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EPISODE 49

Color Me Intrigued: How Crayola is Expanding into Digital

With Josh Kroo, the Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing and Digital Strategy at Crayola

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It is rare that a brand has such reach and such impact that people all over the world can not just recognize it, but have memories of using the product for generations. 

Crayola is one of those rarities. Of course, Crayola was built around the production of crayons, but throughout its more than 115 years in business, Crayola has vastly expanded its product offerings and worked to build a community of consumers who gather around the idea of creativity. But how do you sell that expanded brand and provide opportunities for customers to find and interact with you in new ways?

On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Josh Kroo, the Senior Vice President Brand Marketing and Digital Strategy at Crayola, joined us to discuss some of the strategies he is putting into place to increase brand awareness, expand digitally, and offer experiences for all kinds of audiences. Because whether your company is a century-old or a brand new startup, finding ways to adapt and expand will always be important.

Main Takeaways:

  • The YouTube Generation: A recent study reported that 81% of parents with children of children age 11 years and younger use YouTtube to find content for their kids. As more and more children — and parents — find their way onto the platform, brands need to be prepared to invest there if they want to stay relevant, as well in order to achieve relevance. 
  • Can I Interest You in Some Apps?: There are a number of ways to use apps, so you have to decide the purpose and KPIs of the app you are building and then deliver the type of experience that will bring the engagement you want. And it’s important to remember that one app doesn’t have to do it all. You can have different apps for different purposes and customers — one to drive discovery and brand awareness, another to drive conversions and sales. 
  • Every Kind of Experience Is Available: Physical experiences with brands — whether in store or at an event — have been the bedrock of creating a connection with customers. As the world changes, though, there is more opportunity to connect with customers in a new way – through digital and hybrid experiences.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“We have to be okay with kids being creative in a digital space….if you look at kids’ free time in a pie, they’re spending more and more time with technology, depending on the age of the kid it can be upwards of 30 plus percent of their time with technology, and certainly within that, they’re being creative. So, what is the best way for Crayola to play there? And we evolved from this kind of idea that you had to do something physical, or physically creative, which is at the core of what Crayola’s been about for well over 100 years, to what does modern creativity look like for a kid? And I think that’s really where we set out to build from, from an app perspective.”

“Our flagship Create and Play app is actually a subscription app. So you can go into that app and you’ll be able to play with, call it, a quarter of the app for free, but if you want the full experience, we’re monetizing it through subscription, and if you look at the app space in general in the kid space it’s really moving in that direction from premium and freemium.”

“We made a very concerted effort at Crayola probably three or four years ago recognizing that ecommerce and specifically Amazon were going to be a huge factor in how consumers shop, and we really pivoted the business. We built out a totally siloed ecommerce team to grow that and put a huge amount of organizational effort and resources against growing that part of the business.”

“We want our products to come to life. At the end of the day, we want a parent or a kid who’s looking at our product detail pages or seeing any visual content that we put online to have a connection and inspiration to what they can actually create with our products. So, there’s been a lot of effort put around visual and video content to bring the product to life, and drive that conversion.”

“Kids are literally spending upwards of 90 minutes a day on YouTube, and if you want to connect with kids it’s kind of hard to say, ‘You shouldn’t be there.’ You’ve got to be there.”

“I don’t view our competitive set as crayons per se, I think our competitive set is really kids’ free time, and the more that we can help showcase the different range of options and great products that we have available, the more it will fit into kids’ lives. When I think about what we’re really enabling, and what we’re about, we’re about self-expression and creativity.”

“When you think about ecommerce… it really is a math model. It’s the number of eyeballs you get times your conversion rate. So, how many eyeballs can I get to the product pages, and then what am I converting them at, and then what is my average sales price, or what are the products are they selling for? And that’s eventually going to be how you generate your growth and your numbers.”

“There’s all sorts of ways from an experiential perspective to connect with consumers, and I think you’ll see us, certainly in the YouTube spaces, starting to dip our toes into the water of content in that sense.”

“There’s an opportunity for digital experiences to come to life…. I think experience, and what that consumer experience is, and how they can engage with your brand in deeper and deeper ways once they’re at that interest point in the funnel, or at various points of the funnel, is going to continue to be an area of focus.”

“We’re trying to be where consumers are, versus necessarily building something big and trying to get them to come to us. I think we have the type of brand that can be relevant in all sorts of ways in people’s lives every day.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Josh Kroo is the Senior Vice President Brand Marketing and Digital Strategy at Crayola. He is a classically trained marketer with experience leading digital marketing transformation and has previously worked for Kraft Foods and Danone North America. With Crayola, Josh leads Crayola’s Marketing Communications, Consumer Insights & Affairs, Interactive Products, Education Group and DTC businesses.

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Transcript:

Stephanie:

Welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder of mission.org. Today on the show we have Josh Kroo, the senior vice president of brand marketing and digital strategy at Crayola. Josh, welcome.

Josh:

Hi, good to be here.

