Sharpie taps influencers to broaden product's reach

Last year, Sharpie, purveyor of markers and other writing instruments, tapped celebrity soccer star David Beckham for an integrated marketing campaign. This year, the company is turning to lesser-known enthusiasts to promote the brand in the US.

Company: Sharpie

Campaign: Uncap What's Inside

PR Team: Weber Shandwick, Internal

Launch: June 1

Budget: Undisclosed

Objective: Last year, Sharpie, purveyor of markers and other writing instruments, tapped celebrity soccer star David Beckham for an integrated marketing campaign. This year, the company is turning to lesser-known enthusiasts to promote the brand in the US.

“A lot of times, you're trying to convince consumers to see something in a new way,” said Susan Wassel, PR manager for Sharpie. “Here it was the other way around.”

After searching the Web, Sharpie discovered that consumers were using their products for a variety of purposes, like customizing clothing, soccer balls, and surfboards. The company's latest initiative highlights those creations, customer enthusiasm, and the value of Sharpie writing instruments.

“Just for the cost of a Sharpie marker, you have the ability to transform an ordinary object,” Wassel adds.

Idea: Sharpie tapped 12 loyalists from its own blog (launched last October), Twitter, and other social networks where it has a presence to form the Sharpie Squad. The Squad will serve as influencers for the brand, sharing tips and encouraging others to use Sharpies in new and creative ways.

The primary targets of the campaign are women and mothers who might use Sharpies for things such as holiday ornaments.

The company also wanted to leverage social media to bring fans together.

“People are doing things offline and posting it online,” Wassel said. “[The campaign] is reflective of how consumers are behaving in general.”

Tools: Sharpie launched SharpieUncapped.com to aggregate all that customers are doing. The site provides a place to upload images and video; a community page with links to the blog, YouTube, and other social media sites; and how-to ideas from the Sharpie Squad and other fans.

Media outreach will be conducted in two phases – the first with outreach to trade publications like BrandWeek and Ad Age; the second to consumer outlets.

One member of the Sharpie Squad, the Savvy Mommy (http://www.savvymommy.com/), will be the primary spokesperson for the consumer side of the campaign. She will gather ideas that can be pitched to outlets like Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, and Good Morning America.

There will be advertising as well, beginning June 15.

Measurement: The company is monitoring social media buzz and evaluating messaging in the media.

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