Brand Supremo: Reflections on the Sharpie Pen

Call me territorial, but whenever I want to declare something as mine, I scribe my name on it in big bold letters to make it abundantly clear to others that this object has an owner. My preferred instrument of choice? A black permanent marker. But not just any marker, it has to be a Sharpie.

Sharpie has become synonymous with the term “permanent marker.” The effect a brand has when it enters the lexicon of household names can be astonishing. Who is the number two player in facial tissue? Of course you don’t know, and that’s because Kleenex has long been synonymous with facial tissue.

Xerox has done the same to photocopy machines, Q-tips to disposable ear cleaning swabs, Superglue to really strong glue, Band-Aids to bandages, and Nylon to, well Nylon.

It’s been almost 50 years since “the” Sharpie made its debut as the first pen-style permanent marker. But it’s no longer seen as a tool for tagging and labeling. Its diverse product lineup of highlighters and newer Sharpie Pen and Sharpie Liquid Pencil, make it a premier writing instrument that’s gained acceptance in the art world.

See Sharpie’s Creative Community, Facebook page and official blog for a full exposé of artistic expressions.

Can you come up with other examples where a product name genericizes other products in the same category?

The Sharpie brand is part of Newell Rubbermaid’s Writing and Creative Expression global business unit, which also includes Paper Mate, Expo, Uni-ball, Prismacolor and Rolodex.

Photo: Leigh_A Murrell on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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