The Classics | The world in Colour – Crayola’s 120 years of arts and crafts innovation

Vivid Goliath’s EMEA brand director of the Crayola division, Leon Jarmolowicz will tell you that last year, the brand – one synonymous with the arts and crafts sector had a year so good that it placed the firm ‘comfortably within the top ten suppliers in the UK and Eire.’

Not only did the firm manage to position itself at the centre of a swell of demand for both heritage brands and arts and craft kits driven by a population of home-schoolers, but it also leaned into its reputation for innovation in a market in which it had just seen record sales the year prior.

The result? Crayola finished its 2020 trading period a full 15 per cent up on the record year it enjoyed in 2019; proving that the brand certainly is doing something right.

And indeed it is. With a rich history spanning almost 120 years in the arts and crafts sector, Crayola has managed to maintain relevance by placing itself at the forefront of cultural zeitgeists. Keeping up with and helping to lead cultural changes has been a defining characteristic of the brand that has now hit its goal of 100 per cent renewable energy, and continues to champion diversity, representation, and inclusivity through the products and colours it rolls out each year.

ToyNews catches up EMEA brand director, Leon Jarmolowicz to take a deep dive into the rich Crayola history and how this and its ever forward thinking R & D team continue to find that balance between heritage and innovation in the arts and crafts sector.

Leon Jarmolowicz, EMEA brand director, Crayola division

Hello Leon, thanks for chatting with us. And to business…

A quick Google of the Crayola brand history tells us that Crayola was first created in 1903 and the brand name is a meeting of the words Craie (French for Chalk) and Oleaginous (an oily like feel), which for some 120 years ago, seems like some top notch marketing and branding!  

That’s right, an enduring brand name created 120 years ago when the very first box of eight crayons was made for schools to provide safe and affordable wax crayons. The same eight colours created then are still in our eight count of crayons on sale today globally.

So from there, can you give us a potted history of the brand? What have been the milestones of the Crayola journey, and in what year did it join the Vivid fold?

The company actually started in 1900 producing slate school pencils at its newly opened Easton factory. By 1958 the Crayola 64 box with its signature built in sharpener launched, becoming the perennial favourite of Crayola colours for more than 40 years.

In the same year, Prussian Blue, the first crayon colour to get a new name, became ‘midnight blue’, a change prompted by teachers as children could no longer relate to Prussian history. Product innovations remained a the heart of the business and in 1978, the first box of Crayola markers was introduced in eight bright, bold colours.

In the 1990s, Crayola introduced multicultural crayons in an assortment of skin-tone based colours to let children more accurately colour themselves. In the same year Crayola brought washability innovation to crayons that washed off walls, this washability has become key to Crayola’s brand essence giving it 100 per cent mum approval over many years.

To carry a brand that is so synonymous with its sector and with such heritage – how do you summarise what that means to Vivid? Can you talk to the responsibility, value, prestige, and excitement that it brings with it?

Vivid has been entrusted with the brand in the UK and Europe since 2006 and we have felt privileged to evolve the business into the established leading Arts and Crafts name it is today. Over the 15 years, we have grown the brand year on year, focused on streamlining the range, opened up new distribution channels and tailored the product line to constantly change with consumer needs.

Today you will find Crayola where ever you shop whether that be online, in the supermarkets, toy shops, gift stores, airports, and value retailers. The range, over the years, has continued to offer the market leading brand values loved by kids and trusted by mums whilst product has diversified into different arts and crafts experiences and toy play.

To what extent does the brand’s history influence the product development path you take Crayola on? How do you strike a balance between its heritage and forward thinking innovation?

The Crayola US team develops the product for the global market and has innovation teams in labs working on the newest proprietary technology as well as toy R+D teams and a network of inventors to help pool the latest trends and ideas into colourful new products.

