Friday, 28 May 2010

LEGO is truly obsessed with its customers, why I love it and where it can go.

“Build it and they will come” goes the famous mantra. The Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp once said in a Monocle Magazine interview that Lego is “entirely driven by those who love the brand”. I think he may be on to something…

Lego take a very open-source attitude towards their product to be as inclusive as possible for consumers; for example you can design your own models online and Lego will ship all the components to you and display it in stores for other people to buy. Individual bricks are sold in larger outlets to customise your building experience, making the possibilities of construction truly endless (people have erected record-breaking towers, working cars and even full-size houses out of these ingenious little bricks). This is a far cry from where the brand stood in the late 1990’s, with the company losing revenue and sales in steady decline. By selling off assets, downsizing and focusing on the core values of the brand (interactivity being one) Lego became true to itself which the public were attracted to. The brand now boasts record profits and sales with a fan base ‘cult of Lego’ that is unparalleled.

Because of the engaging nature of the product, people expect to be apart of the brand, and actively seek it out in categories that Lego does not currently occupy (people have made jewellery, electrical goods and artwork from Lego among the plethora of other things). The popularity of Lego has influenced how brands outside the product category perceive themselves such as the bank Santander (who have used Lego bricks as a metaphor for ‘engagement’ throughout their latest advertising campaign). Lego has entered the mainstream consciousness and continues to cultivate its relationship with consumers. For example the YouTube film ‘8-bit Trip’ (in which Lego is used for stop-motion animation) has become an online smash hit and fans continue to resonate with the brand because of UGC like this.

I love Lego not only because I played with it as a child, but because the brand has not run away from what it is about and retained its family-owned heritage by remaining in the small town of Billund in Denmark where the product was conceived over 75 years ago. The word ‘Lego’ is an amalgamation of the Danish words ‘leg’ and ‘godt’, which roughly translate as ‘play well’, and in keeping of this ethos the brand have given us a toy that not only exercises our ability to create, but our imaginations as well. I think that the brand can only go from strength-to-strength in the future (the fact that the recession didn’t even dent sales is testament to this). By inviting consumers into the heart of the brand, a deep relationship is forged that is difficult to break (a mere 2 million households in the US make up 50% of Lego’s sales globally). In future I can envision Lego becoming a more premium brand with select product launches and an educational tool for children (even a form of creative therapy for troubled individuals). The brand could become an art form in it’s own right and train children about construction techniques and how to express oneself with art (like a kind of ‘Lego philosophy‘).

Lego design competitions could be held to encourage people to see the product as more than a mere toy (there are communities in Japan who actively do this already, building highly advanced and detailed Lego robots). It’s a brand that has as much potential as your imagination permits you. Be true to yourself as Lego have and you can build your own empire, brick by brick.

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