Let Them Play

sharpieplayA few years ago I noticed that when sample pens were left out in an office supply store’s display, even if there was no paper to write on, people would doodle anywhere they could. Often I would see price tags and display descriptions riddled with black, blue and red ink as customers tried out the pens.

It was vandalism in the strictest sense and looked tacky. Some pen suppliers decided to solve the problem by adding pads of paper to their display, but that didn’t entirely dissuade people’s delight at writing on ‘forbidden’ places.

Sharpie must have noticed this, because they took the ‘miscreant activity’ and turned it into a free reign playground. First, they created a large white displace case that encourages and gives permission for passersby to draw on it. Second, they did away with those annoying security cords. Every marker of every color is unattached and can be played with. The result are truly unique works of art in every office supply store with their display.

While many companies started pulling back, trying to restrict customers more and more – forcing them to buy before they try – Sharpie encouraged play and freedom. Is there a risk of theft? Absolutely. Has it improved their branding as more and more people play with and delight in their multicolored permanent ink markers? YEP!

Which is worthwhile? Risking a few thefts or risking losing sales entirely?

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