Bellwether (noun)

Photo by Frantisek Duris, via Unsplash

Definition

  1. One that takes the lead or initiative: leader; also: an indicator of trends

(Ref: Merriam-Webster Online, Word of the day, 15 June 2020)

Use it in a sentence

Anthony scowled, and then rolled his eyes. He almost snorted derisively but then he remembered he was in a crowded meeting room and coughed instead, something polite and involuntary. Historically, the company was the bellwether in ballpoint pens, but lately they were losing their market. They had a quality product, with all component parts made in-house. Their pens had always been regarded as a stylish and elegant, but practical and hardy too. But as the CEO, Max, said, there was nothing original about them, nothing unique anymore. Nobody wanted just a good pen, they wanted a pen that made a statement. If they wanted a pen at all! But it was better not to dwell on the latter.

The meeting was a free-for-all think-tank. How could we increase sales, compete with Waterman, Cross and Mont Blanc again? So far, the ideas were rubbish – different colours, an add-on bonus retractable pencil, a free notebook. Rubbish. Anthony was just waiting for the right moment to chime in. Let all the other monkeys throw their peanuts on the floor first, and then he would sail in on a Tarzan rope and save the day. This was it. He caught Max’s eye, held his hand in the air – a half wave, half school-boy request to go to the toilet.

‘Yes? You have a suggestion.’ There was a bit of quiet. No one ever expected Anthony to say anything. He was more of a behind the scenes kind of guy and that’s usually where he was happy to stay. But he just knew this was a brilliant idea and that it was his moment to shine.

‘Er yes Max. Yes, I do.’

‘Well? Go ahead.’

‘So, why don’t we set up an online system where you can order a pen with your name engraved on it. Or,’ Anthony had another sudden brain wave, ‘have your name picked out in diamantes – we could strike up a partnership with Swarovski – pink for the girls, black for the men. Individual, unique and beautiful to look at!’ He sat back in his chair, and smiled broadly, waiting for the praise and perhaps even a smattering of applause.

But the room was silent for a moment. Max narrowed his eyes and leaned forward in his chair. ‘That is the worst idea I’ve heard today. It’s terrible! It’s cheap and nasty and very …. I don’t know, very Paris Hilton. You might as well have said, “Why don’t we have a picture of girl on the pen, who’s naked when you turn it upside down.” God-awful. That’s not our audience. That’s not our audience AT ALL.’ Max was shouting now. He put his glasses on and peered at Anthony. ‘What department do you work in?’

‘Packaging.’

Max shook his head and muttered, ‘Terrible idea. Awful.’ Then, more loudly, ‘You people better come up with some better stuff than this, otherwise, we are really up shit creek. You’ve got another 24 hours.’ He shoved his chair back and headed towards the door. He paused in front of Anthony. ‘You’, he pointed at him. ‘Not another word.’

Anthony shrank in his chair, glowing red, and hung his head until everyone else had left.

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