Company History
In 1761, Kaspar Faber started to produce pencils in Stein, near Nuremberg, Germany. After three generations, the baron Lothar von Faber – took over the company in 1839. He turned the pencil into a true quality product and the world’s first branded writing instrument. Over the centuries, he and his descendants created remarkable products, transferred to the present days with timeless design and modern technology. The Graf von Faber-Castell Collection, a range of extraordinary writing instruments and accessories, embodies “Luxury in Simplicity” by combining selected materials, functionality and superb aesthetics.


Case Study Concept
Students were asked to define the current position of Graf von Faber-Castell in the US market, and to design a strategy to bring the brand to a leading position in the industry, based on the proposal of a series of marketing and communication initiatives.


Design, Business and Marketing Plan Solution
In the first phase the team concentrated on understanding the current position of the brand in the US market. The results of the diagnostic phase suggested that there was an opportunity for increasing the brand awareness in the market, as well as room to enhance and improve the current distribution network/structure.

In order to address those two elements, the team focused on a strong communication strategy to effectively enter the market. In the first period, the team concentrated on the most distinctive and significant attributes that relate to the brand and its heritage, identifying a series of concepts in order to focus on the communication effort: elegance, tradition, simplicity, creativity, distinctiveness. Those elements were synthesized in the iconic concept of “Virtuosity” that would be the inspirational element for all the campaigns/initiatives to enter the US market. Virtuosity celebrates the success and mastery of the customer at his craft, just as Graf von Faber-Castell is the master at its craft of writing instruments.

The team developed different themes around the concept of “Virtuosity”, aimed to guide the communication campaigns and promoting the brand in front of different client segments. Out of the 5 proposed, two main themes were developed with a series of marketing and design initiatives: “Orchestra” and “Secrets”. “Orchestra” leverages the affinity of symphonic music, with its elegance, European/German tradition, colors/materials (cherry wood and shiny metal) and the lines of the brand, and targets a predominantly male audience, sophisticated, artistically-conscious, upper class adults. “Secrets”, designed for young women, leverages the intimacy between a woman and one of its most common and personal daily activities: writing notes and capturing personal thoughts in a journal..

Supporting these two themes, the team developed a series of initiatives such as expanding distribution and communication. The team proposed the creation of both movable stores and kiosks, designed as warm, friendly environments and provide the opportunity for the customer to experience the products in several ways. Another channel that was explored was the internet website, centered on the iconic product of the “Perfect Pencil”. Visual communication had been proposed through the installation of a wooden tunnel to be placed on a sidewalk (conveniently chosen, e.g. in the Wall street area or close to Carnegie Hall, major museums, etc), decorated with stories related to the brand and its products. The team also worked on a new product line, designed for women, to support the “Secrets” theme. Finally, the team identified a series of other initiatives, PR related: sponsoring a periodic contest among young composers in the US; publishing a book with anonymous secrets from famous/notable celebrities; giving samples of the Graf von Faber-Castell products to people in pivotal role in big professional organizations (low firms, consultants, bankers) and VIPs from the media world (journalists, actors, etc) via an invitation to networking events sponsored by Graf von Faber-Castell.


The Faber-Castell Project Team
Michelle Kwong Rutherford, Columbia Business School
Rafael Martin Delatorre, IESE/Columbia Business School
Laura Toia, Columbia Business School
Rhijnvis van Wijk, IESE/Columbia Business School Daniela Yamada, Parsons The New School for Design
Neha Brahmwar, Parsons The New School for Design
Richard Yeh, Parsons The New School for Design