Montblanc has taken a 20th-century writing utensil to the digital world through its latest interactive WeChat campaign. To ultimately answer the question, “Red or black?” users have to scroll through the Swiss luxury maker’s story, starting out with a short history lesson on art and ending with a showcase of its heritage collection.
The Rouge et Noir fountain pen, as the app explains through a series of animations, is a reinterpretation of a heritage fountain pen that was first developed in 1906. At that time, the pen was considered to be an impressive technological achievement because it was the first to not require the user to dip the pen into an inkwell.
Montblanc’s defining modern elegance and class shines through in the WeChat campaign, beginning with an envelope with handwritten Chinese stating, “Art can’t change the world, but it can change the way people think—and people can change the world.” This is accompanied by a prompt at the bottom inviting users to “click to be transported to the 19th century.” From there, fans are briefed about the Industrial Revolution and the art movements that resisted the mechanization of craftmanship and championed traditional creativity. Fans can also click a tiny record player icon in the upper right corner to play suspenseful cinematic music.
At the end, users are invited to chose the red or black pen and then asked to share the app on WeChat. This finale might be a useful exercise in market research for Montblanc, but the user doesn’t receive any payoff because there is no option in which to view what color fellow users picked, aside from the comments section on the WeChat blog. However, for a short period, there was a chance for fans to win limited-edition leather gifts.
WeChat questionnaires have been a go-to for Montblanc in the past. In 2014, the company released a “Hot-or-Not”-type app in 2014 to promote its Meisterstück pens. Two years later, China remains one of the largest markets in the world for fountain pens. China’s anti-graft campaign may have discouraged many affluent Chinese from luxury gifting, but smaller, more discreet items like pens and wallets still fare well, with sales climbing 7 percent to $341 million in 2015. Still, Montblanc recently closed its huge and first flagship concept store in Beijing’s Taikooli mall in Sanlitun, and there’s no word on when or if it will reopen a replacement brick-and-mortar shop like it in China’s capital.