Sharpie’s new Uncapped Gallery is a great example of how a company can embrace the social web, encourage word of mouth and show off what its products can do in the hands of actual customers.
The gallery is set up like a Sharpie lifestream, and pulls in content from the Sharpie Showcase, the Sharpie Blog, Flickr, YouTube and the web. Each item is color coded to indicate where it came from, and clicks out to the original version so that users can interact and explore. Once a user clicks on an item and leaves the Uncapped Gallery to view the original, a navigation bar pops up so that they can return with a single click, or continue on if they find something interesting. Lastly, a share button attached to each item allows users to easily share the item with others in their own networks across a number of different channels.
What the Uncapped Gallery does is allow Sharpie to go out and find cool things that people are doing with their products and highlight them in a very public way. This serves to both thank the people that are showing off what they can do with Sharpie products, and to encourage others to create things with Sharpie products so that they too might be highlighted on the site. The effect is similar to what you’d see with a contest or giveaway, where word of mouth is exponentially increased, but there is no need to incentivize the conversation monetarily, and the word of mouth is much easier to sustain over a long period of time vs. a quick-hit contest or giveaway. In essence, Sharpie is able to take what users are doing naturally, namely, share the work they create with Sharpie markers, and increase the frequency by showing users that they are paying attention to, and appreciate the work that is being shared.
Turing the site into a user generated content portal has also allowed Sharpie to transform their brand from a product brand into a lifestyle brand. Rather than focus on the features of the pens or the differences between each pen type, Sharpie can instead embrace the culture that their brand has created, and use that culture to advertise their products by inspiring people to make creative things and to be a part of the larger Sharpie community. As a user, you can look at the Uncapped Gallery and see all the things that people are able to do with Sharpie products and know that there are an endless number of possibilities that Sharpie markers will allow you to explore. You can also reach out to users that are doing things that you think are interesting and communicate directly with them, turning the site into a source of fantastic user reviews. The result is that Sharpie isn’t selling pens, but rather, what those pens will allow you to do.
- Leverages the social web to increase word of mouth and highlight product uses.
- Creates a community around the brand.
- High return for a low investment.
- Needs constant maintenance to stay fresh.
- Companies use the social web to highlight what actual customers are doing with their products, allowing them to turn reviews, demos and a large part of the advertising over to the community.