Oak Brook’s Sharpie markets by encouraging expression
OAK BROOK — You’ve probably used a Sharpie. But did you know the company is based in Oak Brook?
Sharpie is part of Newell Rubbermaid’s Writing and Creative Expression global business unit. Sanford, mostly known for its Sharpie, Paper Mate and Prismacolor products, has been in the Chicago area since 1866 and was in Bellwood from 1947 to 2005. In February 2005, Sanford moved to Oak Brook.
“Sharpie outgrew Bellwood and was looking for an environment that was more forward-looking,” said Marc Colavitti, vice president of research and development.
He said Oak Brook is an easier location for out-of-town suppliers, customers and associates than Bellwood.
“It was a good middle ground between the city and the suburbs. It’s a great place to recruit talent,” he said.
The company makes 34 varieties of markers, a product most everybody has used.
“We are a brand that lives and breathes what we stand for, translating consumers’ insights into new products,” said Ryan Rouse, director of marketing.
Customer feedback has expanded the product line. For example, comments on Facebook and Twittter about the use of Sharpies led the company to developed Stain by Sharpie, a fabric marker that is “100 percent designed for use on fabric – no fading, bleeding or snags for elastic,” Rouse said.
In deciding how to change products, they often study evolving technology of other industries, such as nanotechnology, which may not immediately seem relevant but often are actually adaptable to markers and other writing supplies the company manufactures, he said.
“I believe that behind every great product there are passionate people. We’re always looking for nuances and how to make consumer experiences more rewarding for people – from the time they buy a product to the time it leaves their life. We try to ensure a premium writing experience,” Colavitti said.
He said the top two goals are “Don’t disappoint, delight!” and that people pick up the markers and “have a good time using them.”
The company also focuses on increasing occasions for usage of markers, thinking of them in new and different ways, Rouse said. Consumers tend to use markers to personalize items.
Mark Rivard, who started his own business customizing skateboard decks with Sharpie markers, and Emmy Star Brown, who draws on salvaged windows with Sharpies, are two examples of such artists.
Sharpie has developed tremendously from a humble beginning in 1964 with the fine point black marker used primarily used for commercial or light-industrial needs to 2012, with 36 colors and 34 varieties, according to press releases.
“Markers are relevant because they go beyond note-taking – they are a method of expression. They allow expression on all kinds of surfaces,” Colavitti said. “These are the safest, most long-lasting and reliable products we know how to make.”