Service of Brand Loyalty

April 7th, 2011

Categories: Big, Brand Loyalty, Business Decisions, Customer Care, Failure, Marketing, Mistakes

loyalty

I don’t usually identify brands when I have something negative to write, but since Ann Zimmerman let the crayon out of the box in a front page story in The Wall Street Journal, I decided to comment about the reaction she described to a product introduction, Crayola Washable Colored Bubbles.

The title and subtitle of her article summarize parents’ experience with the $10/bottle February launch: “Crayola’s Colorful Soapy Bubbles Leave Indelible Memories…When They Burst, as They Always Do, Cleaning Up Can Be Challenging.”

bubbleZimmerman reports “The problem: when the bubbles pop [or the solutions splash], they leave a neon-bright-and, parents complain, often permanent-mess. Despite the large type on the front of the bottles that says ‘Washable.'” Zimmerman continues that along with staining skin, according to “product review sites such as Amazon.com and Twitter, it is best to keep the floating bubbles away from walls, carpets, driveways, decks, grout-and just about everything else.”

The bottle features an unusual thing for bubbles: A long warning. While Zimmerman notes that most have none, Crayola’s alerts parents to first test surfaces for staining.

chemistIt took years for the brand to introduce its version of colored bubbles. Meanwhile, Tim Kehoe collaborated with a chemist to invent Zubbles in 2005, which received Popular Science‘s Grand Award for General Innovation. Kehoe ran out of money to mass market his bubbles and sold Zubbles, Zimmerman reported, which she noted nevertheless gets “glowing” praise in Amazon comments. It is available online and in select toy stores.

A few weeks ago a darling 2 ½ year old child’s visit to the office reminded me of just how deep-rooted the Crayola brand continues to be. She is the grandchild of an office colleague. Her sandwich was in a plastic container the shape of a standard white or whole-wheat bread slice, decorated with the Crayola logo. Her granddad joked about storing crayons in her sandwich box and she howled with laughter and noted, between guffaws, that “you shouldn’t eat crayons!”

I am disappointed with Crayola. This new product is designed for children to play with; it’s not hair dye or textile finishing spray that usually comes with warnings to test first! How come a giant corporation couldn’t concoct what a few entrepreneurs did?

Can you imagine how you’d feel if you gave a child a gift of these bubbles and they ruined the walls or floors of a friend or relative’s home? Do you think management thought through the ramifications of releasing such an imperfect product? And as a consumer, if you can’t trust a brand like Crayola, what can you trust?

trust

6 Responses to “Service of Brand Loyalty”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    The idea is to trust nothing until it works as promised. That goes for Crayola or any other brand. Why one would have such confidence in the crayon maker escapes me, and I seek enlightenment. The fact that it’s been around forever is not a reason.

    Now what responsible parent would permit bubble blowing in the house? The place for this activity is outdoors – no exceptions – and certainly NOT in a friends home! Regardless of claims on the package, there is no such thing as a dry bubble, and dampness is not kind to furniture or walls.

    I’m the wrong person for this blog, since, while I have favorites, I am unreliable. If a competitor comes up with something interesting, I’ll try it. Experiments are fun, but should not be conducted under someone elses roof!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Let’s see if I might answer your questions.

    I would be wrong in this case that’s for sure, but if I saw two brands of color bubbles on a shelf, one from a known brand with a good reputation and the other unknown, I would opt for the known.

    I could see playing with the bubbles indoors in a bathtub and according to the experience of some parents, the bubbles could stain the grout [or a shower curtain].

    Outdoors, it could possibly stain a sidewalk, deck, driveway, picnic table though nobody mentioned the exterior of a house–thank goodness.

    It would ruin a friend’s home if you gave the bubbles as a gift–and $10 for a bottle of bubbles falls in the gift category I would think–if the child is your friend’s little girl or boy.

    And while I love bubbles–always have–I doubt I’d buy a bottle for myself before giving it. I’d obviously be wrong again!

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    I blew bubbles as a child and some friends were “experts” who could make multiple figures out of same. We did not do that indoors, and would have probably been chased back out onto the street by a vigilant parent.

    A parent is usually conscious of what products have the potential to damage an interior, and is not likely to come up with such gifts for other children. My favorite gifts are plush animals and books (depending on age). If the recipient wants to exchange, and gets something which subsequently ruins the furniture, I’m off the hook, with brownie points for thoughtfulness intact.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Good point. I wouldn’t give a kitten or a puppy and only if I was going with a child on a picnic or the beach, a bottle of bubbles! Now that I’m bubble-educated, I’d make sure the bottle was empty before returning to the car! [Bubbles never cost $10 before and therefore didn’t come into my line of vision as a gift-treat-surprise.]

  5. Simon Carr Said:

    I tend to be someone who sticks with something that works.

    Somebody in some business school decided that, as a company, you will shrivel up and die if you don’t put new products on the market. As a consequence, we now have large quantities of junk on store shelves making it more difficult to find what does work.

    That company’s crayons were always good. Why couldn’t they have stuck to making them instead of something stupid. Alka Seltzer always worked for me. I think the company still makes it, but I have a heck of a time finding it on a drugstore shelf, because it usually seems to be lost behind all the weird derivatives of Alka Seltzer its manufacturer insists on making to compete with its own product. Scotch tape is a wonderful product, and I have used it ever since I can remember. There used to be one Scotch tape, but now there must be 50 varieties of same, and half the time I get and have to use the wrong kind. Is it fair of its manufacturer to expect me to clutter up my mind with details like what the differences between them are?

    I suspect if companies made fewer varieties of products, it would take less people and money for them to make them and that, as a consequence, they would cost me less to buy them.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Simon,

    Funny, I often enjoy spinoffs of products, double faced tape, for example, though by doubling standard tape, you achieve the same result. And there was a great packing tape I can no longer find that you could tear with your fingers. Some tape is shiny, other tends to blend in. Choice doesn’t bother me, especially if there is a useful reason for it. For example, the pre-cut tape baffles me.

    You have to check what you are buying–even bread. I’ve bought what I thought was plain peasant bread when if I’d checked, I’d have seen that it was laced with rosemary or some kind of herb I had neither expected nor wanted.

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