Stephanie:

It’s really exciting to have you on. I was actually just playing with some crayons with my two-and-a-half-year-old right before this, trying to get [crosstalk] for the interview.

Josh:

Excellent, that’s good. I like that.

Stephanie:

Yeah, it’s top of mind now, yeah. So, I want to hear a little bit about what led you to Crayola?

Josh:

Sure. So, I grew up kind of in a traditional brand marketing capacity. I started my career at Kraft and Danon, and had spent a lot of time building businesses there, but when the opportunity came calling to come to Crayola, which is one of the most iconic brands in the world, it’s one of those brands where people … you say that you work at Crayola, and everyone sort of has A, a memory, and then B, their face lights up, and they generally ask you a fun question like, “Oh, who names the colors?”

Josh:

It’s just one of those brands that has touched so many people, and pretty much everybody along the way, and so for me to get the opportunity … I joined Crayola to lead the marketing communications group. It was an opportunity to be a part of that brand, part of the mission, which I think is really wonderful, which is all about celebrating, and nurturing, and helping to spark the creativity in children, and giving parents and teachers the tools to do that, and then the chance to bring some energy to the brand, and I don’t want to say revitalize it, but contemporize it, make it relevant for today’s kids and parents, and lead a great team through that process.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s great. So, I mean, Crayola’s been around since, I think it’s the 1880s, right?

Josh:

Yeah, we are over 115 years old. So, started with eight little crayons. Edward Binney, our founder, his wife wanted kids to be able to color the world as they saw it, and so we launched with eight crayons. That’s actually where Crayola comes from, cray meaning chalk, and ola is sort of like oily chalk with the colors. So, a lot has happened over the last 115 plus years in terms of the brand, but what’s amazing is that the mission and the purpose of the company has still always really remained the same.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s really cool. So, what does your day to day look like at Crayola, because I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of shifts happening over the many years that you’ve been there, or throughout the brand as a whole I’m sure you’ve heard of shifts, what are you doing now that maybe was different than a couple of years ago?

Josh:

Wow, there’s a lot for unpack in that, I think-

Stephanie:

Yes.

Josh:

… first of all, my role has certainly evolved, but no, I think you can go … or I personally can go from a meeting where we’re talking about ecommerce marketing strategy, to looking at pieces of creative or creative work that we’re building out for holiday, to a meeting where we’re looking at what our strategy is going to be going forward from an annual planning perspective. I manage our interactive business right now, so it could be a meeting where we’re looking at what are the next updates for the plans for our apps, and how are they performing? So, it really it can touch all different parts of the business, and I think that’s part of the joy of working for a brand like this, and in my role. It’s everything from all the brand marketing, but now most recently digging deeper into the digital and ecomm side of things, and helping to guide the company in that way. So, you never know what’s going to come on any given day, but I think that’s what keeps it fun.

Stephanie:

That’s great. So, you were just mentioning apps, and I think that would be fun to kind of dive into Crayola’s mobile efforts, because I think when I think of Crayola I, of course, think of the crayons that we have in our living room, but I’d love to hear how you guys think about building out apps, and how do you know what’s going to work, or what doesn’t? How do you think about what you want to invest in when it comes to that area?

Josh:

So, that’s a great question. I think it’s been a really interesting journey for us in the app space. We’ve actually been making apps for over a decade now-

Stephanie:

Oh, wow.

Josh:

… but the way that we’ve been doing it has really evolved. So, this predates my time even, but we had what we called here physical to digital apps, which was this idea of how do you merge physical creativity and digital creativity, and bringing them together in an app. We were working hard at that, we had the first augmented reality coloring books that were out there, we had augmented reality based animation, we had all these products, and I think ultimately what we figured out was we have to be okay with kids being creative in a digital space.

Josh:

I think overarching what you recognize is that if you look at kids’ free time in a pie, they’re spending more and more time with technology, depending on the age of the kid it can be upwards of 30 plus percent of their time with technology, and certainly within that, they’re being creative. So, what is the best way for Crayola to play there? And we evolved from this kind of idea that you had to do something physical, or physically creative, which is at the core of what Crayola’s been about for well over 100 years, to what does modern creativity look like for a kid? And I think that’s really where we set out to build from, from an app perspective.

Josh:

So, looking at it, and then you start to ask yourself, and we’ve got a variety of different apps today, we’ve sort of got a flagship app called Create and Play, which is really the premium Crayola experience, everything that you could want for digital creativity that’s sort of targeted to younger kids in that three to five space. And then we’ve got other apps that are out there that are supporting different brands or IP of products that act as a marketing vehicle. I think for our flagship app, what we really wanted was to create an experience that was if you think about opening a crayon box, what is the magical experience that a kid gets from opening a crayon box? I’m sure your two-and-a-half-year-old can relate to the smell of the crayons-

Stephanie:

I was going to say, the smell, yes.

