linked in facebook twitter rss

  • Interbrand
  • Brandchannel

your chance!
your chance!
BIC - the write approach
Also of interest...


the write approach
by Barry Silverstein
July 6, 2009

Three initials, B - I - C, have graced more than 1 billion ballpoint pens since 1950. They are emblazoned on 1 billion lighters each year. And they are imprinted on the 10 million shavers that BIC sells each day. Along with those initials appears a quirky little illustrated character, the “BIC Boy.” He represents a school boy, with a head in the shape of a ball, holding a pen behind his back.

BIC is the number-one ballpoint pen manufacturer in the world, the number-one branded pocket lighter manufacturer in the world and number two in the world in one-piece shavers. As a maker of primarily disposable products, BIC is a French powerhouse worth almost 1.5 billion euros in annual sales—not bad for a company that specializes in throwaways.

BIC clicks with most of the world’s population, though its penetration is largely in Western countries. About 40 percent of BIC’s sales come from North America and 30 percent from Europe. Latin America accounts for over 20 percent, while the Middle East, Africa and Asia contribute about 5 percent. Currently, Latin America is the fastest-growing geographic area for BIC.

Pens and other stationery items make up about 40 percent of the company’s sales, lighters about 30 percent and shavers about 20 percent, with the remainder spread across other products.

The company’s name derives from founder Marcel Bich’s last name—he shortened it to make BIC more memorable when he introduced his ballpoint pen in Europe in 1950. By 1958, Bich had recognized the enormous potential for growth in the US market. He not only brought his pen to the United States, he also bought the renowned Waterman Pen Company and established a BIC headquarters in Connecticut.

The 1970s were years of significant expansion as BIC leveraged the low-price, high-value model from pens to lighters and then one-piece shavers. BIC also continued to make acquisitions that led it into other, mostly related, markets. In 1992, BIC acquired the Wite-Out brand, and in 1997, the company purchased Sheaffer, a brand known for premium writing instruments.

Some of its other business interests may be driven more by serendipity than strategy, however. In 1979, for example, BIC acquired a boat manufacturer, which eventually became BIC Sport. The reason was simple: Marcel Bich loved the sea and was taken with windsurfing. His fancy paid off: Today BIC Sport is the world leader in surfboards and also manufactures wind surfboards and kayaks. The BIC Longboard World Challenge is the first worldwide monotype surf competition, and BIC Sport team members have won two World Champion titles.

One venture that did not succeed was the ill-fated Parfum BIC. In 1988, BIC produced four French perfumes that were intended to combine quality with affordability. After three years of marketing the perfume primarily in Europe and North America, Parfum BIC was disposed of.

An occasional stumble has not prevented BIC from exploring new markets and stretching beyond its roots. In August 2008, BIC, in collaboration with telecommunications firm Orange, introduced the BIC phone. Targeting the youth market, the BIC phone was available in either citrus orange or lime green, came with 60 free minutes, and included a refillable “pay as you go” card. It was sold in supermarkets and convenience stores only in France. The company was careful to point out that the BIC phone was not a “disposable” phone. BIC used 11,000 billboards and posters, along with banner ads on websites, to launch the new product.

In all three of its key markets, BIC faces fierce competition. That’s why BIC is always looking for ways to differentiate its brand. For example, to separate its disposable shavers from those of Gillette and Schick, the company’s two major competitors, BIC introduced “BIC ecolutions” in early 2009. BIC ecolutions features an innovative bioplastic handle, green colorants of vegetable origin, and lightweight packaging with 100 percent recycled cardboard and ink of vegetable origin.

BIC has taken advantage of the online world to promote its brand in novel ways. A viral campaign called “Les perles du Bac” was introduced in 2006 and has been updated each year. This collection of mini-films with clever sayings won numerous awards in France and was adapted for use in Italy.

Despite the global economy, BIC shows no signs of slowing down, whether it’s new product introductions or acquisitions. This year, BIC joined forces with the famous Formula 1 racing team, ING Renault F1, to launch a limited series of BIC lighters. In March 2009, the company announced the acquisition of 40 percent of Cello Pens, India’s leading writing instrument brand.

