Monday, April 1, 2019

Turning Legacy Brands Into Digital Brands: A Conversation with Crayola’s Josh Kroo

Imagine: you’re an iconic brand that’s been a household name for decades–maybe even longer! You’ve got a loyal customer base that will continue to buy your products no matter what, right? WRONG! Remember what happened to Blockbuster? Kodak? Borders? They failed to innovate and embrace digital, and they lost out. So what are legacy brands to do? Stay true to their legacy and brand, or innovate and embrace digital technologies? Well, if you’re Crayola, you do both! I had the chance to talk with Crayola’s VP of Marketing Communications & Interactive Platform, Josh Kroo, about how the iconic toy brand is creating digital experiences (like their Create & Play App) that stay true to their roots. I love his mention of the brand’s True North–everything they do can be tied back to it, and I think that’s a lesson that companies of all sizes can learn something from!

Lumavate’s VP of Marketing, Stephanie Cox: What’s the biggest shift you’ve seen happen in digital marketing over the course of your career?

Crayola’s VP of Marketing Communications & Interactive Platform, Josh Kroo: I think the expectations of the consumer. There’s a desire to engage consumers in a way that they are extracting way more value. the way that we have to think about marketing is I can’t just do a TV ad that will reach the masses, I’ve got to surround them with content and things that they are engaged with. I don’t want to throw stuff at the wall anymore, I want to have things that connect with you on a 1:1 basis.

SC: So when you think about mobile strategy and Crayola. How do you bridge a historic brand that everyone has grown up with the digital world?

JK: If you look at parents that are born today, they’re pretty much digital natives at this point. I think kids expect that. So you do sort of have to balance out the questions that you get, like are kids spending too much time with technology? And the reality is, that’s happening. And the best thing that we could do with Crayola is to deliver positive, creative experiences in the digital space. The mission is always our True North; Crayola is never going to go out there and do any sort of mindless gaming. But what we want to do is help kids evolve in their creativity and learn through play. And that’s really where the brand’s sweet spot is going to be.

SC: I assume that you have as you market to both children and their parents at the same time. How do you balance those totally different audience?

JK: It is a difficult question. I think it’s obviously completely different messages. I think we can’t get away from doing both but it’s about how do you be smart about it. Pick what you’re going to communicate at one time.

SC: So thinking about your mobile efforts over all I know that you already have apps in the app stores and obviously a lot with responsive web. How do you think about effectiveness? How do you know what works and what doesn’t work?

JK: I think that really depends on what we’re trying to accomplish. Before launching an app, we look at our goal: is it subscriptions? Is it sales? If it is, there’s a very clear attribution model. But on the other hand, we have a massive ecosystem of products and brands. So I’m looking at everything from brand affinity to engagement metrics to video completes. There’s no perfect answer for broader based campaigns. At the end of the day, I do want to impact kids and drive sales for the company, and we’ve got an omnichannel perspective on sales so we have to focus on TV, digital, content, etc.

SC: How do you determine what technology you should use, and how you should think about what to deliver that’s going to be true to your brand, but also push it forward?

JK: On the product side one of things, we always try to make sure that we’re not leveraging technology because it’s cool or neat that, but because it’s in service of the end experience that we want the kids to have. We want it to be enduring fun. From a marketing side, it really is about understanding kids’ habits, and where they’re engaging. And then, it’s all about being open to testing and learning. I think you know what are the fun things about Crayola is that we’re not afraid to try and test to learn and fail and move on quickly or scale up when it happens. So we literally will set aside a chunk of our budget every year just to test and learn. But the idea is that when I came in we were in this mentality of “testing and testing”, but we were never actually scaling it, just continuing to test. So the shift that we’ve made is that we’re looking at those KPIs–whether their conversions or video views or clickthroughs–and then we’re actually scaling those up and continuing to invest.

SC: I love that you said “fail”, because I think that’s one of things that marketers sometimes forget about–that testing and learning and iterating is all about some wins, and some failures. How do you get people to embrace that concept?

JK: I think that’s just part of the expectation of the digital space. I think the idea is to always keep on searching and connecting with new ideas, new technologies, or platforms in service of the mission and the goal.

Mobile Conversations are excerpts from Lumavate’s Mobile Matters podcast. You can listen to their full conversation here, and find more episodes with other mobile experts here.