Binney & Smith

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Binney & Smith

1100 Church Lane
Easton, Pennsylvania 18044
Telephone: (610) 253-6271
Fax: (610) 250-5768
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Crayola was the most recognized brand name in children's art products, but as the twenty-first century dawned, the company that made Crayola—Binney & Smith of Easton, Pennsylvania (founded in 1885, a subsidiary of Hallmark since 1984)—grew more and more concerned that brand perception had boxed it into a corner. The public saw that Crayola had only crayons and markers, and for that reason 90 percent of its sales came during the late summer, when children were preparing to return to school. Furthermore, most new Crayola products were so overshadowed by the brand's two main items that sales in other areas were poor. Lastly, many viewed the line as old-fashioned, as even art supplies had moved into the electronic age.

To correct this perception Binney & Smith turned to its advertising agency of record, Leo Burnett of Chicago. In response to the challenge, the agency devised an award-winning television campaign on a budget of less than $1 million. The campaign, which aired on television for three weeks in spring of 2003, was titled "Make Play." Two ads, "Night" and "Fin," highlighted the new Crayola products while showing that children could enjoy Crayola year-round.

The campaign was effective enough to garner a 2004 Silver EFFIE Award. It also set the tone for future Crayola campaigns that emphasized the product line as being more diverse than simply crayons and markers.


Coincidentally or not, 2003 marked the centennial anniversary of the Crayola brand. For most of those 100 years the product held a secure place in the market—more than 120 billion crayons were sold worldwide—and therefore change came slowly to Crayola. Aside from expanding the number of colors (the 48-count box debuted in 1949, the 64-count box with sharpener in 1958) and occasionally renaming the colors (in 1962, for instance, "flesh" was renamed "peach"), the Crayola brand pretty much adhered to its tried-and-true formula. In 1978 markers became part of the product line, and for the next 25 years the company was perceived in light of those two products, despite the fact that in 1976 Binney & Smith had bought the highly successful product Silly Putty.

Crayola periodically reinforced itself in the public mind for most of that quarter of a century with marketing efforts that encouraged people to come up with names for new colors or rename old colors. Research and development was not, however, dormant at Crayola. Among the newer Crayola products was Window Writers, color markers that enabled children to write on windows and that were easily wiped off. In 2002 Window Writers were given the seal of excellence by the Quebec Consumers Association, which tested toys with 199 children aged 6 months to 12 years. In June 2002 Binney & Smith took another tack in its effort to push its products beyond the once- or twice-a-year buying spurts. The company opened what was referred to as a "branded destination site" in Hanover, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. Leslie Kaufman of the New York Times described Crayola Works as "a hybrid store and creative arts studio."

By 2003 Crayola's annual output was stupendous. According to Kathy Flanigan writing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it amounted to 1.5 million bottles of paint, 9 million Silly Putty eggs, 110 million sticks of chalk, 465 million markers, 600 million colored pencils, and a staggering 3 billion crayons. Still, there remained the problem of overcoming the perception that Crayola was a once-a-year buy. Sales of paints, modeling compound, and activity kits had decreased to such an extent that in November 2002 Binney & Smith announced it was dropping the third shift of its plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The company also moved some production to Mexico.


Part of the challenge of the "Make Play" campaign was to shift Crayola's traditional target market from parents (primarily mothers) to children aged six to nine. It was parental buying habits that contributed greatly to the notion of Crayola products as simply back-to-school items. In other words, what Crayola had to do was appeal directly to those people using its products—kids—in order to break a century-old, ingrained shopping habit. In the "brief of effectiveness" that it submitted for the EFFIE Awards, the Leo Burnett agency explained that, in order to fuel sales growth throughout the year, Crayola needed to make kids themselves excited about the products. Further, it stated, "The brand also needed to go beyond the same old basic school-supply crayons and markers and focus on innovative products to drive category enthusiasm with kids." In other words Crayola was going to appeal to its new target market, six to nine year olds, by offering products that might not be seen as school supplies.


