Sharpie Brings Passion to Permanent Markers

A common question we get is about how for-profits can use lessons from the Dragonfly Effect. Whereas companies like or charity:water might have an obvious social mission, other companies have to dig a little deeper. The social mission is always there, but sometimes it takes a little creativity to uncover it.

Case in point: Sharpie. What’s more boring than a permanent marker? Perhaps a pencil, but still, you’d be hard-pressed an object that is more static or single dimensional. Did this stop Sharpie from creating an incredible social media campaign? Of course not.

Taking a cue from humanistic design principles, the Sharpie campaign was created with deep empathy for Sharpie’s most active user-base. According to The New York Times,”The campaign is aimed at teenagers, said Sally Grimes, Sharpie’s global vice president for marketing, because they ‘use Sharpie in the most creative, inspiring ways. Teens have always been our primary user in the past, but we talked more to moms in the past.’”

The Sharpie Campaign urges self-expression and tells the stories of everyday people who use Sharpies to do amazing things. Like Cheeming Boey, who grew up on a bird farm in Malaysia. One day at a coffee shop, Boey had nothing to write on so he grabbed a white paper cup and began drawing on it with a black Sharpie. Today, his 4-cent masterpieces fill galleries.

Buoy’s video concludes with him reflecting on the following: “The difference between a dream and reality is just doing it. So if you want to get something done or have a dream, don’t wait. Just go for it. My name is Boey, I’m an artist. What are you gonna start?”

How’s that for a video about a pen?

  • What an apt and exciting example, tying one’s product to something affirmative and meaningful. I can see how some of the ideas i loved in your book dovetail with the purposeful narrative theme in Gruber’s Tell to Win (I think his book title does not do justice to the core theme in it)…

    • Thanks Kare. I’m finding myself really excited about that product-meaning link, and love to find examples of folks like those behind Sharpie who do it well. I mean…isn’t it a whole lot easier to reach inside the minds of your best customers or your best employees, learn why they are loyal and thus find why someone new should believe in you too?