Taking A Page From The LEGO Playbook

May 9, 2018

In 2003, LEGO was on the brink of collapse. Sales were down. The company diversified its offerings, thinking that would help. It didn’t. It was in trouble. But under the direction of new leadership, it has re-emerged as one of the world’s leading brands. How did it do this? By remembering who it was. As marketers, what can we learn from a company that nearly folded? Quite a lot.
LEGO Honed-In On Its Core Mission, Living and Breathing It Every Day
The experience kids have with LEGO building blocks is profound. LEGO decided to stay focused on that. “By building with LEGO, a kid, a child, anyone who touches it has a world of possibilities. And we know that when kids build, it builds so much of their skills. Imagination, creativity, problem-solving. We are very clear about this mission, and when we innovate, we start with that core experience,” says LEGO CMO Julia Goldin.

It Spent Time Getting To Know Its Audience
Kids are fickle. Their tastes change. Frequently. But if you know a kid, you know they love telling people what they think. LEGO doesn’t take that challenge lying down. It builds everything around them. And it brings its audience into the development process. Lego conducted the largest ethnographic study of children in the world, according to a recent article on the brand. It traveled around the globe to speak to kids, watching them play and interact with one another. The company invited kids into its development office every week and asked them about the product. It listened.

It Invited New Audiences In
In 2011, LEGO’s customer base was 90 percent boys, even though the toys itself were gender neutral. LEGO set out to change that. In doing so, the brand created LEGO Friends. At first, it took a lot of flak because the Friends line showed girls shopping, at the beach, etc. But after getting feedback, it took steps to ensure that the girl LEGO figurines were shown in the same light as the boys — as astronauts, doctors, race-car drivers, and more.

It Designs For The Children Of Today But Values The Fans Of Yesterday
While the brand designs for today’s child, it still rewards loyalty. Known as AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO), LEGO understands these individuals are some of LEGO’s most loyal consumers. Not only does it celebrate them, LEGO seeks out those who create the best content and turns them into certified creators for the brand.

Instead Of Fighting Trends, It Embraces Them
What does a brand do when it sells building blocks but kids are turning to digital for entertainment? As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Using the core mission as a guide, the company determined digital screens would work if it could create content that focused on the product and encouraged children to play. The LEGO movie and subsequent features proves the theory works.

It Knows What It’s Good At and Focuses On It. For The Other Stuff, It Brings In Smart People
Simon Cotterrell, from brand analytics firm Interbrand, was quoted in The Guardian saying, “What’s made [LEGO] successful over the past 10 years is its ability to create new entities, movies, TV shows, by partnering with brilliant people. The leaders have said: ‘We might not make as much money if we outsource it, but the product will be better.’ That mentality is very Danish. It comes from saying: ‘We’re engineers. We know what we’re good at. Let’s stick to our knitting.’ That’s a very brave thing to do and it’s where a lot of companies go wrong. They don’t understand that sometimes it’s better to let go than to hang on.”

The LEGO Experience Permeates Its Culture
LEGO believes in the power of play. It understand that play shapes and expands minds, reduces stress and boosts creativity. That belief runs through company culture. There are no employee rulebooks or manuals because it doesn’t want to stifle innovation. It has studio and play spaces versus a traditional office space. And last August it started a new tradition – Play Day. Employees from around the world are invited to leave their desks to — you guessed it — play.