The history behind the BIC Pen
BIC pens trace their roots back to France and the end of the Second World War in Europe. From humble origins in a small factory near the French capital a giant worldwide corporation grew.
The BIC pen story began in 1945 when the Nazi surrender secured peace for Europe. With hostilities over, Marcel Bich, a former ink factory manager, joined forces with his friend and business partner, Eduard Buffard, to buy a factory outside Paris. The factory was little more than a shell. With no plant machinery, no products, no customers and very little capital, setting up in business to make parts for fountain pens and mechanical lead pencils was a massive leap of faith.
The confidence and business acumen of Bich and Buffard paid off for as over the next five years the company grew steadily. Bich, meanwhile, had an eye on the development of the ballpoint pen. He realized that there was enormous potential for this new pen technology and resolved to take the gamble that would ultimately make his, albeit shortened, name known around the globe.
Bich's chance came in 1950 when he bought the patent rights to a ballpoint pen invented by Hungarian journalist, Ladislao Biro. By December of that year, Bich was ready to go to market with his own ball pen; the famous BIC® CRISTAL® ballpoint pen.
Marketed as a reliable pen at an affordable price, the BIC ballpoint pens were an instant success with sales far outstripping what Bich and Buffard could possibly have hoped for. What made the BIC such a runaway success was its ability to write smoothly and evenly for a long time, and its affordable price.
Its timing in the immediate post-War years and a massively effective marketing campaign ensured that BIC pens went on to become not only the enduring worldwide product we now know but an icon in its own right.
As the company explains: "Today, BIC is the world's no.1 manufacturer of ballpoint pens and is a leader in all three of its markets. Every day, consumers all over the world choose to buy more than 22 million BIC stationery products, 4 million BIC lighters and 11 million BIC shavers."
Marcel Bich died in 1994 after a lifetime heading up the company that bore his name.
Writing to shareholders in 1973, Bich attempted to account for the international achievements of the company by claiming his success was ".not the result of a formal education received in a business school, American or French, it is the result of the tough school of business which I entered at 18 years old by the smallest door."
As a multinational businessman, Bich kept in mind that doors swing both ways.