From the beginning of here tenure with Crayola, Vicky focused on making sure that the company was capturing and articulating what the Crayola brand stands for, what business they should consider themselves to be in, and what higher purpose they might have as a company. Her current focus is still on how to make the brand and brand idea come to life as well as how to engage customers in a more personal, hands on, and emotionally relevant fashion than they would otherwise experience simply by buying the product.
It’s not as if Vicky had to go through a re-branding exercise, as the Crayola brand has always been very strong and most loved amongst moms for years. What needed to happen is to redress what happens with many fast growing companies — they lose sight of what they are about, why they exist, and what their higher purpose is, or as Vicky calls it, their true north. Successfully articulating their “true north,” which is well represented in the Crayola Inspire video, led to some fundamental business changes — exiting certain lines of business and redefining the corporate culture. This whole effort also positively correlated with the performance of the company.
In the past, Crayolians (that is how they call themselves) would have described themselves as being in the business of color or safety and trust. But those are simply brand attributes; they are not your higher calling. Crayola is about kids, and their mission and purpose is to help moms and teachers raise creative and inspired kids. It is also about allowing kids to express their ideas and thoughts in very visible and colorful forms.
Defining their “true north” was, of course, a cross-functional effort that was moderated by an outside firm. The whole process took three to four months, not including the internal and external launches.
Launching the new “true north” internally required them to look at how their new manifesto and brand needed to come to life across all parts of their business. Culture was a big part of that. First they re-articulated their shared cultural system of beliefs — making them all compatible with the new branding language. So instead of saying that they were “be risk-oriented,” they changed that to “last one in is the rotten egg,” or instead of being consumer-focused, they now say “best friends forever.” It’s all inspired by kids — how would a kid say it?
Extensive cultural and branding training and orientation programs for existing and new employees also become part of the mix to make sure the whole organization’s culture became aligned with the external brand. Office spaces were redesigned to look more like playgrounds, and employees were given the choice to have their phone greetings recorded by their own kids and their email signature pictures be pictures of themselves when they were kids. It’s not as if they want people to act like kids, they want the whole culture to be inspired by kids.
With so many different beliefs systems floating around as it relates to raising kids, it’s no wonder that understanding consumer cultures is very important at Crayola. It also drives how they communicate with their consumers — e.g., they never define success, nor do they ever tell parents or teachers what’s right and wrong. They help parents and teachers achieve their goals. The only strong point-of-view that they take in their communications is that creativity is really an important part of a child’s development — it helps with critical thinking, it helps with communications, and it helps with problem solving. Creativity is a skill that can be learned and is needed later in life to be successful.
Social media has affected Crayola in positive ways. There is now much more user-generated content available to help moms and teachers make critical decisions about educational methods and tools, and that only benefits a company like Crayola.
Trust is another important brand ingredient at Crayola. It reflects itself in the physical product — no matter where you put it, it will not have any toxic effects — as well as in the brand as a whole and in the internal culture — where there is a decision-making culture that engenders employee trust.
Other things we discussed include:
- How to actually launch with a re-articulated “true north.”
- The marketing challenges associated with the buyer and the end-user not being the same.
- How to measure how well employees keep living the cultural values.
Tags: branding, crayola, culture, true north, trust, victoria lozano
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