Crayola Doesn’t Understand the Meaning of “Multicultural”

Nov 17, 2012
4:41 PM

Recently, Latino Rebels founder @julito77 ;wrote a very thought-provoking post called ;The Perils of “Latino” Marketing: Lessons Learned from the “Los IceHogs” Hockey Night. It wasn’t clear to some people why trying to appeal to the Hispanic community with a promotional poster of maracas, Corona, and Dora the Explorer can be problematic. So Julito explained why most Latinos don’t want to be represented by stereotypical imagery simply to attract attention and boost ticket sales.

He also mentioned that other sports teams, such as the New York Mets, have also hosted Latino-themed nights. But unlike the IceHogs, their focus was on celebrating a wide range of Hispanic countries’ heritage and history, rather than simply changing their uniform to include a pig with a sombrero.

Part of the reason why the IceHogs weren’t as successful as the Mets and their marketing strategy might have been due to a lack of revenue. More money means more ideas, and more ideas means less room for error.

But what happens when a company has all the means to achieve a successful marketing campaign yet still misses the target?

Simple. You get this:

That’s right, Crayola has a line of “multicultural” markers, crayons, and washable paint. ;

The product line description says the coloring tools “come in an assortment of skin hues that give a child a realistic palette for coloring their world.”

What hues? Black, sepia, peach, apricot, white, tan, mahogany and burnt sienna — all colors that already existed within the brand. When I tweeted about Crayola, this is what a representative told me on Twitter:


I guess children need to be told which specific colors are skin colors. After all, watching The Smurfs might have thrown them off.

The whole thing seems pretty silly to most Rebeldes, but Crayola affirms that the company “introduced Multicultural Crayons from feedback received by consumers and educators.”

“Finally Crayola has listened to our Latino chants and came up with some ‘ethnic sensitive’ markers our children can identify themselves with. What a joke,” wrote a Dominican rock band, Pericles, on their Facebook page.

Gia Fioravanti, a mother and Senior Account Manager at a global financial company in New Jersey said, “Well, thank God for this. What would my half tan/white and half light brown/Dominican daughter done at school without this realistic palette.”

While some criticize the idea of needing a separate box of crayons to identify skin hues, others say it’s nice to have different shades to represent people but question the use of Crayola’s “multicultural” tagline.

“I think it’s kind of weird that they call them multicultural since they’re not multicultural in any way, but it is nice to have a variety of ‘skin tones’ to color with,” said Chantilly Patiño, Managing Editor of New Latina and founder of Bicultural Mom and Multicultural Familia.


Adjective: Of, relating to, or constituting several cultural or ethnic groups within a society.

Crayola came out with the Color Your World “multicultural crayons” in 1992. It’s been 20 years now, you’d think someone on their staff would have pointed out the definition of multicultural by now. ;

We’re going to assume that the marketing team at Crayola doesn’t own a dictionary. ;

Saying Crayola’s box full of different-colored “skin tone” crayons makes your product multicultural would mean you’re defining culture as nothing more than skin tone, nothing more than color. ;

Do we really need to explain why that’s problematic?

I’d also like to think that kids these days are observant enough to realize that people come in different shades and can choose those colors out of a standard box without Crayola having to set them apart in their own package.

Ultimately, the company’s marketing strategy just reminds us that when it comes to selling products, all a corporation cares about is seeing their favorite color: Green.


American by birth, Mexican by blood, and curious by nature, Iris Estrada is a bilingual freelance writer looking to shine light on social injustices, celebrate notable triumphs, and help educate the misinformed. She grew up in a border town in Arizona then spent her teen years in the Dominican Republic. After graduating high school, she moved to Canada to pursue her post-secondary education. Iris recently left Halifax, Nova Scotia where she studied journalism and international development studies at the University of King’s College. You can follow her on Twitter at @Iris_Estrada.