Huntington Bank began detaching its pens from the ball chains that connected them to the branch counters and giving them away in 2010 as part of its initiative to break away from standard industry practices. Four years later, more than 20 million of the pens are now in circulation throughout Huntington’s Midwestern footprint, the United States and in countries around the world. At Huntington, customers are encouraged to take the green and black pens from white bowls in its more than 700 branches – a simple, tangible gesture signaling Huntington’s eagerness to break away from the industry to be the bank customers expect. The 5.5-inch pens are embellished with the words “Huntington” and “Welcome.” “Liberating our pens from their ball chains was just one step in our journey to differentiate Huntington in the marketplace and reinforce our culture of making customers feel welcome,” said David Clifton, Huntington’s chief marketing officer. “This simple act has led to a larger representation of our commitment to Fair Play banking and doing the right thing for customers. In that same vein, we provided customers the ability to choose their own credit card rewards category with VOICE and introduced Asterisk-Free Checking® and 24-Hour Grace®. We also invested in rebranding our branch network, ATMs, and retail apparel to drive home our welcome culture.” The first month the pens became available, Huntington initially disbursed 331,000 to its branches. Now the bank issues more than 600,000 a month to keep up with how quickly customers are taking them in the normal course of their days and leaving them at public locations such as restaurants, dry cleaners and airports. The result has been that the pens now appear around the world. “We never expected the pens to become as popular as they are,” added Clifton. “The quality of the pens has become a regular theme with countless anecdotes from everyday pen users including customers, waiters, and pizza delivery drivers about how they last. Customers also tell us stories about where they have seen them in their travels.”
Some of the interesting places that Huntington pens have been spotted include:
- 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.
- A Huntington customer flew to India and was greeted by a customs official who was using a Huntington pen.
- 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.
- 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.
- During the funeral scene in the movie “Bad Grandpa,” one of the extras is wearing a Huntington pen on a chain around his neck.