montblancs.  Montblanc at one point in the 90s saw the writing on the wall as the PC took off and decided to focus more upscale because they knew they couldn't compete against the ultra cheap Biros and BICs in the low end and remain profitable, and it turned out to be a smart move and they became successful.  Parker and Sheaffer remained status quo, and they are just shadows of their former selves.  Perhaps if Parker and Sheaffer left the "writing tool" for the BICS and went more upscale, the Janesville and Ft Madison plants would still be busy producing quality luxury pens as Montblanc still does in Hamburg.
 
In Japan fountain pens are still mainstream with the general population, so the big 3 Japanese manufacturers were not forced to go upscale to survive, mind you some of the higher end Japanese pens cost quite a bit more than most Montblancs.   
 
Here is an excerpt from an interview with a former Montblanc CEO who explains their strategy quite well.  
 
Q: Could you give us a little background on the companywhere it has come from and where you see it going?
A: 
The Montblanc brand is world-renowned for its writing instruments. It was established in 1906, in Hamburg, Germany. Most people do not know that we are a German company, by the way, and that we are still based in Germany, still producing all of our writing instruments in Germany. We have, in fact, never moved from our roots, which is part of the brand strategy. The brand has flourished wonderfully because, from the beginning in 1906 to sometime in the 1980s, it was associated with a needed product, a functional product. In the business world, actually in your life, you needed a writing instrument to writea pen. We were a functional product brand at an appropriate price point. We were not premium, as we are today.

Then our environment changed radically and a couple of things happened. First of all, distribution changed dramatically. Prior to the 80s, throughout the world there were pen specialistsmom-and-pop stores, independently owned. They were like record stores. Remember them? In any case, all of a sudden our entire distribution broke away with the advent of the computer. The consumer didnt need a fine writing instrument anymore as a day-to-day tool the way they used to. There was also a behavioral change. Letters used to be handwritten, too, and all of that changed. Hence, our whole business was under siege, and we had to decide what to do about it. We needed to figure out how we could develop our future. Our slogan at the time was, The art of writing.We had a long history with literature, writing, and education, so we began to focus less on the function of our product and much more on the meaning of our product and how it relates to you as a person. Also, in the bigger picture, we began reaching into the arts, reaching into culture.

Q: And thats a marketing decision, right?
A: 
Clearly its a marketing decision. Its based on lifestyle. A pen in the 1980s was a tool that people needed every day; it was functional, and we made a decision to move away from functional writing instruments. At that time, our average price points were maybe in the range of $30 to $70. When I joined the company in 1994, I vividly remember our products were sold at Staples for $89, and that obviously was anything but premium or luxury.

So we decided to build on our history. We were, in a way, lucky that we had our company roots and craftsmanship in HamburgI believe this was a very smart thing. As I said, we were established in 1906, and we never moved away that city. We have since maintained the art of crafting and hand-making pens.

 

For the full interview:

http://www.cmo.com/i...ck-schmitz.html


Of course part of this is right, but oversimplified nonetheless:

1) luxury is not the problem, but the correlation price/pen. I don't have a problem paying for, say, a 149 with some special technical/material/design aspect, but not for the regular piece of plastic with a generic piston filler (Pelikan, I am looking at you too!)

2) you are overlooking the school question: there are countries where FPs are/used to be until recently mandatory at school. And this I a big income for the companies. In my time, Pelikan probably had a contract with the State or the school board since we were obliged to buy a Pelikano.

I don't hate MB but I do find them generally overpriced. I also think that their "limited" edition (hey, how limited is a pen issued at 18'000 pieces?) are often lazy and uninspiring.

Would I buy one? Yes, I could consider a second hand/vintage 146 (probably the right size for my hand) with a BB or OBB nib.

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#37 Krulle

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 13:04

They have a big company to run, and they seem to do it very professionally. They had the balls to make choices!

 

1/ choose your market/customer (and best a market that is either sizable or very profitable)

 

2/ know your market/customer values

 

3/ design to cost, get rid of everything that your customer does not value.

 

The reality is that most of the forum members do not fit Mont Blancs choise for step 1, and logically their products do neither ...

 

It would be interesting to know the % of rollerballs and ballpens sold by MB compared to other brands. My guess would be that other brands sell relatively more fountain pens that Mont Blanc.

