Colouring outside the lines: an inspired brand stretch by Crayola

Colouring outside the lines: an inspired brand stretch by Crayola

Associate Director Lou Ellerton celebrates the thinking behind a brilliant, if commercially unorthodox, brand stretch by iconic childhood brand Crayola – a delight for kids of all ages.


There’s nothing new in the idea of adult products riffing on children’s brands or memories of youth to tap a main vein of pop culture – with notable examples ranging from the sublime (Jeremy Scott’s recent ‘boombox’ collection for M.A.C.) to the ridiculous (we’re looking at you, Hello Kitty revolver!).

But there are few things more satisfying to a keen observer of skillful branding than to see a collaboration that genuinely builds the equity of both parties.

So we were delighted last week to see the launch of Crayola’s newest brand stretch: the 58-piece Crayola Beauty collection available exclusively through ASOS.

The range blends the cues of beauty (high-end photography, glamorous face shots and clean, streamlined packaging) with beautifully retro design, and adds all the colour and impact you’d expect from the brand that illustrated everyone’s childhood.

Crayola can’t take the whole credit – beauty vloggers have been using its colouring ranges for a while now, to the company’s erstwhile (health & safety-led) dismay – but deserves kudos for championing the idea through to point of sale.

It’s fun to imagine the initial discussions that took place when the idea was raised – “You want us to do what?though all respect to the business if it immediately recognised the genius of a stretch into a category that’s anything but adjacent, and moves away entirely from its current user base.

Like IKEA’s announcement that it is to go into the secondhand and refurb business, Crayola’s latest stretch has the beauty of both a clear, justifiable logic and fit with its brand purpose, to “free the what-if”. And perhaps most powerfully of all for me, it taps into the memories of those early days of playing with make-up: the fun, the total fails and the happy accidents.

From a commercial perspective, we’re unlikely to see beauty make a sizeable impact on Crayola’s profit sheets anytime soon, but if successful, it could open the door to a whole new stream of adult-led categories, from fashion accessories to interior design.