Josh:

… the excitement of the color, so you’ve got all of that there, and how do you bring that into the app space, and how do you also empower kids to express themselves creatively? And what we wanted to do here was help kids learn through creativity, but without really knowing they were learning, so it’s all through play. I think from a parent perspective, so two and a half maybe or maybe not be a little bit young for your kid, but parents want to feel good about what their kids are doing on an app, and so how can we give a wholesome experience as well? So, that was really the approach that we took there, and we built out a variety of different apps, and continue to expand on the content, and it’s a really great way to foster digital creativity.

Stephanie:

Very cool. Do you have any tips or things that you found out along the way when you’re trying to make sure that you’re staying true to the brand that everyone loves, and like you said, being able to do things in the real world, like actually draw on stuff is an important part of it, while also moving forward in this digital arena?

Josh:

Yeah, so I think the fun part about being in an app is being okay with the fact that there are fantastical things that you can do to express yourself in the app space. So, for us, it’s always about staying true to the essence of the brand, but our brand is really all about creativity. So, you can color with a crayon and make marks on paper, and that’s wonderful. How do we exaggerate that in the app space so it’s delivering that magical experience for a kid? So, you can color with flames in the app, for example, or you can express yourself in different ways.

Josh:

So, we have a whole area in the app that’s all around pets, and pet play, and pet care, and you can dress them up, color on them, make music with them. It’s all creativity in a different way, but I think for us it’s really it’s all about letting kids express themselves, whether it’s physical or digital. I think for us, the other thing that is true about any, whether it’s physical or digital creativity is there is no such thing as bad creativity. So, we celebrate everything, whether you made a random circle on a paper, or whether you painted a Picasso, it’s all celebrated, it all goes into the gallery, and every kid should be proud of what they create.

Stephanie:

That’s great. How do you stay ahead of what kids are looking for? It seems … I mean, when I think about my kids I’m like, I have no idea, sometimes they like certain things that I’m very surprised by, or I think they’re going to love something, and I buy them this really cool gift, and then it’s like a flop. So, how do you guys stay innovating in that area and stay inside the kids’ heads of knowing what they’re going to enjoy and like?

Josh:

Well, certainly there’s an aspect of just being immersed in the world of kids apps, and playing with other kids apps, and understanding what’s out there, but then you’re also always looking for what’s trending, and making sure that we’re staying on top of that from a trends’ perspective, and you can sort of pick it up by just the amount of research that we do with kids, and talk to kids in general, you can sort of get a flavor for what they’re doing. And then we also do a lot of user testing as well along the way to validate the concepts and the content that we’re building out.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), very cool. How do you think about like you’re building these apps that, I would say, encourage the kids to play around for a long time, are you mostly focused on having someone really engage with these apps, or are you also building apps that are focused on conversions of maybe selling actual products, or is it kind of a little bit of both?

Josh:

It depends on the app. So, our flagship Create and Play app, that’s actually a subscription app, so you can go into that app and you’ll be able to play with, call it, a quarter of the app for free, but if you want the full experience we’re monetizing it through subscription, and I think if you look at the app space in general in the kid space it’s really moving in that direction from premium and freemium, and it has been for a few years since the subscription. The win for us there, certainly I’m happy that we’re monetizing it, but we see kids on average playing 25 to 30 minutes a day deeply engaging in your brand, I mean, that’s sort of hard experience to replicate.

Josh:

And then there are other apps where it is just free, so I think the most recent one we launched was probably nine or 10 months ago, it was called Scribble Scrubbie Pets, which is an IP that we have that’s actually a toy-based app, and that really is … it’s a totally free experience. Again, we want kids to immerse and connect with the brand, and we’ll see them averaging 20 plus minutes a day with it, and there are different things you can do. So, there’s, call it, almost 40 different Scrubbie Pets in there, you can unlock them by either buying the product, and that’s a shortcut to unlocking pets, or you can just continue to play and engage with the brand and do activities, and unlock the pets that way. So, the conversion will happen more down the line, and it really is about generating that brand awareness, and brand love.

Stephanie:

Cool. So, when thinking about your ecommerce and your website experience, what are you guys doing on that front right now, and what are you seeing that’s working? Well maybe, what step of, or what stage are you guys in with selling online? Whereas I guess I still think of you as I would go to the store maybe to buy some crayons right now.

Josh:

Yeah, it’s really interesting, it’s been a total evolution for Crayola. If you go back 10 or 15 years ago, or maybe even shorter, two of our biggest customers were Toys “R” Us, and Kmart, and you know where they are-

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah, Kmart.

Josh:

Exactly [crosstalk 00:11:59]-

Stephanie:

Forgot about them, yep.

Josh:

No, so we made a very concerted effort at Crayola probably three or four years ago recognizing that ecommerce and specifically Amazon were going to be a huge factor in how consumers shop, and we really pivoted the business, built out a totally siloed ecommerce team to grow that that was partnered with my team on the marketing side and the content side, and put a huge amount of organizational effort and resources against growing that part of the business. So, I’d say I feel like we’re pretty far along from an ecomm perspective, both from just where our sales are coming from, and how consumers are buying our products, but also internally from a talent perspective, from a process perspective, from a knowledge-based perspective in terms of grabbing growth in that platform. But it’s been a three, four year evolution in getting there, and now you see how things are playing out and it’s even more accelerated when you look at the onset of the COVID pandemic, and I feel really good about the place that we’re in right now to be where consumers are. Ultimately, that’s kind of what we have to follow, right?

