Cross Tries to Take Image Past ‘Skinny Gold Pens’

Carmichael Lynch seeks to update A.T. Cross’ image with a brand campaign that uses a new tagline and more colorful print advertising.

“A lot of people think of them as the skinny gold pen company,” Libby Brockhoff, a group creative director at the Minneapolis agency, said of Cross. “We [have] to let people know this brand is a progressive brand.”

The agency’s campaign, which introduces “Inspired” as the tagline, attempts to position Cross pens as an essential accessory in today’s business world.

“People come to meetings with what we call ‘meeting gear,’ ” Brockhoff said. “Cross really has a place there.”

The new tag replaces “The pen, pushed,” which CL created for the Lincoln, R.I., company last year. The change was made to reflect a broader range of products—from day planners to personal digital device covers—that Cross plans to introduce later this year, said Jim Scott, an account director at the agency.

“We needed to broaden the Cross story beyond pens,” Scott said.

Ads use witty headlines and bold colors in an effort to reinforce Cross’ reputation as the category leader without seeming “arrogant and aloof,” Scott said.

“The accounting de-partment will never refer to you as employee 2566 again,” reads an ad for the “Ion” pen. Another execution, for the Matrix (which has different color ink and styli), reads, “Five pens in one. To think that one day not long ago man wrote with a goose feather.”

An ad for a digital planner cover features the headline, “Use of this product could lead to inexplicable upgrades on domestic flights,” with body copy that reads, “The planner. Sophisticated meeting gear.”

“Last year was much more focused on getting the word out,” Brockhoff said. “This year, it’s kind of saying, it’s another way of self-expression.”

The new work will appear in national fashion magazines such as Cosmopolitan, GQ and Glamour, as well as in business publications such as Forbes and Fortune.

Cross is expected to spend about $5 million on the campaign. The company has spent a comparable amount on advertising for the past two years, according to CMR.