With New Brand, Crayola Hopes to Expand Its Palette

Crayola, best known as a kid-focused crayon brand, is launching a new line of customizable, design-centric school supplies in Target stores next month as part of a move to reconnect with teens.

The new brand, Liv Crayola, consists of binders, notebooks, index cards, pens, pencils and other stationery products that can be personalized using “design packs” or original patterns created online. The line, which is targeted at girls aged 13 to 18, hits shelves June 20 and will be sold exclusively at Target, said vp, portfolio marketing Victoria Lozano.

Though teachers, elementary school children and coloring enthusiasts make up the bulk of sales of Crayola’s namesake product, teenage girls, it turns out, never forgot about Crayola. Research revealed they felt the brand had left them, not the other way around.

That insight became the foundation for a social media and word-of-mouth-backed prelaunch ad campaign, which kicked off last month. The brand launched two apps on its Facebook page, for instance. One allows consumers to jazz up photos with Liv Crayola-inspired designs. The other lets fans “create your own Crayola color nickname and find your True Colors.”

Crayola, a unit of Hallmark, also worked with New York-based experiential marketing firm Mr Youth to send out samples to 2,000 brand ambassadors. These consumers, drawn from the latter’s database of 130,000 brand influencers, were awarded with a points-based system for introducing the products to friends, Crayola said.

A teenager who organized a Liv Crayola fashion show, for instance, would receive more points than someone who uploaded a link on a blog, said Stacy Gabrielle, the company’s PR and social media manager.

Aside from a print buy in the August, September and October issues of Seventeen magazine, the campaign relies heavily on digital and social media marketing. Asked about the absence of traditional media, Lozano said the latter wasn’t “the best way to connect with them.” (Mcgarrybowen and Starcom, however, handled print and media buying duties, respectively.)

Teenage girls, she said, are at a point in life where they want to “express who they are and do it confidently.” The new Liv Crayola brand taps into both these needs with its emphasis on co-creation, she said.

Liv Crayola is made “for and by teens,” she said, adding that the new collection is really focused on self-expression. There is also a functional side to the new products, she said. Teenagers can use it to organize school supplies by “color, tab or design.”

Though teens might not seem like a likely target for crayon marketers, research shows otherwise. In Crayola’s case, the brand found that it brought back “happy, pleasant memories of childhood” among this group, when “Crayola was a very integral part of their lives.”

Several participants in the study, likewise, admitted to using Crayola crayons and markers on coloring books not just when they were babysitting, but when they needed an escape from everyday reality, the brand said. And, in a separate poll conducted with now-defunct CosmoGirl magazine (the Web site still exists), consumers actually ranked Crayola No. 2 (behind Apple) in terms of most creative brands.

Matt Britton, CEO and founder of Mr Youth, said the strategy hinged on getting consumers to take a second look at Crayola. Said Britton: “It’s not like Xbox or Mtn Dew, which is rooted in the youth market. Teens expect those brands to talk to them, but they don’t expect that from Crayola.”