Sharpie Art (And Why Community Matters)

I recently read a Fast Company article profiling Sally Grimes, Global Vice President of Marketing for Sharpie as one of the 100 Most Creative People In Business in 2012.

Grimes made the list for her (and the entire company’s) commitment to honoring “Sharpie art” by setting up an online gallery where fans can upload something they’ve created with their pens and showcase their design alongside nearly 20,000 other works of Sharpie art. According to the article:

The result of all of Grimes’s community building is a virtuous circle of inspiration between Sharpie and its users, leading to new products, such as a much-clamored-for gold metallic marker, and a 9% sales bump since 2011.

And THIS is why building community is so important.

Everyone is going to understand your brand a little differently. It’s inevitable. We all have different experiences, perspectives, and beliefs that inform how we interpret a product or service offered by any given company.

For example, I’ve almost exclusively used Sharpies to take notes and write reminders on PostIts, but never conceived of using them to customize my car.

By creating this community of artwork, Sharpie not only allows fans to inspire each other, but also shows them that their creativity is appreciated. And, for a company built around the creative spirit, this is one of the most important things they can do to reinforce their branding and support their message.

But don’t get me wrong: There’s more to this strategy than the warm and fuzzy feeling of artistic inspiration. You’ll notice that (according to the article) the same brand community was also a dynamic platform for market research.

What are diehard Sharpie users doing with the product? What do they want? What do they need?

The company was poised and listening, so when the Sharpie community expressed a desire for a gold metallic marker, it was heard. And everybody benefited.

Spend some time thinking about what you offer. How can you connect your customers and clients around it? How can you better position yourself to hear what they have to say?

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