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah so, what platforms did you guys move towards, and which ones are you seeing the most success with right now?

Josh:

So, we’ve had a DTC business for maybe close to five years right now, but I think we really prioritized growing with our retailer platforms, Amazon being the number one focus, but not far behind that are the Targets and the Walmarts of the world, and I think in the last six months we’ve seen just every retailer become an omnichannel retailer. But I’d say we put a tremendous focus on probably, if you can think about where our Crayola business goes through, those three players, with Amazon kind of leading the way obviously from a share of an ecommerce perspective, but I think we’ve taken the lessons from there and really extrapolated them and leveraged them across all the other selling platforms to put our best foot forward, and be everywhere that consumers are from an ecomm perspective.

Stephanie:

Yeah. So, what kind of lessons did you learn from Amazon that you’re applying on the other platforms now?

Josh:

I think certainly understanding how to leverage search and paid search was a big one, and understanding how that sort of … and even organizationally, we’re a company that’s been built on brick and mortar sales for 100 plus years, just adapting the mentality internally of understanding that there’s an endless sea of products, and when you’re buying search, or when you’re buying those placements, you’re basically merchandising yourself, and it’s all about, call it “physical availability in the digital space”. So, we spent a ton of time learning how to optimize that experience and finding the right partners to help us get there, and then have really leveraged those learnings. And then I’d say from a content perspective too, so Crayola … I think when you’re walking down a store you look at a shelf and you experience all sorts of different connections to the brand and triggers based on the products that you’re seeing on a shelf.

Josh:

When you’re shopping online it’s a little bit harder, and so from a content perspective we’ve worked really hard, first of all, from a discovery, just written content, and driving traffic, and a lot of effort there in understanding that, but also from a visual content perspective, and now evolving much more into video content, because we want our products to come to life. At the end of the day, we want a parent or a kid who’s looking at our product detail pages or seeing any visual content that we put online to have a connection and inspiration to what they can actually create with our products. So, there’s been a lot of effort put around visual and video content to bring the product to life, and drive that conversion.

Stephanie:

Yeah. So, when you’re making this video content are there any specific platforms that are working really well, whether it’s YouTube, or what are you guys utilizing to get that content out into the world to be found?

Josh:

We’ll typical host on YouTube, but we’ve spent more time, especially from a parent’s perspective, focused around social platforms to drive a lot of the content, but then I think what we’ve found is that our consumers, when they get onto the product detail pages, are really looking through all of the images and videos, and now you’re starting to see it be more prevalent even played up, call it, before you get to a product detail page. So, the use of videos on Amazon is certainly growing. So, we’re kind of … it really depends on where the audience is and what stage of the funnel they are, but we’re leveraging video as much as possible everywhere, whether it’s in our paid marketing or organic marketing on social platforms, and throughout ecommerce.

Josh:

I think YouTube is becoming a bigger and bigger focus for us, specifically from a kid perspective, and if you just look at … I think there is a recent study that came out, 70% of kids are on YouTube. It depends on the age, obviously, but kids are literally spending upwards of 90 minutes a day on YouTube, and if you want to connect with kids it’s kind of hard to say, “You shouldn’t be there.” You’ve got to be there, and I think we’re seeing a tremendous amount of content focused to kids there, and we’re no different in terms of how we think about specifically video content.

Stephanie:

Yeah. What about TikTok? Are you guys trying out the good old TikTok, or not yet?

Josh:

No, we actually have. So, most of our products are geared towards younger kids, the real sweet spot of Crayola is kind of in that, call it, four to seven, three to seven range, and I mean, some of those kids are on social media, although they shouldn’t be, but we do have a few product lines, and certainly I think with the adult coloring phase that happened, if you remember that in 2016?

Stephanie:

Yes.

Josh:

I think it really inspired a lot of adults and teens and tweens to get back into the creative space and sort of find their own creativity. So, when TikTok came out we’ve been certainly dabbling in that space with a variety of our different brands. We have a line of writing tools called Take Note! that’s all about expressing yourself through colorful note-taking, and we’ve played there a little bit. And I think there is a ton of just organic user generated content around Crayola, and it can be everything from the weirdest product we’ve ever launched like something called Globbles, where someone posts a video, it catches on virally, and all of a sudden it’s selling out on Amazon like crazy. So, I think we’re-

Stephanie:

What is a Globble?

Josh:

A Globble is a small … I don’t even know how to describe it. Think of it like the size of Silly Putty egg, but it’s sticky, you can sort of mash them together and throw them at walls, and they’ll stick to ceilings, and kind of just be creative in a weird way, but-

Stephanie:

That sounds very therapeutic.

Josh:

It is, it is therapeutic, and you can sort of get creative with them in ways to play with them. But it’s the power of these different platforms you can see it in something as silly as that where we’re still seeing a spike in search on Globbles on our DTC site.

