Our top 10 promotional pen ideas for 2023

It’s no surprise that promotional pens are such a popular choice for anyone ordering branded merchandise.  They are useful, portable and a very cost-effective way to increase brand exposure.  It’s a pretty sure bet that your clients will have at least one promotional pen either in their hand right now, on their desk or in their drawer. 

Did you know though, that the first patent for a ballpoint pen was lodged in 1888!  However, it wasn’t until 1938 that journalist and inventor László Bíró patented the first commercially successful ballpoint pen (hence, the biro). 

Whilst pens, promotional and otherwise, have evolved over the years, more recently, the main change we have seen is a move away from single use plastic to more sustainable and eco-friendly choices.  There’s something available to suit pretty much every taste, budget, campaign, objective or company values.   

In this blog, we thought we’d revisit the humble pen and take a look at some current trends and interesting twists on this stationery stalwart. 

From the introduction of bamboo and wooden barrels, more and more pens are now flexing their eco-credentials, with a focus on recycled materials and sustainability.  In addition to rPET (recycled plastic), there are some less obvious waste products being recycled, meaning you can choose a pen with an interesting story to share too. 

Coffee pen

Let’s start with the coffee pen.  As the name would suggest, this stylish ball pen is made from 50% coffee grind waste and is a great example of innovation and the use of alternative materials.  It is only available in one colour though – a coffee-brown of course!  (Don’t worry if you’re not a fan, it doesn’t smell of coffee.)     

Wheat pen

Or how about a wheat pen?  The barrel of this pen is made from card whilst the trim is made of recycled plastic with up to 50% of wheat straw plastic, from a natural and sustainable source.  One of the latest environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic, wheat straw is made from a biproduct of wheat production.

Shell Pen

The shell pen delivers sustainability from the sea, with the body, cap and nose cone made from plastic enriched with 30% recycled seashells.  Typically, these might be oyster shells from gourmet restaurants.  The remaining 70% comes from plastic where at least half has been recycled or regenerated from internal waste. 

Refill pen

With a focus on re-usability, why not consider a refillable pen?  German pen company Senator has a clear focus on sustainability and the environment.  In line with this, they have extended the life of the promotional pen with their Magic Flow refills.  Once your pen runs out of ink (after around 5,000 metres of writing!) then you can order a free replacement refill.

Inkless pen

At the opposite end of the scale is the inkless pen (yes, really). This inkless pen intrigued us too. Made from bamboo, the pen has a metal alloy tip, which oxidizes the surface of the paper as you write and without leaving a residue. No ink needed.  It’s definitely an interesting twist on a branded promotional pen and a great talking point.

Now let’s move things forward, with connected pens. 

QR code Pens

Why bother with a business card when you can include your details in a QR code printed on a pen.  Whilst this used to mean a large plastic printed addition to the clip, following the recent resurgence of the QR code, you can now opt for a pen where it fits perfectly and prints neatly on a standard sized clip.


Taking things one step further is the NFC pen*.  The barrel of the pen contains an integrated NFC (or near field communication) tag.  You can set a link of your choice using a registration code and then you’re ready to go.  Someone holding an NFC enabled smartphone to the tag will be able to access your chosen content – from contact information to videos or special offers.  You can also update the information hosted on the link as many times as you like.      

 Novelty pens

Novelty pens, love them or loathe them, but there is no denying that they have their rightful place and continue to be popular.  Source the perfect, apt designs, and when used in the right way, they can make a long-lasting impression – like these bone shaped pens we sourced for a university open day.  They went down very well with the would-be medical students. 

Multipurpose pens

With most of us having a pen to hand (even in a pocket or bag) at any one time, why not make it multi-purpose pen?  That could be as simple as a three-in-one, with an LED light and stylus.  However, there are some great industry targeted options too, for example the inclusion of spirit levels, screwdrivers and metric rules; ideal for construction or engineering clients or prospects. 

Sprout pen

Finally, whilst it’s not strictly a pen (ok, its not a pen at all) don’t forget the seed pencil.  Made in the UK, these eco-friendly and sustainable pencils have a water-soluble seed capsule at one end.  When it becomes too short to write with anymore, simply plant it, then wait and watch it grow.  This interactive piece of branding is available in four seed varieties – daisy, forget-me-not, basil or thyme.


* We think NFC is going to be a big trend within promotional products during 2023.  Remember, you heard it here first! 

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