Crayola's competitors within the children's-arts-and-crafts category included Alex, Rose Art, Faber Castell, Imaginarium (the in-house brand for Toys "R" Us), and Newell Rubbermaid, Inc. A century of name recognition, however, made Crayola dominant in the field. In 2001 Crayola controlled about 75 percent of the market, with Rose Art a distant second at 13 percent. With regard to market share the competition was almost negligible, though in more upscale toy stores, brands such as Alex, Rose Art, and even Faber Castell sometimes predominated. The relative newcomer to the field was Newell Rubbermaid, which had acquired pencil-maker Sanford in 1992. In 2001 Newell Rubbermaid announced that it was reviving Sanford's Colorific brand and taking on Crayola's hegemony in the crayon-and-marker market, which was then valued at some $800 million. Newell's goal was to acquire a 10 percent market share by 2003.

Crayola faced stiffer competition for children's time from products outside the category of children's arts and crafts. First and perhaps foremost were television and its ancillary products, such as videos, DVDs, and video games. Competition was also provided by other children's toys specific to the age category of Crayola's target audience. Whether the competitors' toys (outside of the arts-and-crafts field) were electronic or not, they were still seen as year-round activities. Despite the fact that coloring was also a year-round activity, it was not seen as such with regard to consumer spending. Still, the Leo Burnett agency, in conjunction with Binney & Smith, believed that Crayola's newer items were enough of a basis upon which to build year-round demand, a demand that would center on the intrinsic value of the products.


Arts-and-crafts toys were essentially the opposite of electronic games and toys in that they stimulated a child's imagination rather than dulled it. The strategy of the "Make Play" ad campaign of 2003 was to reinforce this premise while focusing on new Crayola products, Twistables, a crayon created in response to the Glitz Stix put out under Sanford's Colorific brand; Click Em On Markers, which enabled a child to engage in two different activities, drawing and building; and Model Magic, a new type of modeling clay that dried overnight, allowing children more or less to create their own toys. These new products were to help achieve the campaign's goals of stimulating brand sales beyond the back-to-school period and expanding Crayola's already dominant market share of the children's-arts-and-crafts category.

Because the campaign's budget was limited to less than $600,000, television was the medium of choice. In fact, no other advertising medium was used to support the campaign. As reported in Leo Burnett's EFFIE Award brief for the campaign, "After evaluating a variety of media vehicles, TV ranked highest for the target's media consumption, affinity, mass reach, and ability to drive awareness of our product." The belief was that the television spots would ignite in the six- to nine-year-old target market what the agency dubbed "pester power"—children asking their parents to buy them something.

The television spots came out during the third week of April 2003, just prior to the Easter holiday. Traditionally this time of year was the third-heaviest period for children's advertisers (the top two were the back-to-school period and the weeks leading up to Christmas). The spots featured two commercials: "Night," which advertised Crayola Twistables, and "Fin," which showcased Click Em Ons. Lewis Lazare, an advertising critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, rated the former spot over the latter. He also stated, "the ads make clear that Crayola has moved beyond the simple crayon with the introduction of products aimed at today's sophisticated youngster, for whom simplicity isn't necessarily a virtue."

In discussing the Crayola spots Lazare wrote: "'Fin' … promotes Click Em Ons, a new marker that doubles as a set of sticks that click together to build things … The spot shows a boy using Click Em Ons to make [paper] shark fins that he places around his nearby pet dog. Then the boy snaps together the markers to build a protective cage for the pooch. The spot ably demonstrates how the product works." Lazare took exception, however, to the background music, arguing that it contributed to what he thought was a moody tone. As for the other spot, "Night," he said that it had "a lighter, more fanciful aura, as well as some lovely visuals." The commercial's first scene showed a boy playing with a glowing orb, pretending that it was a basketball. In the second scene the boy was at his desk looking through his window at his muse: a full moon. He was drawing with Twistables, a crayon designed so that the user did not have to peel paper to reveal more wax when the tip had worn down.


