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No brand may be a diamond, but what about Crayola?

QUESTION: You once had a column challenging the idea that a brand, like a diamond, is not forever. I worked as a brand manager in a large local FMCG company. My training in brand management is far from your claim. It’s almost sacrilege for us to say that a brand will not last forever. We have had many case examples of diamond brands.

I’m a mother of two daughters, now in grade 2 and kinder. Even before they went to school, I’ve introduced them to the world of colors. For coloring their drawings, I bought them Crayola crayons. If there’s one brand that will outlive me and my children, that will be Crayola.

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I teach marketing part-time. It was in my undergraduate class where one of my students cited your column about brand being no diamond. So what about Crayola? Your own grandparents must have given them to your parents who must have given them to you, and then you to your own children and your children to your grandchildren.
ANSWER: I often resort to analogy for clarification. But there are occasions when analogy actually obscures instead of making things plain and simple. To call an expression of doubt on the mortality of a brand as “almost sacrilege” is a case in point.
I don’t want to discuss brand equity in the domain of religion or the religious. Let’s discuss it at the level of the mundane where both of us may be more comfortable.
When we say that a brand is no diamond, we’re talking about endless time.
That my grandparents gave my parents Crayola, and my own parents gave them to me, and then I gave Crayola to my own children who then give them to their own children or my grandchildren do not sum up endless time.
The relationship between the brand and my family may be just over 100 years.

From this single case, zoom out to the more than 3,000 new FMCG brands introduced in the US grocery market.
After 5 years, only 20 percent to 30 percent of these brands may still be around. After 10 years, just three or four may have survived.

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One analogy is the life cycle. As Shakespeare so dramatically designates its 7 stages, he starts with infancy and ends with senility, “the last scene of all, … that second childishness, and mere oblivion; sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

Everyone is born and then dies—and so with a brand.

What’s different in the brand life cycle of Crayola is in the “eventually.” A good number of brands have longevity, as in the case of Crayola. With Crayola, the practical question is not about forever. It’s a question of how Crayola can extend its brand life cycle. That’s where its brand lesson lies, and to learn that lesson is to know how to sustain and extend your brand’s life cycle.
So how?
The Crayola brand celebrated its 111th year on June 10, 2014. The brand creator was Alice Binney, wife of Edwin Binney who co-founded with C. Harold Smith the Crayola Company.
Alice arrived at the brand name using the French word for chalk, namely “crale,” and combined this with “ola,” meaning “oily.” The combination actually translates to the product category “wax crayon.”
A bit of deconstruction analysis tells us that the key to Crayola’s sustained brand equity is in its “quality image” as a wax crayon. At least, that’s what its website says. But that’s not much of a consumer insight.
So, let’s hear what three generations of consumers say.
When asked why grandmothers preferred to give Crayola to their children, here’s the three most frequent responses:

Matibay siya. Di nababali kahit idiin ng bata. (It’s durable. It doen’t break even when children using it pressed hard.)

Wax siya, di ba? Pero di amoy wax. Di nakakahilo ang amoy. Mabango nga eh. (It’s wax, isn’t it? But it doesn’t smell like wax. It’s not dizzying. It’s actually fragrant.)

Di siya nauubos kaagad.  Kaya mura. Matipid. (It may not be used up at all once. So it’s cheap. It’s economical.)

When asked the same question, the next generation, parents, shared something similar:

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“The box of 16 colors of crayons costs me 50 pesos, but my first grade son used them for the entire first term, or 6 months. That makes it really cheap.”

“I’m particular about smell. And I like the fruity smell of Crayola crayons.”

“I’m an amateur artist and use Crayola myself. I like them because they’re as sturdy as colored pencils.”

From the third generation, grade school children, here’s a pair of most frequent comments:

“They smell like my favorite fruits. When I use them for drawing, I like keeping a stick in my mouth.”

“They’re fragrant. I keep the box open inside my school bag to keep it smelling fresh.”

If we consider each generation as a market segment, we have in the foregoing three segments’ positioning behaviors. For consolidation, we ask: “What is the positioning behavior that’s true across the three markets?” What is common to the three of them has something to do with sensory positioning, or Crayola’s scent and fragrance. It is what has sustained and extended the Crayola brand life.
Can Crayola sustain this brand equity in the next 25 years or the next generation? That’s not up to Crayola. That’s up to its consumers, or the next generation consumers. For the answer, research this generation, the next market segment’s positioning behavior.
Keep your questions coming.  Send them to me at [email protected]

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