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By The Drum, Editorial

March 7, 2024 | 5 min read

In this month’s edition of ‘Convene. Challenge. Change.’ – an editorial partnership between The Drum and the 4A’s – Crayola and its longtime agency partner Dentsu Creative discuss the 2020 release of their ‘Colors of the World’ product and the importance of a creative mindset.

In early 2020, the world was slipping into the grips of a deadly pandemic, causing the economy to tremble and already fraught political tensions in the United States and elsewhere to grow even more precarious. It was not what most of us would call an inspirational period of time.

But amid all the unrest and anxiety, Crayola and its partner agency, Dentsu Creative, recognized an opportunity to try – in a small way – to bridge the divides that were rapidly widening between us as individuals and as groups.

In May 2020, Crayola launched its ‘Colors of the World’ product, a box of 24 crayons with colors that were selected in collaboration with DEI and beauty industry experts to “reflect all global skin tones,” as described in a video on Dentsu’s website. Crayola and Dentsu were so pleased with the outpouring of praise that the new product initially received from customers that they quickly followed up with a social media campaign called ‘Draw Your #TrueSelfie,’ which encouraged young kids from around the world to draw themselves and their family members using Colors of the World crayons, thereby creating portraits that were more representative of their true skin tones than would have been possible with a traditional box of crayons. (Colors of the World built upon a 1992 Crayola product called Multicultural Crayons, which included eight crayons designed to reflect a range of skin tones.)

‘Draw Your #TrueSelfie’ won the Iridium Effie in the Global Best of the Best category and also landed 2.4bn media impressions, according to Dentsu’s website. “I would venture to say that it was one of the most successful, if not the most successful, campaign for the company ever,” Crayola chief marketing officer Victoria Lazano said during a recent conversation with 4A’s president Marla Kaplowitz and Dentsu Creative US chief executive officer Abbey Klaassen.

According to Klaassen, Dentsu Creative received the brief for the campaign in January 2020, not long before the United States and much of the world began to impose lockdown restrictions in an effort to constrain the spread of Covid-19. “It was literally in the throes of the early days of the pandemic,” she told Kaplowitz. “But that was also a year that was marked by unprecedented change, from a very divisive political landscape to a very impassioned social justice movement. And so we took all of that into consideration and we knew that [the Colors of the World] product would be this really important reminder of the power of inclusion, the power of being and feeling seen and that there’s more that unites us than divides us.”

One of the key drivers of success behind the partnership between Crayola and Dentsu Creative – which kicked off in 2004 – appears to be a shared philosophy about the nature and utility of creativity. In their conversation with Kaplowitz, both Lazano and Klaassen enthusiastically discuss the notion that creativity is not a trait that can only be possessed by some but rather a mindset that must be rigorously practiced. While neither goes into much detail when Kaplowitz asks for a hint of what we might expect from the two brands in the future, Lazano does describe this emphasis on the value of creativity and on the concept of creativity as a mindset, as “a sweet spot” that’s become a focal point of the brand’s marketing efforts.

“We’re actively working on this from a campaign perspective, and we have something cooked up for 2024 that we’re quite excited about,” Lazano says. “But it’s really a bigger, longer-term effort … our purpose is really to create amazing, emotive work that makes a difference in the world … It’s rare when you can do that. But when you can, oh my God, if we can get this right, [it will be] amazing.”

Watch the full conversation in the video above.

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Brand Strategy Dentsu Creative Convene. Challenge. Change.

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