In May 2009, BIC Consumer Products USA announced that its Comfort 3 Advance brand shavers will hook up with Major League Gaming, the professional video game league, in a deal that will integrate the shaver into MLG’s programming as well as put MLG’s logo on over 250,000 shaver packs distributed in the United States. By redeeming the unique code found inside these specially marked packages, consumers will receive 20 free credits on MLG’s GameBattles site, where they can compete against gamers from around the world in thousands of online tournaments.

Clearly, BIC is aiming to make a mark on both the virtual and the real world.


Barry Silverstein has been a frequent brandchannel contributor since 2007. He has thirty years of advertising and marketing experience and is currently a freelance writer and marketing consultant. He founded and ran his own direct marketing agency and held executive positions with Epsilon, a leading database marketing firm and Arnold, a major ad agency. Silverstein is the author of three marketing books, including the McGraw-Hill book, The Breakaway Brand, which he co-authored with Arnold CEO Fran Kelly.

 commenting closed Add Social Bookmark bookmark  print
 suggest topic  recommend ( 18 )  email

BIC - the write approach
 wow. Thanks for all the info. Didn't know that BIC is so verstaile. As marketer and business owner it is encouraging to hear success stories. It is understable why the perfumes did not work. The brand alignment was wrong, BIC being convenience rather than luxury. However may be focus on after shaves and shaving cream if they do not have them. That brand extension works. Then from the learnings go for a cologne or under arm deo for the lower end of the market. Leave the upper end to Gillette and CALVIN KLEIN. 
wamai robert, business development, the bigger picture - July 6, 2009
  brandchannel profile archive   2011  |  2010  | 2009  |  2008  |  2007  |  2006  |  2005  |  2004  |  2003  |  2002  |  2001
Dec 23, 2009 Prilosec - drug war -- Barry Silverstein
  Can Prilosec OTC cure the competition?
Dec 17, 2009 Family Dollar - bringing change -- Mark J. Miller
  Why Family Dollars is worth every penny.
Dec 10, 2009 Harrah's - a good bet -- Barry Silverstein
  Why the Harrah’s brand has got game.
Dec 2, 2009 Sutter Home Winery - uncorked -- Mark J. Miller
  Why Sutter Home has wine in its veins.
Nov 24, 2009 Kraft Peanut Butter (Canada) - sticky situation? -- Renée Alexander
  Kraft peanut butter has Canada on a cracker.
Nov 23, 2009 For Dummies - smart! -- Barry Silverstein
  The genius behind the For Dummies brand.
Nov 11, 2009 Dr Pepper - sick? -- Barry Silverstein
  Dr Pepper has the cure.
Nov 4, 2009 Dawn - cleaning up -- Barry Silverstein
  Dawn shines on expanding territory.
Oct 28, 2009 Alexander Keith's - pouring it on -- Reneé Alexander
  Alexander Keith’s savors its rebrand.
Oct 21, 2009 Tecnisa Construction Company - door-to-door -- Beth Furtado
  Tecnisa is building bonds and its brand in Brazil.
Oct 14, 2009 Rough Luxe - roughed up? -- Barry Silverstein
  Why there is No Vacancy at Rough Luxe?
Oct 2, 2009 Mondetta - flying high? -- Renée Alexander
  Mondetta’s flags fly once again.
Sep 30, 2009 Chico's - sized right? -- Barry Silverstein
  Chico’s tries on original styles and sizes.
Sep 23, 2009 TaylorMade - swinging? -- Mark J. Miller
  Why TaylorMade is part of an elite club.
Sep 14, 2009 Volute Wine - canned wine? -- Barry Silverstein
