Thursday, October 04, 2007

Poll 4 - The Greatest Brand

Poll 4 has closed. The poll was

Question: “‘There Can Be Only One’ (From Highlander?) Which is the greatest brand of mech. Pencils?”

This time there were 220 votes, down on the previous two poles. The votes were cast as follows:
Caran d’Ache x 15 (6%)
Faber-Castell x 29 (13%) [2nd]
Lamy x 11 (5%)
Ohto x 10 (4%)
Papermate x 13 (5%)
Pentel x 68 (30%) [1st]
Pilot x 24 (10%) [3rd]
Staedtler x 23 (10%) [4th]
Uni x 0 (0%)
Zebra x 7 (3%)
Some other brand x 20 (9%)

Straight out of the starting blocks, Pentel established a good lead. After just one day of votes, the top five were (from 1st to 5th) Pentel, Faber-Castell, Caran d’Ache, Staedtler and Papermate. At the half-way stage it was Pentel, Caran d’Ache, Pilot, Faber-Castell and Some Other Brand. In the end Pentel was the clear winner, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Two things did surprise me though. First was that Uni (Mitsubishi Pencil) got zero votes, and that Some Other Brand got 9% of the vote, and was actually the fifth highest scoring selection. This tends to indicate I got my selection of voting options wrong. If you voted for Some Other Brand then feel free to leave a comment and let me know who you voted for. Mont Blanc, Retro 51, Bic, Pelikan, Alvin, Standardgraph, Cross…?

I think that’s it for polls for the meantime, unless I think of some other question I just have to ask.


Unknown said...

I think Dave's question was ambiguous with two possible interpretations and that's why there is such a spread of votes.

Literal interpretation: Which is the "greatest brand" of mech pencils?
Alternative interpretation: Which is the brand that makes the greatest mech pencils?

Let's start with the literal interpretation. There are really only two choices for "greatest brand": Pentel and Staedtler. They are known primarily for their mech pencils while the others are predominantly pen companies that happen to make mech pencils (except Faber-Castell who are best known for their woodcase pencils). Pentel and Staedteler definitely have huge global branding and mindshare. Pilot and Papermate have similar branding and mindshare but they are really better known for their pens.

I voted Pentel because it is almost synonymous with mech pencils. I don't know many people who have used mech pencils who haven't used a Pentel at some point. The Sharp is the best selling mech pencil ever and it is quite possible that it is the "iconic" mech pencil. I can find Pentel pencils, leads and erasers in big box office supply stores, university bookstores, drug stores and supermarkets. Think of it, I can go and buy a litre of milk, a steak, a toothbrush, a Pentel Sharp and a tube of Pentel lead.

The alternative interpretation is far too subjective to be really useful. I don't think even Dave has tried enough pencils from every manufacturer (some of whom have 10+ models) to be able to say a particular manufacturer makes the greatest mech pencils. Say brand X makes the absolutely greatest pencil Y but all of their other models are garbage; would you still call it the greatest brand? Because of the lack of experience with every manufacturer and the majority of their models, the question borders on "which is the brand that makes your favourite mech pencils". We all think the pencils we regularly use are the greatest ever so we are biased and more willing to declare the brand that makes these pencils as being the greatest brand but all of our wishing doesn't make it so.

I'm no Pentel pencil fanboy. I like their lead and erasers but I only own two pencils which I don't even use anymore. I was using Lamy 2000s for the last few years but I've gone back to an old favourite, the Rotring 600. I definitely do not think Rotring is the greatest brand of mech pencils.

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Wilson
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Basically I agree, but I would add that the ambiguity was reasonably intentional.
I probably should have put Rotring on the list of voting options. To be honest I didn’t really think of them at the time, probably because their current status as a pencil brand is rather vague.

Anonymous said...

Ha, I voted for Pilot, mainly because of the Dr. Grips. But Wilson, you do have a point, because Pilot's most famous for their pens. Dave, can you please write a review for the Dr. Grips, as they're pretty well known... ;D

Anonymous said...

As far as I can tell from the conversations I had at stationery shops in Germany many customers are still asking for the old Rotring models like 500, 600 and Newton; the demand for the later models has been so low that some shops have offered them with a considerable discount. Currently, the Rotring T and the Tikky II models seem to be the last of their mechanical pencils; I doubt that Rotring will offer high-end pencils again.

Anonymous said...

I voted for "some other brand", because I have a set of rotring Tikky II mech pencils that are cheap and reliable. So I practically voted for rotring

Anonymous said...

Why can anything subjective not be useful? - "Greatest" is a "stomach feeling" towards something. I think, that was what the poll was about.
How about a poll on fat or slender pencils?

Anonymous said...

That's a good idea, about the fat or slender pencils, but I think they are not enough choices with that.

Kiwi-d said...

Well, regarding fat or slender, I guess i could have a poll something like - do you prefer your pencil grip area to be about 9mm, 10mm, 11mm, 12mm, 13mm, etc thick. Possibly also toss in something for the triangular ones as well.

Unknown said...

I had forgotten how much I loved the old style 600. I happened to be cleaning out some old boxes of stationery and I found the one I used in university. It's like meeting up with an old girlfriend whom you never should have left except that the pencil won't spurn you. LOL.

I didn't say that anything subjective is useless. I said "The alternative interpretation is far too subjective to be REALLY USEFUL." There's some value, just not as much as I would have liked. But I understand what you were driving at.

I disagree that "greatest" should equate to "gut feeling". "Favourite" and "all-time favourite" would be better phrasing. Greatest movie? Greatest flavour of ice cream? I don't think "greatest" is the best term since people won't even come close to agreeing. None of us has watched every single movie or tasted every flavour of ice cream in the world. How can we say what we like is the greatest? All-time favourite movie? All-time favourite flavour of ice cream? That is much better phrasing in my opinion. If I've never tried Uni or Zebra pencils, how do I know they aren't the greatest? I've only tried a fraction of Pentel pencils, how do I know the rest of their models aren't crap?

To me, to prove greatness, there has to be sufficient and objective evidence to back up that assertion and it can't just be about gut instinct alone. Tiger Woods is the greatest golf player of our generation. There is objective and hard proof of his greatness in the context of "our generation". Is he the greatest golf player ever? Most would argue yes but the issue isn't as clear given the other great players of the past. (By the way, I hate golf.)

One vote for Pilot because of the Dr. Grip and one for Rotring because of the Tikky II. It validates my thought that the poll was really about choosing the brand that makes your favourite pencils or at least that's what voters thought the question meant. I originally voted for "Some other brand" because of my love for the 600 and then I thought about it. I honestly don't feel Rotring is the greatest brand despite the 600 being my favourite pencil.

Anonymous said...

Wilson: sorry, English is not my native language. To me "Greatest" IS exactly "all-times-favourite" -not based on any evidence. That is the way the word somehow has entered Danish. As for useless vs useful I agree.
(BTW I like golf, but I don't love it)
Best regards

Unknown said...

Henrik: No worries. There are plenty of native English speakers about whom I wonder whether they really are native speakers. Native speakers often use greatest and favourite interchangeably. I think it's just laziness. Favourite always implies personal preference to me while greatest should be more objective and grounded in some facts.

Anyhow, I'm going to shut up now.