Building on a surge of interest in craft kits – sales of which grew by 50% last year, according to industry tracker the NPD Group – category king Crayola is extending its fiefdom.
The Binney & Smith company’s sweet spot has traditionally been the under-eight demo, but it’s hoping that two July-launching product lines will help attract more tweens. First up is Girlfitti, a line of eight high-end jewelry-making sets. A Smart Charms SKU for fashioning a pair of bracelets is even infused with infrared technology. When one of the bangles comes within 10 feet of the other, they both light up in different sequences so girls can send coded messages to each other.
To bring more boys into the fold, Crayola is expanding its Gadget Hedz brand with Tube Tech, a construction kit that kids can use to build vehicles such as helicopters and tanks out of straws.
The packaging for both lines breaks away from Crayola’s yellow and green crayon-box branding, which team marketers felt was too young-looking to connect with tweens. Manager of global licensing Rick Goralnick says it’s the first time the company has toyed with new branding elements in its packaging strategy.
In addition to aiming higher up the kids food chain, the fruit of a two-year plan to get into new categories has started to hit shelves. Along with a home décor line of products including bathroom accessories, wall coverings and linens, Crayola launched a range of Crafty Cooking cake mixes and decorating kits in grocery stores this February. These will be followed up by a line of ice pops from Cool Brands this summer.
Although Crayola’s sales were flat for 2004, its top-selling Color Wonder brand has achieved 15% to 20% growth over the last two years. The line is built around special ink that’s invisible until applied to treated paper, and its no-muss, no-fuss advantages were heavily promoted in both TV and print ads last year.
But Colleen Chorak, senior product manager for kids recreational arts and crafts, attributes the line’s success to a new hands-on marketing strategy that includes workshops at Michael’s stores across North America and a substantial free sampling program.
Sampling kiosks for giving out Color Wonder finger paint trial packs were introduced late last year at 15 different mass, grocery and drug retailers. And patrons of theme parks and family destinations such as Sea World and Busch Gardens received holiday-themed trial packs on Halloween weekend. ‘The sampling and interactive initiatives are wildly important,’ Chorak says. ‘Our products are very tactile and experiential. They’re very hard to describe, so what we definitely want to do is get them into people’s hands.’
Last fall, Crayola attracted more than 175,000 kids to its first free ‘Paint Your Own Zoodles’ craft workshop at Michael’s. And in April, Crayola will host one of the Kid’s Club events the craft chain holds every Saturday. Expected to bring in roughly 25,000 kids, the event will mark the launch of Crayola’s Erasable Markers and the Erase It! Fund, through which Crayola will donate money to charities chosen by the kids who attend the event.
Michael’s has been a key retail account for Crayola over the past year; Chorak says the company now stocks 20% more product on the chain’s shelves and has taken over an entire aisle that it used to share with competitors. This year, the goal is to build a similar in-store presence and promotional event template in rival craft chains Jo-Ann and A.C. Moore.