Lego is sort of an ingenious toy, no? If you went to see the Lego Movie, you weren’t alone. It was a box office winner for 3 consecutive weeks. I saw it twice. My kids sing the infamous song “Everything is Awesome” constantly. It was huge, and I think that’s a fantastic thing. The fact that my kids are as enthralled by Lego as I was as a kid (and still am as an adult) means that the toy built for imagination will continue on for another generation.
A few years ago, that didn’t look so certain. Lego was deeply entrenched in licensing deals that were costing more than they were worth, and the cost of custom run bricks was killing any potential left over. The company, somewhat famously, was headed for ruin. The biggest reason: they had lost their brand.
When I was growing up, Lego had great sets. Space Police, M:Tron, Futron, Blacktron, and the other awesome space sets, as well as medieval and pirate sets left us room to imagine without the constraints of a preconceived world. My friends and I were free to design the stories as we saw fit because there were none written. It was all the Lego brand. Until, in the late 90s, they began to introduce licensed sets. Imagination was partially sacrificed for a name that would increase sales. For the next 10 or so years, most Lego branded sets got ignored in lieu of DC, Disney, and Lucas based sets. Children stopped making up the stories in exchange for the re-enactment of their favorite movies. The Lego brand faded into the background.
The Lego Movie changed that. And the proof is apparent in my own life. I took my children to Legoland a few weeks after seeing the movie, where I found many, many children adorned in Lego Movie branded clothing, clamoring for a chance to see the set from the movie or meet the main character, Emmett. My own children joined in the fun, and I knew that my childhood favorite toy – the one that most nurtured my creativity – would continue on another life.
The reason for the success is simple: branding. Lego has used the movie and it’s characters to create a brand all its own, get kids interested again, and still managed to subtly push the importance of imagination onto another generation. They are free with these characters from the licensing constraints of the Star Wars, Marvel, and DC franchises. They have a product that they can market for ages; one that children look for on the shelves. And they’ll find it amongst other Lego branded sets that are equally cool. Great branding, and a great image, has saved this beloved giant. Imagine what it can do for you…
I’m not the only one who sees Lego’s success. CEO of Y&R Advertising David Sable recounts his own story of how Lego’s success has impacted his life, and the lessons we can learn from the brick maker. Have a read and let the bricks click into place.