Milky Doodle Gel Roller

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The "cool new way to write on dark paper" sold more than a cool 300,000 units of 12-packs last year and opened up a new market for Pentel of America: girls aged 8 to 18. Pentel rolled out the Milky Doodle Gel Roller rollerball pen in 1998, a year after the pastel-inked pens launched in Japan.

Jill Netzel, senior marketing manager, translated the product's name to Milky and played up the cow logo in product and promotional materials. Not until she worked out deals with black-paper providers did pen sales really take off in 1999.

To get consumers to try the pens, a launch promotion provided free black paper samples with purchase. Van Noy Group, Torrance, Calif., designed the point-of-purchase displays and sales promotion kits that included sample pads of black paper imported from Japan.

When the Japanese paper supply was exhausted, Ms. Netzel turned to 3M for black Post-it Notes. Last year, Natural Science Industries approached Pentel with a licensing deal to offer Official Milky Gear through its Butterfly Co. division. The paper product line appealed to teen girls and their little sisters with a line of pastel-trimmed black-paper journals and notebooks.

Pen sales soared 200% in 1999, but there's no doubt they were fueled in part by the secondary market of crafters and scrapbook-makers. Kids' discovery that these pens could create wash-off tatoos and fingernail art didn't hurt sales a bit. Pentel discourages the off-label use in product literature and on the Milky Web site, but is aware the fad has helped drive sales.

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