Color is the New Black
Over the last year or so, I’ve continually heard how adult coloring books are supposed to be a wonderful remedy for stress. Much like knitting, it’s a repetitive task designed to soothe. For me? I think it’s more that I simply never outgrew my love of coloring.
When my then-six year old niece would bring out her larger-than-life Little Mermaid coloring pads at Christmas time, I was just as giddy as she to decorate ball gowns and color in Ariel’s trademark red locks. I felt like a kid again – and being with a kid made me feel like less of a nerd for wanting to go to the local Toys”R”Us and buy a Disney Princesses coloring book for myself.
Johanna Basford heard me. Or maybe she just thinks like I do, as she developed the Secret Garden adult coloring book – and officially kicked off a new craze. I happily purchased a copy, along with some fresh new colored pencils for the first time since I was in grammar school.
It was fun at first. I can’t attest to whether or not it did anything to alleviate stress, but that was never the purpose for me. It was something enjoyable to do in those rare quiet moments of adulthood that didn’t require much brain power. But, really, how many mandalas can one girl color?
Enter licensing. And enter a world of colorful possibilities.
While the adult coloring book craze is not new, licensing is clearly taking things to the next level. Just walk into Barnes & Noble and it hits you from literally every angle. Amongst the flowers and butterflies, there is a significant uptick in all things licensed – various editions of Harry Potter are being joined by Doctor Who, Cath Kidston, Trolls, TMNT, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Disney Villains, and so very many more. If you’re looking for something a little different, try Urban Outfitters for the Vogue edition or take a trip back to the 90s with Nickelodeon’s The Splat. FYI, you can pick up your Andy Warhol “Campbell Soup” crayons while you’re there.
Speaking of crayons, adult coloring books have also meant business for the “color” portion of the equation. Crayola, for one, recently created Color Escapes, which produces “premium coloring kits specially designed for adults.” For adult coloring books, it’s such special designs that are one of the main distinguishing characteristics as compared to children’s titles. Generally a better quality paper is used, artwork is usually substantially more detailed, and images are often only printed on one side of each page — both to avoid bleed through and to keep you from having to decide which design to share on Instagram (seriously). Also, some of the adult licensed titles feel a bit more “ironic” — how many Game of Thrones adult coloring pages, for instance, are actually going to be colored in by fans? But that won’t stop them from making their way into GOT-themed stockings at Christmas.
Maybe for some of us, coloring has just as much to do with entertainment as it does with assuaging the strain of adulthood. And there is something about coloring the characters we grew up with or the movies and shows we love that ups both the fun factor and the sense of comfort.
Coloring doesn’t stop on the page, though. There are also a plethora of adult coloring apps for your mobile devices, hotels are now offering guests adult coloring books to help ease travel tension, they’re appearing on best seller lists and kitschy coloring book clubs are popping up in urban areas. All of this adds up to a whole lot of potential for additional brand extension/exposure in the coloring book space.
And the next big thing? Look no further than Lisa Frank, and the social media frenzy that has been stirring this summer – everywhere from Buzzfeed to Fortune is talking about her forthcoming line of coloring books. Personally, I can’t think of a Millennial who owned a Lisa Frank notebook or Trapper Keeper in grade school that wouldn’t want one of those books to call her own.
So, whether for stress relief or just some mindless fun, I’m keeping my Crayolas sharp and my eyes open for new pages to bring to life. And, like a kid picking out juice boxes at the supermarket, I’m going to be drawn to the coloring book with the familiar licensed character. If the retail displays are any indication, on this I am not alone.
Christina Jordan is LIMA’s Senior Director of Marketing and currently in search of the holy grail of coloring books that can alleviate new mother stress. If anyone knows where to find this, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.