Stephanie:

That’s great.

Josh:

But for the most part to reach our audience I would imagine that similar to what we’ve seen with Facebook and Instagram you’re already seeing it throughout the last six months that TikTok … there’re older people getting onto TikTok, and parents getting onto TikTok, and there’s a place for us to continue to experiment there, for sure.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s what was coming to mind. So, I’m on there, but I follow a lot of other moms, and right now a big trend is trying to figure out ways to keep your kids entertained with all the kids who are home and not going to school. I’m like, “Oh, it seems like a good opportunity to connect with fellow moms out there who are like, ‘How do I keep my kids occupied?'”

Josh:

Well no, that’s great, going back to your question about video content, I mean, what we’re looking at is what social platforms can we get it out there, and for the last six months the team, from a content perspective, has been really focused on appointment programming, so this idea of, “Hey, we are going to have a creative activity for you every day.”, and whether that’s Crayola filmed or whether we’re partnering with a ton of different, call it micro influencers that are out there, it can be in the crafting space, in the calligraphy space, in kids crafts, adult crafting, and so it’s a great point that you raise of folks are at home, whether it’s themselves or their kids, and looking for creative inspiration, and we’re doing our best to be across all platforms to share that. So, I think it’s a great point.

Stephanie:

So, you just mentioned micro influencers, how are you guys parenting with them, and how are you measuring if it’s successful or not? Because that seems like a topic that a lot of people are trying, and we’ve had some guests say, “Oh, that doesn’t work.”, and then other guests say, “Oh, it’s working really well for us.” So, I want to hear how as a legacy brand partnering with someone like that, how are you guys tracking if it’s successful or not?

Josh:

Yeah, I guess for me I don’t necessarily look at that as performance marketing, for me it’s all about generating brand awareness, and connectivity with consumers. I think part of the job that we have in the marketing group at Crayola is most people do think of us as the crayon company, and so even you yourself said at the beginning of the call, “Crayons.”, but we have hundreds of other products in the space, and so for me I look at this as more upper funnel activity. So, we’re looking at viewer engagement, video completes, and things of that nature, but I’m not necessarily trying to correlate it all the way through to conversion. I think still, throughout much of the year a large part of our conversion is going to happen at retail, and it’s just not big enough necessarily to track back to that performance. But ultimately I want as many eyeballs on it, and watching as much of those videos as possible, because that’s generating brand awareness for me.

Stephanie:

Yep. So, are you guys making an active effort to kind of be known as not just crayons but other things, or are you kind of just okay with being like, “We’re being out great things, and if people are using it we’re okay with not everyone associating us with those products.”, like how are you think about that branding?

Josh:

I think we’ll always be known as the crayon company to a degree, but no, not okay with it, I think our job is really to help consumers understand that we have everything from a full range of arts and crafts products to creative toys. I don’t view our competitive set as crayons per se, I think our competitive set is really kids free time, and the more that we can help showcase all the different range of options and great products that we have available the more it will fit into kids’ lives. I think when I think about what we’re really enabling, and what we’re about, we’re about self-expression, and creativity, and we’re a creativity company. So, I wouldn’t want to define that by crayons, as we talked about before, we want you to be creative with Crayola in an app, I want you to be able to paint, or I want you to be able to color, and recolor your Scribble Scrubbie Pets, and be creative and express yourself in that way. I’m good with all of it.

Stephanie:

Great, yeah. That’s a good answer. So, for going forward over the next couple years, or before this call you were mentioning that you were in a meeting talking about how to maybe invest around ecommerce, and I wanted to hear your thoughts on where are you guys headed, what are you looking to invest in, what new things are you trying out to meet the market either now or in the future?

Josh:

Yeah, so that’s a great question. I think in the here and now when I think about the ecommerce space … it was hard in the beginning to figure out what is the right amount to invest, and you heard all sorts of numbers thrown around, is it just whatever you can carve out of your budget and dedicate it there, is a percent of net revenue, a percent of gross revenue? But I think when you think about ecommerce, and it seems kind of silly looking back on it now, it really is a math model. It’s the number of eyeballs you get times your conversion rate. So, how many eyeballs can I get to the product pages, and then what am I converting them at, and then what is my average sales price, or what are the products are they selling for?

Josh:

And that’s eventually going to be how you generate your growth and your numbers, and so the way that I’ve been looking at it and been pushing the team to look at it has been, all right, what is the traffic that we need to drive, and look at every element in this, what’s the traffic that we need to drive, and how are we going to get there? So, I think for us on many of the ecommerce platforms, whether you’re talking about Amazon, or walmart.com, it’s first and foremost, search is the lowest hanging fruit. How do we maximize that as much as possible? And we have enough historical data over the last few years that we can figure out and invest in that model on what it’s going to take to get there.

