Binney & Smith

Author:Frank Caso

Page 187

1100 Church Lane

Easton, Pennsylvania 18044


Telephone: (610) 253-6271

Fax: (610) 250-5768

Web site:


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

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HISTORICAL CONTEXT © LWA-Sharie Kennedy/Corbis 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...

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