The name "Crayola" was devised in 1903 by Alice Binney, the wife of Edwin Binney (who, together with his cousin C. Harold Smith, had invented the crayons). She combined craie, the French word for chalk, with "ola," short for oleaginous or oily. Literally, "Crayola" meant "oily chalk." A survey conducted in 1999 indicated that 99 percent of Americans recognized the Crayola name.


In 2004 the "Make Play" campaign received a Silver EFFIE Award. EFFIEs were given in recognition of a campaign's effectiveness in the marketplace. The campaign, at least in the short term, accomplished both goals that had been set. Regarding stimulating sales beyond the back-to-school period, Model Magic experienced a 42.6 percent increase during the three-week advertising period. Subsequently sales tapered off, and for a number of weeks they remained at a plateau that was slightly higher than the pre-advertisement figures before settling to pre-advertisement levels in the summer of 2003.

The improvement in sales of Click Em On Markers was more dramatic. During the weeks of the "Make Play" campaign the markers experienced a 64 percent increase in sales compared to the six weeks prior to the campaign. Furthermore, in the week following the campaign's end, sales actually increased compared to the campaign's final week. In the second week after the campaign, sales were off only slightly from the campaign's final week. Both of these weeks represented substantial increases over the immediate pre-advertisement period. The campaign's second goal was to increase Crayola's share of the children's-arts-and-crafts market. To that end the campaign was also successful. Crayola gained 1.8 market share points over the same period in 2002.

Binney & Smith continued to find ways of maintaining Crayola products as items for year-round purchase, including expanding the product line. One lucrative strategy was to keep the Crayola brand name in people's minds through licensing. The Crayola brand had been licensed since the early 1990s, but in June 2003, soon after the "Make Play" campaign had run its course, Binney & Smith opted to maintain a booth at the Licensing Show (an annual trade event at which companies showcased their brands for prospective promotional partners) for the first time. As Amanda Burgess reported in the trade magazine KidScreen, Binney & Smith was attempting to expand its Crayola brand by creating a network of "A-list partners in toys, stationery/school supplies, apparel, accessories, bed, bath, home, publishing, and food."

In 2004 Binney & Smith ended its association with the Leo Burnett agency. That same year the company strengthened its grip on the arts-and-crafts category when the company started Big Yellow Box, a direct-sales venture that used independent representatives to market craft kits.


Baar, Aaron. "Binney & Smith Pulls Out of Burnett." Adweek, July 2, 2004.

Burgess, Amanda. "Crayola's Licensing Agenda Is Set to Get More Colorful." KidScreen, June 1, 2003.

Cornacchia, Cheryl. "Play Favourites: Lego and Crayola Markers among Top Toys Reviewed by Quebec Consumers Association." Gazette (Montreal), October 24, 2002.

"Crayola Is 100 Years Old. Orange You Tickled Pink?" Washington Post, October 7, 2003.

Flanigan, Kathy. "A Colorful Century from Crayola." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 3, 2003.

Gallun, Alby. "Newell's New Colors; Ends Acquisition Binge to Focus on Boosting Existing Brands." Crain's Chicago Business, June 4, 2001.

Garland, Susan B. "So Glad You Could Come. Can I Sell You Anything?" New York Times, December 19, 2004.

Kaufman, Leslie. "PBS Is Expanding Its Brand from the Television Screen to the Shopping Mall." New York Times, June 27, 2002.

"KGOY but Can Brand Owners Keep Up?" Brand Strategy, November 2, 2001.

Lazare, Lewis. "2 Spots Tout New Crayola Products." Chicago Sun-Times, April 23, 2003.

"MediaBin Software to Help Market Toys." Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 17, 2002.

                                                 Frank Caso

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