Josh:

I think beyond that as we look towards the out years, because eventually we haven’t reached nearly a point of diminishing returns there, but we’re always trying to figure out, “Okay, if it’s ecommerce, how do I drive those page views? Is it experimenting with different tools on Amazon’s platform? Looking at them as a DSP, so am I looking at AMQ type tools, addressable TV, what else can I do to drive those eyeballs, but it comes back to the math and the return on ad spend, which certainly in the ecomm world we’re very focused on.

Josh:

And then I think it’s also about pulling the other levers. So, if I can move my conversion rate on a big business by a half a point, that’s pretty significant. So, what are the areas that we’re going to invest in from a content perspective as well to try to drive and pull every lever to ensure that we’re continuing to drive growth. And I think broadly the mentality that we have as just a marketing team, I won’t call it digital marketing, because I just think it’s marketing, we embrace the test and learn mentality, and we’re always looking out there, whether that’s talking to our peers in the industry, partnering with agencies, just generally being consumers ourselves, what are the things that we’re seeing that we should be testing? So, a great example now would be shoppable social, right?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Josh:

If you think about our brand, and we’re putting out all this inspirational content, how do we try and shorten that funnel and make the content more shoppable? I don’t know if it’s necessarily huge yet, but I believe it will be, and so how do we start to build our knowledge base and our skillset in that regard, too? So, I think there’s different ways to look at different spaces of investment, but that’s kind of how we’re approaching it.

Stephanie:

I really like the point about shoppable experiences. I’ve actually thought that that seems so behind to me, even right now when I’m on Instagram, I mean, I know Pinterest is doing it now, but it seems like this is something that should’ve been around a long time ago, and it’s just starting to pop up, but the experience still isn’t there. Any thoughts on why it’s been such a slow transition for something that I think should’ve been here … well, it feels like a long time ago.

Josh:

I think it’s all … it’s interesting for why maybe it has or has not caught on, certainly everyone’s investing behind it, like interest … sorry, Pinterest and their partnerships, looking at Instagram and where they’re trying to go, I think it’s got to be all about convenience. So, I’m curious to see what the consumer behavior is. Sometime you might be in a shopping mindset, other times you might just be looking to scroll through and do you really want to leave the platform. So, I’m sure, and we’re seeing it, the investment, and how do we just create a more seamless, convenient experience that doesn’t disrupt what you’re trying to do?

Josh:

Ultimately, with anything in the digital space, I think kind of comes back to that, what mentality are you in, and how convenient is it going to be? I think we see that with the general ecomm growth that we’re seeing, like the pandemic forces you to all of a sudden adopt new buying habits, whether you’re on Instacart or wherever else, and then all of a sudden it’s convenient, and so those are the types of things that stick. So, I’m just wondering if from a shoppable social perspective, have we truly hit the peak of convenience and ease, but I’m sure it’s going to improve YouTube now investing in this space, so I think it’s clearly an area of opportunity, but it seems to be that the industry’s moving that way.

Stephanie:

Yeah, it also seems like there’s a strategy there of building content that’s focused on conversions where someone’s going to be watching it, and they’re going to want the things that are in that video, versus like you said, maybe someone goes to a video and they’re not really in that mindset, but also maybe the content is not focused towards a conversion, or towards you need the products that are in there to be able to even do this.

Josh:

Yeah, and I think we’re going to continue to see those two worlds blend, right?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Josh:

The idea of sort of that kind of performance marketing mixed with content and converting the content into commerce. I know that’s an area that we’ve been talking about for years from a Crayola perspective, because it’s hard to look at a box of, making it up, metallic markers and understand what you can do with it, but if I can connect those metallic markers to a beautiful piece of what we call Crayoligraphy, and then I can connect that to a bundle that will teach you how to do it, now we’re really starting to merge those things together, it’s engaging from a viewing perspective, and there’s a practical outlet for you to now go get creative and do it yourself.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah, and I think that also kind of circles back to what you were talking crating daily, in a way, lesson plans, or something to keep someone engaged constantly, but then it opens up a whole thing of like, “Okay, let me get my supplies for this digital lesson plan that I’m going to be following along with.”, and it kind of creates a mote where you need to have Crayola’s products wield up, go through this lesson plan, and have fun, and enjoy every step with the right products.

Josh:

Yep, and that’s exactly kind of the areas that we’ve been experimenting in. So, we had a summer craft series with one of our micro influencer partners out there, and we’re selling a craft box to get everything you need for that week of crafts along with it. So yeah, I think there’s a world where, yeah, those things start to make sense, and the more we can inspire you, that’s really winning for us. We want to inspire that creativity and give you the tools to do it.

Stephanie:

Yep, I love it. So, are there any brands that have been out there for a long time that you guys watch, or that you partner with, to kind of keep tabs on how they’re doing things, or how they’re going through maybe a digital transformation, or just kind of learning from them and watching where they go?

Josh:

For me, I think one of the best out there certainly is Lego. I just think they have absolutely mastered it from everything from entertainment, to community building, to best in class content, to leveraging user generated content, and tapping into passion points of consumers. So, I really love what they do, they’re probably the number one brand that I would watch out there, and just look at … I mentioned YouTube before, I think they just eclipsed 10 billion views of their videos on YouTube, I mean-

Stephanie:

Wow.

