For a recent client meeting, we had to prepare by presenting our favourite brand. In the shadow of Apple and Coke, few would have chosen Lego. I remember spending hours mixing the content of Lego boxes collected Christmas after Christmas to build my own creations, just like, today, some commissioned artists amaze my eyes in the isles of our department stores. Lego might be one of the longest ideas ever created. They come back from nowhere and I have noticed 3 key factors to their success.
Staying true to themselves – the father and son story. In a time of recession, most brands have shifted their messages towards their heritage, going back to their brand’s roots, product classics or local heritage. Lego will forgive you for not knowing they are a Danish brand, as long as you remember their rectangle bricks, and the countless edifices you have been crafting and building with your dad. That story has even been the focus of their recent ad.
Innovating and diversifying – They went beyond their category to build a strong, all round brand. Not many toy brands count a theme park, a fashion range (that I surprisingly spotted in Copenhagen airport) and a blockbuster film to their name. From a product perspective, they’ve also diversified through new product lines to reach girls with the successful launch of Lego Friends.
Staying relevant by celebrating popular culture – the partnerships with strong equities such as Star Wars to even create a collector piece, once retailing at $500 (and probably more on e-Bay), the hype around the launch of a Simpsons range or the celebration of Breaking Bad. They have followed a strategy of brand association, which could prove successful (Angry Bird with Rio and Star Wars edition) or disastrous (Cover Girl Hunger Games edition). Not only did they broaden their audience, from fathers and sons to nerds saving to buy their collectors, but they have also managed to respond to a growing competition in the bricks building market by keeping their name at the top of consumers’ mind. To the point that porn star Christy Mack chose Lego when challenging her audience for an interesting reward (mind you, I’m not interested). Or even Cern’s competition by hiding Legos in Google Street View. Speaking about nerds, what about some new ideas for your Halloween costumes?
Lego came from nowhere indeed but – having experienced with innovation – they managed to find the right balance between keeping their heritage and embracing the Now. And that’s just clever marketing. The challenge will be to remain focused and not overwhelmed by spreading around with no clear direction or brand vision. But we shouldn’t worry too much about that since they probably learnt from their past mistakes.