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Crayola picks new blue hue for its crayon box.

Even though this news from Crayola doesn’t seem like more than an ordinary product announcement, the company still managed to achieve broad media coverage in outlets including the New York Daily NewsFortune.com and USA Today.

What can we learn from the press release that this 100+ year-old company issued to announce a new shade of blue that it will be adding to its crayon box?

What Works:
  • Strong News Hook. The press release played up a strong and unique superlative in its headline: the world’s newest shade of blue. The new crayon has been inspired by the pigment YInMn Blue, discovered in 2009 by chemist Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University.
  • Tie it to an Event. The partnership with Oregon State University and pigment company Shepherd Color Co. gives the product launch more substance. And by introducing the crayon during an on-campus event and including video footage of the event in the press release, it gave more credibility to the launch and to its partners.
  • Drip Campaign. The press release is part of a “drip” campaign of news that started in March when Crayon announced the retirement of the yellow crayon Dandelion. Fans could follow Dandelion during a retirement tour around the country. In its most recent press release, Crayola invited fans to help name the new blue as part of a competition. The company will announce the top 5 names in July, and in September the crayon’s official name will be unveiled. In an effort that was clearly well coordinated with its marketing team, Crayola has managed to turn an ordinary product enhancement into an ongoing story that keeps fans engaged.
What Doesn’t Work:
  • Missing Context. While the press release does explain that this new color is the world’s newest shade of blue, the release failed to mention that the discovery is the newest blue in over 200 years. That’s a key piece of context that would have strengthened the superlative. Fortunately for Crayola, a handful of news outlets did their research and included that interesting fact.
  • Headline Could Have Been Better. Crayola used the following headline for its press release: Crayola to launch New Crayon Color Inspired by the Discovery of the YInMn Pigment, as the World Newest Shade of Blue. The headline is too long and the term “YInMn Pigment” is a foreign concept that requires some explaining. The Telegraph in the U.K. had a better headline that included the superlative and context that Crayola missed: First New Shade of Blue Discovered for 200 Years to be Turned into Crayola Crayon. Now we’re listening!
What We’ve Learned: Team Up and Create a Buzz!

Even though Crayola is a household name, the company still utilized some clever techniques to capitalize on what could have been just an ordinary new product addition.

Crayola’s press release made a big splash out of a simple new color announcement by building a strong narrative. The company didn’t just replace a yellow crayon with a blue one. They connected their crayon product launch to a newly discovered color, tied it to an event and launched a competition. Crayola also raised the credibility of its news by bringing in a respected third party, in this case a major university, giving more cachet to the announcement. The competition will likely create a buzz with the people that really matter for Crayola — kids and parents.

Check out Crayola’s press release and let me know in the comments section below why you think it was so effective and what lessons you will likely apply in your next press release.

Alex Armitage is co-founder and CEO of Publiqly, whose Workflows help small and mid-sized companies write press releases that journalists and bloggers can’t ignore. Were you forwarded this post? Sign up to receive our weekly press release lessons directly in your inbox.

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