Some of the pillars of the UK range come from tech innovations such as Colour Wonder, where the mess-free pens only work on the magic paper (not on your clothes, furniture or walls) as well as Washimals which was an inventor concept and allows children the imaginative and creative play of designing their pets and washing them for endless play and different results every time.

As a market leader, Crayola is 100 per cent trusted by mums, teachers and children to deliver a diverse range of top quality, enduring product whether that be across stationery lines such as Supertips, Twistables, packs of pencils or crayons through to TV advertised innovations.

Can we talk about the popularity of Crayola now? How strong is the Crayola business today? 

Crayola has seen the most phenomenal year as it was a brand in demand during the various lockdowns providing basic home schooling supplies through to arts and crafts solutions to keep children entertained.

The latter was supported by a huge investment on social media to give parents much needed crafting ideas to keep everyone occupied. Unfortunately there isn’t one EPOS service that can collectively measure Crayola across Toys and Stationery so whilst we aren’t represented through retail studies, we know from our own sales out that Crayola combined with the Goliath Games and Toys business would comfortably put us into the top 10 suppliers in the UK / Eire.

You mentioned that it’s seen some amazing growth this year, what have been the principle drivers of this growth? What have been some of the most popular Crayola products?

We know consumers navigated towards trusted, heritage brands during the pandemic and Crayola was no exception. We enjoyed 15 per cent growth last year, already off the back of a record year in 2019. This has been largely driven through the stationery ranges which proved essential to home schooling and much increased family time.

We did also have a strong sales boost across our FOB lines, driven by our larger stationery sets and tubs. Our toy lines such as Washimals and Glitter Dots have also performed strongly.

How have events of this year and the growth of Crayola throughout positioned the brand for 2021? Are you anticipating further or continued growth for the brand?  

On the back of unprecedented growth and the ever changing lockdown and retail situations, it is becoming harder to predict the shorter term future but the Crayola brand remains stronger than ever and with amazing product sales and the ability to still create strong retail presence even in lockdown, we still expect the brand to reach new heights.

How reflective of the arts and craft sector in general has Crayola’s growth been?

Crayola’s growth in the sector has been at least at pace with the growing market, if not slightly ahead due to the breadth and depth of its product range compared to the rest of the sector.

 As we know see a shift in consumer mindsets, from a renewed value of play to factors like sustainability. How is Crayola now adapting to changes or evolving with habits and trends to hold its position of strength and remain a go-to brand for generations to come?

One of the most fantastic things about the Crayola brand is at its core, it contains the values that last through generations and one of our key tasks as the custodian is to uphold that. That said, society, retail and the way we market brands is changing all of the time and we must pivot to reflect it.

Sustainability has always been a key part of the brand since its formation – from the inception of solar farms to the re-using of excess wax and the manufacturing of pencils from well-managed forests. In 2021, in line with its achieved goal of 100 per cent renewable energy, some of our key stationery items and their associated marketing will promote that fact.

Representation and recognition of diversity is also extremely important and that inclusivity extends into colouring with the launch of our Colours Of The World range. Developed with experts in creating global skin tones for leading make up brands, the range of crayons, pencils and markers will include a wide variety of more subtle shades to better represent our diverse world.

Can we talk about any new developments for the Crayola brand? What new launches can we expect from you guys?

Alongside the aforementioned initiatives in stationery, we continue to innovate in the toy space with Washimals going from strength to strength. Our brand new Spring toy line, Colour ‘n’ Style Friends has received excellent retail support, with several new TV drivers for Autumn/Winter and our Color Wonder licence portfolio goes from strength to strength to now include trending digital properties like Cocomelon and Love, Diana.

Leon, thank you for chatting. Before you go, what’s the next big step for the Crayola brand?

To continue to innovative and push ourselves in a rapidly evolving environment, not just at a product level but in terms of the way we build our relationship with customers and consumers alike.

 

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of ToyNews and its sister title, Licensing.biz. He has worked his way from Staff Writer to Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@bizmedia.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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