  Volute is bottling up the future of wine.
Sep 7, 2009 Chanel No. 5 - perfect perfume? -- Ana Paula Palombo Terzi
  Chanel’s future smells like its past.
Aug 31, 2009 Food From the ’Hood - growing potential -- Barry Silverstein
  Food From the ’Hood is prime branding real estate.
Aug 24, 2009 Viking Range Corporation - home on the range -- Mark Miller
  Viking Range seeks to pillage outdated kitchens.
Aug 17, 2009 Better Homes and Gardens - home sweet home? -- Barry Silverstein
  Better Homes and Gardens in the hood.
Aug 10, 2009 The Grid - line by line -- Mandy de Waal
  Find yourself on the Grid.
Aug 3, 2009 Nickelodeon - child's play? -- Barry Silverstein
  Why Nickelodeon rules kids.
Jul 27, 2009 Staples - buttons up -- Renée Alexander
  Staples’ brand, that was easy.
Jul 20, 2009 Pirate's Booty - snack fight! -- Barry Silverstein
  Pirate’s Booty is a branding treasure.
Jul 13, 2009 Hamam - steaming along? -- Elif Altunoklu
  Hamam gives the world a Turkish bath.
Jun 29, 2009 United Africa Company of Nigeria - refreshing? -- Eric Okeke
  UACN: food for thought.
Jun 22, 2009 Kohler - sinking in -- Barry Silverstein
  Kohler taps into international designs.
Jun 15, 2009 Hallmark - calling card -- Barry Silverstein
  Hallmark is more than a house of cards.
Jun 8, 2009 Moog - noted -- Barry Silverstein
  The electronic keys behind Moog’s brand.
Jun 1, 2009 Pentax - clicks with customers -- Jennifer Gidman
  Pentax focuses on brand advocates.
May 25, 2009 Cacau Show - sweet deal -- Beth Furtado
  Brazil has a taste for Cacau Show.
May 18, 2009 Swarovski - cutting edge? -- Barry Silverstein
  Swarovski still shines in modern times.
May 11, 2009 Mengniu Milk - skim? -- Banu Kannu
  Mengniu: Got milk scandal?
May 4, 2009 Polaroid - touched up -- Barry Silverstein
  Will Polaroid’s brand be fully developed?
Apr 27, 2009 Hand-Me-Down - howies' heirlooms -- Mya Frazier
  Is Hand-Me-Down passing on a new tradition?
Apr 20, 2009 A Prairie Home Companion - good company? -- Abram Sauer
  PHC’s unique field of branding.
Apr 13, 2009 Sellaband - cha-ching-aling -- Barry Silverstein
  Sellaband’s musical model pays off.
Apr 6, 2009 no name - who? -- Reneé Alexander
  Why no name is popular again.
Mar 30, 2009 Granado - keeping up appearances -- Ana Paula Palombo Terzi
  Why Granado has Brazil feeling well.
Mar 23, 2009 Goldschläger - flakey? -- Abram Sauer
  Why Goldschläger is young at heart.
Mar 16, 2009 Lufthansa Italia - winging it? -- Barry Silverstein
  Lufthansa Italia takes flight.
Mar 9, 2009 Natura - eco-beauty -- Jovilson Azevedo
  Natura flourishes in a branding environment.
Mar 2, 2009 Ten Thousand Villages - crafty -- Barry Silverstein
  Fair trade for all from villages to malls.
Feb 23, 2009 Orla Kiely - on target -- Vivian Manning-Schaffel
  Orla Kiely dresses the part for Target.
Feb 16, 2009 Star lager - gazes -- Eric Okeke
  Star lager sparkles with history.
Feb 9, 2009 Hush Puppies - bitchin’ -- Barry Silverstein
  Why Hush Puppies are littered with success.
Feb 2, 2009 we - climate change -- Barry Silverstein
  Why we is in it together.
Jan 26, 2009 Carol’s Daughter - blossoms -- A.K. Cabell
  Carol’s Daughter grows up.
Jan 19, 2009 Bio-Oil - skin deep -- Mandy de Waal
  The healing power of Bio-Oil.
Jan 12, 2009 Burt’s Bees - natural buzz -- Barry Silverstein
  When honey makes money.
Jan 5, 2009 Zena AG - cutting edge? -- Jennifer Gidman
  Zena peels away branding challenges.