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Huntington Bank pen distribution nears goal

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By JIM ROSS
For The State Journal

Four years ago, Huntington Bank decided to unchain its pens and give them away.

“The idea is pretty simple,” explained Huntington Bank Marketing Manager David Clifton. “If a customer wants a pen, don’t discourage it.”

The bank didn’t want its giveaways to be cheap little things, either, Clifton said.

“If we’re going to give our customers something, make it nice,” he said.

But the pens have gone beyond just the bank’s customers. With 20 million given away in four years, Huntington Bank has seen and heard interesting accounts of how widely its pens have been distributed:

n A member of the American military stationed in Afghanistan received a box of goodies from Ohio, which included Huntington pens. He gave a couple away within his troop, and days later met with Afghan nationals who were writing with them.

n A Huntington customer flew to India and was greeted by a customs official who was using a Huntington pen.

n A Huntington colleague had lunch at a table beside a competitor, who was selling his bank’s services while taking notes with a Huntington pen.

n Huntington colleagues have seen employees at the drive-thrus of other banks insert Huntington pens in the tubes that are sent out to customers with instructions to sign the back of the check in the tube.

n And during the funeral scene in the 2013 hidden-camera movie “Bad Grandpa,” one of the extras is wearing a Huntington pen on a chain around his neck.

Clifton said the bank went through a lot of prototypes to develop a design that would appeal to customers, and, it turns out, to many others.

“The pen is a very powerful concept,” Clifton said. “You sign contracts with it; you sign checks.”

The first month the bank made the pens available, 331,000 were given away. The bank now averages more than 600,000 per month.

When Huntington Bank had given away 10 million pens, that signaled the bank had distributed one per household in its market area. Its next goal is to reach 34 million, which would be one per person in its market.

Pens are available in white bowls in lobbies of Huntington Bank’s 700 branches.

Huntington operates in six states: West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Michigan and Indiana.