 

Most people don't buy a Mont Blanc for extensive writing, but merely because it looks good on their desk, or because the white star is a nice sight in the pocket of their suit.

 

I keep a MB Boheme rollerball in my jacket, great to striketrough the items on my shopping list in the grocerystore  :blush:

 

 



#38 TheRealMikeDr

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 13:32

Of course part of this is right, but oversimplified nonetheless:

1) luxury is not the problem, but the correlation price/pen. I don't have a problem paying for, say, a 149 with some special technical/material/design aspect, but not for the regular piece of plastic with a generic piston filler (Pelikan, I am looking at you too!)

2) you are overlooking the school question: there are countries where FPs are/used to be until recently mandatory at school. And this I a big income for the companies. In my time, Pelikan probably had a contract with the State or the school board since we were obliged to buy a Pelikano.

I don't hate MB but I do find them generally overpriced. I also think that their "limited" edition (hey, how limited is a pen issued at 18'000 pieces?) are often lazy and uninspiring.

Would I buy one? Yes, I could consider a second hand/vintage 146 (probably the right size for my hand) with a BB or OBB nib.

 

I think any pen that's more than $50 is overpriced. As was stated somewhere above - fountain pens for the most part are luxury items - any sane person wouldn't need more than two at the most. You need to remove all definitions of "normal" when discussing such matters.



#39 Arkanabar

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 13:37

I used to rag on MontBlanc.

I suspect the issue arose from the company's management deciding that MB would be a "lifestyle" brand, rather than a maker of writing instruments of uncompromising quality.  It probably wasn't helped by Rush Limbaugh waving his around like a conductor's baton on his TV show, which I used to watch.  And it was exacerbated by my experience in a MontBlanc boutique -- I walked in, got very nice service, was allowed to try 149 Meisterstucks in every nib width available, and walked out with several different colors of ink on my fingers.  This was back in the late 90s.  The brief writing experience I had was very nice, as I recall, aside from the ink on the sections, which could have been from the pens taking shocks or getting shaken or just generally being abused, as well as from leaks.  I don't think I could blame the store for choosing returned pens with issues to provide for those wishing to test-drive them.

Later, one of the MB fans on FPN made a point that hit me; in effect, everyone who loves MB pens raves about how they write, and everyone who rags on MB pens complains about the marketing.  MB uses a pricing strategy where they jack their prices way above the competition to provide the image of exclusivity and top quality.  They are exclusive, no two ways about that.  And this sort of pricing strategy can work.  It does for Rolex and other, far more exclusive brands of Swiss automatic chronograph, which cost twice what my car did when new, but don't endure abuse or keep time so well as a Casio G-Shock.

Even back then, I had a distinct preference for pens on the lower end of the price spectrum.  I've always regarded the 146/149 and especially the LEs as grotesquely overpriced, in terms of performance/value ratios.  But I also realized that if somebody else figured that what they got was worth what they paid, I had no excuse for carrying a beef.

But I eventually decided that a 146, purchased with caution from a reputable seller on ebay (and the older, the better), is not totally out of the question for me.  Nor are some of the school pens that MB used to make and sell.
 

Montblanc used to have a lot more QC issues 10 or so years ago. These days they seem pretty solid. I'd compare them to Pelikan, solid but not flawless.

 

@flipper_gv:  I'd say that Pilot does their best to deliver as much writing performance as the price point will bear, particularly with the Plumix, Kakuno, 78G, and Metropolitan.  They understand that improving QC reduces costs, especially at the low end.

 

Personally, I'm attracted to the Japanese aesthetic. I respect people who dedicate themselves to excellence and who are quietly relentless about producing the best possible products from both a functional as well as a form perspective.

 

@pararis:  this is actually a business strategy (improving QC to lower costs), which originated in American WWII production.  Read up on W. Edwards Deming.  The Japanese used to have a well-earned reputation for producing junk, which they overcame by eliminating or limiting the chance for defects from their mass production processes.

 

It would be interesting to know the % of rollerballs and ballpens sold by MB compared to other brands. My guess would be that other brands sell relatively more fountain pens that Mont Blanc.

 

@Krulle:  now THAT is an interesting question!



#40 MightyEighth

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 15:59

People aren't just pompous about Montblancs. Many watch and bag brands instantly spring to mind....


And MB also makes some nice looking and rather respectable mechanical watches, but they and the pens are unlikely to make it into my respective collections. I simply have other preferences.

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