Unanticipated Consequences of a Sharpie

Unanticipated Consequences of a Sharpie


Sharpie wants to be the brand that comes to mind when people think of permanent markers. The ease with which the brand comes to mind serves as a shortcut in judging its value. People rely on and have more confidence in brands that spring to mind most easily.

How do you create a brand that springs easily to mind?   Distinctive, vivid, and entertaining advertising helps.

After seeing a boy start to draw on his face with a Sharpie permanent marker, viewers are captured by the superimposed billboard, “20 YEARS LATER.” They want to see what that boy looks like now. A man with his back to the camera is in the process of interviewing job candidates. When the man turns around, viewers see his reaction to the boy, now a man, who had used the Sharpie on his face twenty years earlier. The interviewer’s double-take as he shreds the resume is marvelous. The camera shows viewers the sad, still face-marked candidate who seems used to this sort of rejection.

Of course, the Sharpie doesn’t mark skin that permanently. The ad does not make a factual claim. It tells a joke. Sharpie’s reward for entertaining viewers with that joke is a brand that springs more easily to mind and a stronger association with permanence.

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