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Sharpie hops on lavender marker trend: When should brands not engage with UGCs?

Sharpie hops on lavender marker trend: When should brands not engage with UGCs?

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The lavender coloured Sharpie has been “cancelled” following a viral TikTok series created by content creator @welovemarkers. The series sees markers being given unique personalities and is set in a high school with the lavender sharpie being portrayed as a homewrecker as it encourages the other Sharpies cheat on their respective partners.

The hilarious trend has spawned multiple videos of TikTok users cancelling the lavender colour in good fun. The trend went so viral that it caught the attention of the official Sharpie account. In response, Sharpie changed its profile picture to one that cancels out the colour lavender. It even uploaded videos that include users taking out the lavender colour from its multi-colour packs.

Sharpie’s recognition of this user-generated content (UGC) and witty responses follow a new trend of brands creating personalities for themselves by interacting with users and content creators through funny comments left under relevant videos or jumping on video trends themselves. 

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However, these interactions do more than make us laugh, they are also part of a wider social media strategy to emphasise the human quality of brands.

"In the social media era, people follow people; not faceless brands." said Will Lee, executive creative director of That Marketing Guy. He went on to explain that despite this, brands should be cautious as trend jacking by brands for the sake of it, can come across as contrived or tryhard and may have the opposite desired effect. 

In fact, people want brands to make them smile and laugh with 78% of individuals believing brands can do more to be funny and 91% saying they preferred brands to be funny. Especially when brands hope to engage with their consumers on social media, only 75% of people will follow a brand if they are funny on social media channels.

These were the results of Oracle’s The Happiness Report which surveyed 12,183 consumers and 3,125 business leaders across Singapore, the U.S., Japan and Australia to name a few. The report also revealed that only 15% of business leaders thought that their brand was humorous on social media platforms.

Humour should be engaged with tactfully

Using humour on social media is not a one-size fits all strategy and brands should ensure that their offerings and values align.

“Brands can engage with online trends while maintaining their unique voice by identifying a common ground between the trend and their brand values or product features,” said Ken Cheung, co-founder and digital director at KREW DIGITAL.

“If no alignment is found, it may be better to refrain from participating and wait for the next wave. However, I encourage brands to experiment with most trends, as practice leads to perfection,” he added.

Agreeing with Cheung, Lee explained that brand owners and marketers have to be clear about their positioning and values to communicate with authenticity especially on social media.

"Brand owner and marketers will need to be clear about what their position is, and what their values are - and communicate with authenticity, especially on social media," he said. 

Should brands engage in explicit trends?

If you have seen the TikTok series by @welovemarkers, you would know that it features explicit ideas such as markers "having sex" with each other. In this case, responding with humour and engaging with explicit content or trends becomes a tricky feat. However, according to Cheung, brands should not shy away from explicit trends as it may increase brand visibility.

He said:

It is essential to embrace the ever-changing social media landscape, while setting boundaries by avoiding sensitive topics such as politics and religion.

"Brands benefit from participating in UGC about them by gaining access to a multitude of creative perspectives. In fact, even if a UGC campaign encounters a slightly negative result or incident, it can further amplify the brand's visibility and stimulate sales," he further explained.

Lee also added that brands should not aim to trend jack but to "trend-set". 

"The north star for any brand needs to be clear - a market leader brand such as Apple, for example, does not trend jack, but creates trends that others leverage," he said.

With regards to ensuring a brand's voice shines through UGC, brands can also collaborate with influencers to provide demonstrations on how they would format and deliver the brand's message, added Cheung.

"This helps participants align their content with specific branding elements," Cheung said.

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