CPGmatters: Crayola Connects with Consumers Using New Assortments, Merchandising

Discussion
Nov 08, 2007

By John Karolefski

Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of a current article from CPGmatters, a monthly e-zine, presented here for discussion.

Crayola is transforming the Children’s Art Supplies (CAS) category by leveraging shopper insights to improve assortments and retail execution. The result is a stronger connection with consumers and increased brand and category sales in several trade channels.

What signaled the need for change at retail, according to Scott Yeaw, manager of category management at Crayola, a subsidiary of Hallmark Corp, was poor perception of what should be several “shelf attributes.” The CAS aisle was not inviting and not a section to stay in (low “stopability”), while product variety was limited and signage did little to help shoppers find products (low “shopability”). Overall, the section was not delivering the fun inherent in the category.

“When you walked down that aisle, there was no emotion at all,” said Mr. Yeaw, speaking as part of a presentation at the recent Category Management Conference. “It was all about crayons, markers, and pencils. It was very hard to shop.”

So the maker of crayons, markers, coloring books and Silly Putty expanded the category definition to Children’s Creative Expressions (CCE) that includes a broad range of products to satisfy mom’s aspirations for her child.

“This is a category defined more by shopper benefit than by particular products,” said Joe Beier, vice president at Interscope, who also spoke as part of the presentation. “That benefit is essentially around enabling children’s creativity and self-expression. It’s an exciting vision that has almost limitless opportunities for growth. It’s one that gets us very much beyond the traditional markers-crayons-pencils focus of the old category. But the flip side is the challenge to merchandising.”

Crayola found its solution by deploying a program of shopper-centric retail execution with several high-profile merchants such as Toys “R” Us, Kmart and Rite-Aid.

The effort has paid off with double-digit sales hikes for Crayola and its category. “Although we are small, we have been a very dynamic category over the last three or four years,” said Mr. Yeaw. “When I first started seven or eight years ago, we were growing at 2 or 3 percent. In the last few years, we’ve had 10, 12, and 17 percent growth.”

For Crayola, the reinvention of the shelf begins with shopper insights that ultimately drive in-store execution through a dozen distinct retail concepts. The process leverages functional and emotional drivers to communicate consumer desire for fun and quality time, while instilling confidence in children.

Also key are best-in-class “stopability” and “shopability,” according to the executives. For example, retailers can improve their image as a CCE destination by offering one-stop shopping for a wide variety of items, including hard-to-find and seasonal products. The goal is to get Mom and child into the CCE section and then get Mom to buy more once there.

For consumers, they said, shopping for CCE needs to be fun and often a reward for children. Bold, creative displays and eye-catching signage boost the visual appeal of the section that should be enhanced with a broad assortment. For example, some stores feature oversized, upright crayons with built-in shelves for product.

“If we do these things, we can really be a growth engine,” said Mr. Yeaw.

Discussion questions: What do you think of Crayola’s move to transform the Children’s Art Supplies (CAS) category to Children’s Creative Expressions (CCE)? Do you think it’s becoming more important in kid’s categories to reach moms and kids at an emotional level? What are some merchandise challenges in such a move?

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10 Comments on "CPGmatters: Crayola Connects with Consumers Using New Assortments, Merchandising"


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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Finding ways to provide value (and figuring out how to define value) to the consumer is the way for manufacturers to increase sales. Finding retailers willing to experiment with new approaches to merchandising products is the way for retailers to increase their sales. The formula is not rocket science, but it sure is hard to implement!

James Tenser
Guest
14 years 6 months ago
The Crayola departments look great, with custom fixtures and a unified, coherent theme. I saw this presentation too, and I feel they have done a fantastic job. But they are also all-Crayola all the time, which means this type strategy won’t translate easily into most other categories where more than one brand is competing. Also worth noting is the level of hands-on shelf implementation available to Crayola, which is wholly owned by Hallmark. On reflection, there are notable parallels between Crayola’s Children’s Creative Expressions and Hallmark’s greeting cards and wraps departments. Both are single-vendor, custom-fixtured and closely serviced. This is a fine example of superior retail practice that reflects the unique characteristics of the category. Very similar approaches will not work elsewhere, because other categories may not share the same traits or intrinsic emotional resonance with shoppers. At the higher level, however, the principle that categories may be conceived around shoppers’ perceptions and merchandised accordingly rings true. [Talk about emotional connection–whose heart doesn’t leap at the sight of 64 pristine Crayola colors arranged like a… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

