Warren Schorr Strategizes Outside the Lines

Crayola’s Warren Schorr guides the innovation behind the company’s calculated moves into wellness, cosmetics, and museums

Photo by Gene Smirnov

With the announcement of the Philadelphia-based Franklin Institute partnership, the most popular name in crayons continues to prove that its brand integrity exceeds far outside the lines. Crayola IDEAworks: The Creativity Exhibition—opening in February 2021—is the latest evolution for Crayola, whose current Crayola Experience children’s discovery centers have allowed young visitors immersive opportunities to explore their creativity. This partnership, which will travel to other museums and learning institutions across the country, takes open-ended creativity to another level, applying it to design, innovation, and invention.

RFID wristbands will accompany visitors on their journey through raining colors, bright lights, and design-centered innovation stations, helping shape an individualized creative profile for its wearer. Problem-solving opportunities are everywhere, and visitors are challenged first to identify the problem even before brainstorming solutions.

Warren Schorr Crayola
Warren Shorr, CrayolaPhoto by Gene Smirnov

The truth is that this singular experience could constitute the entirety of this article. But this partnership is just one of dozens, undertaken by Vice President of Business Development and Global Licensing Warren Schorr, who during his forty-minute interview with Profile, traversed the Crayola headquarters to send pictures of new licensed products (digging through boxes while somehow staying on the line), walked his interviewer through Google Image searches of Crayola’s masterful wade into new markets, and provided a compelling and visionary product strategy.

Strategy & Vision

The VP is quick to point out that his purview includes neither crayons nor markers, which from the outset may seem like working at Nike but steering clear of shoes. But this is precisely why Schorr has been so effective in his role. His job is to take a brand name known primarily for its connection to art supply boxes and school bells, and bridge the gap to consumers who continue to love and trust the reliable brand in any number of new markets.

“It is critical in licensing to be able to communicate a clear vision and strategy, but another piece of that is how one pivots and alters strategy based on external stimuli.” On March 16, 2020, Schorr called his president with a prediction that his strategy for the year would be changing imminently. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic would require an unprecedented pivot for Crayola.

The results from Schorr and his team would make People Magazine, the New York Times, and Good Housekeeping, just to name a few. Crayola quickly launched a barrage of health and wellness products, including branded hand sanitizer, face shields, desk partitions, and, of course, masks. A key partnership was launched with SchoolMaskPack.com to create a Crayola-branded, direct-to-consumer mask solution for parents and kids. The initiative and the products garnered a billion impressions.

“Everyone started looking at the innovation, technology, and consumer solution that was incorporated into the masks,” Schorr says. “Suddenly all of the retailers, who had already completed their buys for the Back to School season, were seeing the press and opened themselves back up to buys.”

Ultimately Crayola wound up back in brick-and-mortar retailers by going directly to the consumer. “I think that knowing when, and how fast, to pivot a strategy is critical,” Schorr adds.

“People think of Crayola as a young brand, primarily for kids, but our relationship is with parents of all ages.”

How Crayola Moved Into Adult Cosmetics

If you didn’t see it live, you should Google, “Crayola + Bloomingdales.” The resulting images include brilliantly colored dresses by renowned fashion designers and window displays of dresses crafted entirely out of Crayola crayons. The Bloomingdales partnership was the first serious fashion initiative and set up the brand’s excursion into consumer markets that only seem like left turns if you’re not Schorr.

The Bloomingdale’s campaign was a partnership with both the retailer and twelve fashion designers. The campaign was then followed by a Clinique partnership to relaunch their Chubby Stick at all of the cosmetic company’s retail counters around the world. “That campaign generated a billion impressions in the first month,” Schorr remembers. “Clinique wanted to relaunch their Chubby Stick, and we realized we could leverage not just our color equity but our relationship with moms. Most people think of Crayola as a young brand, primarily for kids, but our relationship is with parents of all ages.”

In fact, according to Smarty Pants’s 2020 Brand Love survey of 311 brands, three of the top five brands among parents are streaming providers. Of the remaining two, one is Hershey’s and the other is Crayola. “That’s because for 117 years we’ve helped parents and teachers raise creatively-alive kids,” he explains.

Warren Schorr Crayola
Photo by Gene Smirnov

The partnership with Clinique led to an almost two-year collaboration with Sally Hansen, which ultimately led Crayola to launch its own line of Crayola Beauty branded cosmetics in partnership with ASOS, Sephora in Europe, and, most recently, in their own e-commerce store on Amazon.

“We validated the brand in fashion, validated the brand in cosmetics, migrated from collaborations to our own brand, and most recently moved from traditional yellow and green Crayola branding into trend-right packaging that appeals to adults and just looks cool to anyone,” Schorr says of the brand’s ability to nimbly evolve.

So how does brand licensing compare to the large studio-based programs? “Studios focus first on entertainment and how you experience the media content. Secondly, they try to get a product on the retail floor, and, if possible, look to leverage that content in either a theme park or an attraction. The goal is to surround the consumer with the brand,” Schorr explains. “We do the same thing, but we start with our products as the centerpiece and now have evolved into branded experiences. You might say we are just doing it in reverse order.”

When asked to clarify where Crayola would go next, Schorr laughs. His response is the same question a child might encounter at the Crayola IDEAworks exhibition: “Where do you think we should go?”

Congratulations, Warren Schorr and Crayola, for your well-deserved recognition as a leader and innovator in children’s products and licensing. Dreamtivity is honored and privileged to be your longstanding licensing partner. We credit our successful relationship to your unwavering support. We look forward to bringing more great Crayola products to retail, delighting and inspiring kids of all ages for years to come.