Josh:

… truly doing a lot of things right to grow their business. So, I think they’re a really great case study out there of how to build out content, and really surround consumers, both kids and adults, with your brand, and then products to boot to go along with [crosstalk 00:32:44]-

Stephanie:

Yeah, I completely agree. I mean, even thinking about that Lego movie, which to me is so smart because I mean, it connected with kids, but I think it actually was very sticky with parents as well, I mean, that was the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to content that they were creating. Has Crayola thought about creating something like that, or backing a project like that, that would connect with kids and adults, but then also leave people talking about it?

Josh:

Yeah, I think it’s certainly a place where there’s opportunity. We haven’t necessarily ventured there yet, but I wouldn’t say … I would say anything’s on the table, certainly as, I think, the world of content is constantly evolving. And so, while it maybe is not necessarily entertainment in that sense, we actually have five Crayola Experiences that have opened up around the country, and that’s depending on where you are that could be four to five floors of immersive creative experiences where parents and kids are coming in and spending three to four hours there and just delving into the brand. So, there’s all sorts of ways from an experiential perspective to connect with consumers, and I think what you’ll see from us, certainly in the YouTube spaces, starting to dip our toes into the water of content in that sense. So, I wouldn’t say it’s anything that is imminent, but certainly, you never know where it’s going to go, and I think Crayola’s one of those brands that can play in lots of spaces like that.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), that’s a really good point about creating experiences. I think there’s going to be a lot of pent-up demand after staying at home for as long as we have, and having places that you can go to experience the brand and the product and have fun, it seems like a really strong strategy going forward after all this kind of calms down.

Josh:

Yeah, I think when you look at just general consumer sentiment and what they’re saying, and it’s been trending this ways for years is that people are looking for experiences. What’s interesting is they can be physical, so in a store, or in a location like a Crayola Experience, but I do think there’s an opportunity for digital experiences coming to life, too. I think I saw the other day L’Oréal sort of introducing a new way to buy your cosmetics and makeup, and making it more experiential. So, I think experience, and what that consumer experience is, and how they can engage with your brand in deeper and deeper ways once they’re sort of at that interest point in the funnel, or at various points of the funnel, is going to continue to be an area of focus.

Stephanie:

Yep. What about community? How are you guys thinking about curating and building on a community to where I’m sure a lot of parents and kids would all want to talk and hang out, and show projects together, and I could see you guys having a really good angle there. How are you all approaching the community aspect of your brand? And building that up?

Josh:

It’s a good question. I think with kids it’s a little bit more challenging in that you’ve got all sorts of privacy regulations there, and so creating a closed community and getting kids to join that is a pretty tall order I think. From a parent perspective, we’ve actually really been more focused on that sense of community on social platforms rather than trying to create our own, and pushing out our content there, and engaging with consumers in that sense. So, I think we’re trying to be where consumers are, versus necessarily building something big and trying to get them to come to us. I think we have the type of brand that can be relevant in all sorts of ways in peoples lives every day, and so following their lead and where they are, and that can be everything, again, from social platforms to native content that we’re developing, et cetera. But I’d say that’s kind of how we’ve approached community versus necessarily building it ourselves.

Stephanie:

That makes sense. So, I want to think a little bit higher level around just the ecommerce playing field in general, what kind of disruptions do you see coming to ecommerce?

Josh:

I think the demand of convenience will just continue to set the bar higher and higher for brands, and put more and more challenges on brands, and probably more retailers than brands themselves, but ultimately then it starts to come back to the brands themselves, or the suppliers in that in terms of how we supply product, where the inventory’s being held, all those types of questions. So, I think we’ll continue to see that push on convenience, and I think those are going to be the folks that win. I think Target’s a perfect example right now of how they approached it, but I think it’ll only continue to expand.

Josh:

I think … it’s hard to say it’s a major disruption, but I think just this change is going to force a lot of organizations to look at themselves a little bit differently. There’s all these organizations that have been built on brick and mortar businesses, and how does that … it’s going to continue to evolve, ecomm is not going away, I think to that earlier point of what becomes a part of peoples shopping habits is there, so how do you adapt internally as an organization to continue to put out product and content at the speed of which consumers are demanding it in that space? And then there’s, I think, as more and more shopping shifts online, how does buy online/pick up in store disrupt what we’re doing? How does a lack of impulse purchase disrupt what we’re doing from a company? So, I think it’s just going to be an evolution of how we go to market.

Josh:

I guess the other interesting thing that I’ve been thinking about recently is just the power of brands in this space, and again, the shift to ecomm, it’s always been coming, maybe it’s been accelerated, but it’s coming more, but can bigger brands … there’s been a resurgence in bigger brands in this space, and is there a renewed emphasis on brand building as everyone starts to move online, will the big brands win? Will they win the search? Will they win the share of space, sort of the infinite shelf space? They’re winning in the pandemic, can that continue?