It’s tough to grow sales in anything related to art supplies. More and more art is done using software. If Crayola retailers can sustain 10%+ comp sales increases, they’re heroes.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 6 months ago

Art and personal expression is a fundamental building block for helping children form their comfort with creative expression. Mothers (and fathers) all have fond memories of crayons and the tactile projects that brought us joy as children…which are emotions Crayola is rightfully recognizing as important to connect into. I agree with the other panelists that the shoppers insights were (and are) critical, but acting upon them powerfully is the ticket. Combine this effort with ongoing “inspirational ideas” for crafts and I imagine that the impact would be significant. Kudos!

Raymond D. Jones
Guest
Raymond D. Jones
14 years 6 months ago

This is a good example of the category gains that can be achieved through improved shoppability and relevance based on consumer research. We have conducted research that identifies opportunities in even larger categories such as candy and beverages.

The opportunities for category advancement through shopper insights are enormous. We are only beginning to tap into this potential resource for growth.

Bill Akins
Guest
Bill Akins
14 years 6 months ago

I saw this presentation two weeks ago and was very impressed with their ability to pump life into a somewhat mature category by creating a retailtainment stop. Crayola has always rested on laurels of brand awareness and classic packaging recognition, and kudos for a “not too late” realization that the world changed around them with the next generation of techno savvy children.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 6 months ago

As the parent of three kids, two of them 8 and under, I can attest to the creativity and crayon/marker consumption of children! We have four computers in the house, but markers rule. Now, if Crayola would invent markers that put their own caps back on, they’d really have something!

Crayola is discovering what everyone else is discovering: today you need to have “conversations” with consumers, whether it is on your website or in retail stores. For Crayola the conversation is about creativity, and helping children express themselves. Ask any small child “what would you like to draw a picture of if you had some crayons right now?” and they’ll have a ready answer. Crayola’s website asks that question. Starting that conversation and keeping it going are what today’s promotion, loyalty, and even merchandising programs are all about.

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Reminds me of the hardware guy who got smart and realized he wasn’t selling drill bits, he was selling holes. One way to help moms (and dads) along here is to do what the really good kids’ movies do–they have everything on two levels, so the adults get a lot of jokes meant just for them. (Which helped me keep my sanity while watching the Muppets movies over and over again.) Some stores offer day care, and if this section were to be put nearby, it might be a match made in heaven. Kids could use the art materials in the day care, and parents could buy the stuff the kids tried and loved right nearby. Just a thought, although it might become akin to the dreaded “candy gauntlet” at the checkout.

Joy V. Joseph
Guest
Joy V. Joseph
14 years 6 months ago

Good branding practice starts at the upper end of the funnel, working towards building an emotional connection with consumers. But only a strong theme and message has the ability to resonate throughout the entire funnel hierarchy. Building awareness is important, but if the message doesn’t identify with the target market, awareness doesn’t translate to middle funnel drivers like familiarity and loyalty that ultimately helps convert awareness to buys. It’s great that Crayola used an insights-driven approach to recognizing what the right emotional connection with their target market is.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
14 years 6 months ago

Kids will always be kids, and they’ll always scribble on anything fixed or moving (anyone had their dog colored?).

Children don’t really learn to read effectively until 8 or 9 years of age, so I’ve found that my younger children haven’t taken to the computer games. They’d much prefer to use some Erasables to color all over the windows around the house.

As a parent of four, I really appreciate the product innovations provided by Crayola in the last few years. They’ve succeeded at appealing to my family on an emotional level. They’re reached our family by getting us started through promotion packs at restaurants and other family outings. This has then led us to retail for additional purchases. Easy to identify packaging, consistent with the introductory packs, completes the sale and gets the goods into the cart. Fun and easy clean-up at home keep us going back for more.

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