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Sunday, February 10 2013 21:31

Toy Fair 2013: CRAYOLA rolls out great new products... too bad Dads can't do arts and crafts with their children...

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Originally posted on February 10, 2013... interestingly enough, a year later (2/16/2014) and Crayola has a different company handling PR for Toy Fair 2014 (it's Edelman now) and it's all back to "Mom." Pretty safe to assume that Crayola is steering the ship on this and not the PR folks.

UPDATED: On 2/19/2013, a rep from Coyne PR on behalf of Crayola sent me a nice message that included the following:

"Your post was very poignant and makes some great points. Dads do play an important role in raising their kids and our products are the tools to help Moms and Dads, along with Grandparents, care givers, etc. foster creativity and inspire imagination in children. As we move forward, we will look at how we present our information to be sure we are inclusive of all individuals who care about kids and support raising creatively inspired children."

ORIGINAL POST: It's Sunday night, and as most folks are watching the GRAMMYS (my wife included), I'm sitting here skimming through hundreds of press releases and product sheets rolling into Rock Father HQ from the American International Toy Fair in New York City. While I wish I'd gone this year, getting the news via email and the wires is the next best thing, though I have to be a little picky about what I cover here on The Rock Father as time is something I could use more of. One thing striking me as I check out the media materials from a lot of toy makers is how archaic their views of playtime, parenting, and family structure still are. Yes, despite all the strides made in the last year about "gender neutrality" (a huge media push, too) and the change in family structure, the old stereotypes are back this weekend in New York, and the charge is being led by some disappointing offenders.

Sure, there's some throwaway PR issues like Wooky Entertainment's DESIGN MASTERS press release that not only might as well say that girls can't enjoy cars or draw (though the company does make girls products), but also links to the wrong Facebook page, but when I see a major company... an iconic brand... throw up the wall of exclusion, consider me unhappy.

I'm looking at you, CRAYOLA. 

In our kitchen here at Rock Father HQ is "The Craft Cabinet," two doors wide and three shelves tall, and literally overflowing (I've been hit in the face many times) with all the materials needed for fun making arts and crafts. The inside of that cabinet is littered with the familiar "Green and Gold" packages from CRAYOLA. I, like many of you, grew up with CRAYOLA, and now my daughters are having the experience as well. I've spent a decent amount of money on CRAYOLA products over the past few years (Crayons, Finger Paints, Markers, Pencils, Stamps, Sidewalk Chalk, Giant Coloring Pages - you name it), and they've also been a popular gift item (the Grandparents have stocked us up well). Now, as I sit down with my daughters to create each day, I'll have to wonder if they'd be saddened to know that in the eyes of CRAYOLA, Daddy doesn't exist.

dadfreecrayonsSure, the whole outrage about how brands handle dealing with Dads has kind of become a joke (I do know some Dad Bloggers that seem overly sensitive at times) but come on: Four Press Releases tonight, and Dad isn't present in any of them. You might as well just take it to the next level and break out the 'ol "bumbling Dad" in a commercial to sit there like an ape, scratching his head as to why he can't figure out how to open the flip-top on a 64-count box of crayons. As for the actual content of the press releases, the best part might be the awkward wording in this line: "My First Crayola art products let moms introduce her children to art activities at an early age to nurture development of important skills, including confidence and independence."

Why not just say "My First Crayola art products let parents introduce their children to art activities at an early age..." ??

Throw out this whole "Moms Vs. Dads" and "Dads Vs. Moms" thing and just say "PARENTS." Want to be even more inclusive, add "caregivers" to the mix as well so that everyone - Grandparents, Nannies, Teachers, Daycare Workers - you know, all the people that actually use CRAYOLA products with children, can feel included.

Now, I'm curious who exactly was leading the charge on this, as CRAYOLA is working with a (usually) really good PR firm (Coyne PR) on their Toy Fair announcements. Coyne PR is a company that does recognize Dads, and has reached out to The Rock Father in the past to work on some great campaigns. Once again, I'm looking at CRAYOLA on this one.

While we've already established that only Moms will use the My First Crayola products with their toddlers, Dads should also be aware that when it comes to Sidewalk Chalk, only "Moms will appreciate that the chalk is washable from sidewalks and driveways." Ya know, since Dad's never around to play with his kids in CRAYOLA land.

It's 2013. There's a ton of work-at-home (like me) and stay-at-home Dads out there. We're parents. We teach and play with our children. We're involved. We do arts and crafts in the afternoon.

Ranting aside, is it wrong that I'm still excited for the new CRAYOLA Sidewalk Chalk in "real Crayola Colors?"

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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