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s a good point. I think that bigger brands seems like they would, of course, have a leg up, because the people who are coming online who maybe weren’t always there before, they’re already top of mind, or that’s already someone that they trust, but it does seem like there’s also a lot of room to kind of gather that new trust, or get that brand awareness out there in a way that wasn’t done before.

Josh:

Yep. And I also just wonder if the standards are going to change for what that experience is going to be that you expect from a big brand. Sometimes digitally native brands can be more nimble, deliver more personalized experiences, so what are those … is it a more experiential experience that you’re looking for, whether that’s in store or in the digital space, how do the expectations change from a go-to-market perspective? And I think that’ll continue to evolve.

Stephanie:

Yeah, with so many of these new brands popping up now, I mean, it sounds like … I mean, there’s a lot of new great companies that are popping up, but it also seems very noisy, and that could also maybe hurt the consumer experience if they have a couple bad purchasing experiences with smaller brands. So, how do you guys stay focused, and not kind of get caught up in all the noise, and have like your true north of like, “This is where I’m headed, and this is what we need to do.”, without getting caught up in maybe the trends, or the quick things that are going on right now?

Josh:

Yeah, I mean, for us I think it always has to be true … our true north ultimately is the mission, and that funnels down into everything that we do. So, what kind of experiences do we want to give to people online, it’s going to be in service of that mission. When we think of giving personalized experiences, it’s how do we make that a better experience for you, but again, always in service to the mission. The creativity that, or the messaging, or the crafts that I offer up to someone who’s coming in that’s an adult with no kids versus a parent with a three-year-old, those should be different experiences. So, I think for us … but it always comes back to inspiring creativity in the best and most relevant way possible. So, I think if you’ve got solid ground in that regard you can kind of cut through the noise and say, “Hey, these things are extraneous, but these things are in service of a better experience that brings our mission to the forefront.

Stephanie:

Yep, I love it. All right, so I want to shift over to the lightning round brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I’m going to ask a question, and you have a minute or less to answer, Josh.

Josh:

Okay, let’s see how I do.

Stephanie:

Dun-dun-dun. What new ecommerce tool are you trying out and having success with right now?

Josh:

Interesting. I think one of the tools that … I don’t know if it’s a tool. I do think shoppable social is an area that we have been focused on, as I mentioned. So, I think we’ve seen in our little test and learns some success in that space as we try to merge content and commerce, and we’ll probably continue to expand on that.

Stephanie:

Cool. What is a favorite piece of tech or an app that makes you more efficient?

Josh:

That makes me more efficient?

Stephanie:

Or that you just love.

Josh:

I was going to say, I went to what app do I love right now-

Stephanie:

Yeah, there you go, what app are you loving right now?

Josh:

So, I would say it makes me more efficient … you know what? I wasn’t a fan of Teams in the beginning, but I have actually found that Microsoft Teams has really helped from a connectivity perspective during this time, and it really has become a very frequently used tool. The app that I’m loving right now is a tiny little app called Readwise, which I think is super fun, and Readwise basically, if you ever read on the Kindle and take notes, or if you’re reading books in general, you will actually take the highlights and things that you’ve taken out of those notes, or if you’ve read a physical book it’ll just take the most highlighted sections by other people of those books, and serve them up to you in whatever increments you want every day. So, if you wanted five highlights a day, seven, and it just helps to build and reinforce those memory structures of the things that you’re reading at there, and that can be whether that’s articles, or whether that’s books, I think it’s a neat app that I’ve grown to love over the last few months.

Stephanie:

That’s cool, I’ll have to check that one out. So, what are you reading these days?

Josh:

Man, a lot of books during the pandemic, some of the most recent ones were a couple of Brené Brown books, which is sort of all about workplace culture, been reading a bunch of the Tim Ferriss books that are out there, The Lean Startup, is a recent one that I read. So, I don’t know, I can probably keep going on a bunch of other ones, but there’s … for whatever reason I’ve been reading a lot more recently.

Stephanie:

That’s great. What’s up next on your shopping list, or … Actually, no, I have a different question, what is a favorite new product that Crayola just released? What is your favorite newer product that maybe a lot of people don’t know about yet?

Josh:

Oh, my favorite product that a lot of people don’t know about yet. So, I mentioned Scribble Scrubbie Pets-

Stephanie:

Yep.

Josh:

… I think that would be one of my favorite ones out there, and the other one is a line that we launched last year called Take Note! I mentioned that, that was sort of writing tools for teens and tweens, so it’s got erasable highlighters, incredibly vibrant dry erase markers, gel pens, the whole works, and I really have grown to love that line of products and have many, many of them sitting on my desk in front of me and in my office here.

Stephanie:

Very cool. Well, Josh, thanks so much for joining us on the show. Where can people find out more about you and Crayola?

Josh:

So, certainly finding out about Crayola you can go to crayola.com. For me, I can’t say that I’m a huge Twitter or LinkedIn poster, but @JoshKroo, you could follow me there, and yeah, generally just look for Crayola wherever you’d be looking for creative inspiration.

Stephanie:

Cool. I love it, thanks so much.

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