It seems recently no matter where you went you couldn't escape the LEGO movie hype. With the release of the LEGO movie, this iconic brand has catapulted its much loved blocks onto our screens across the world.
With a modest production budget ($60m) the LEGO movie was a massive box office success and achieved the marketers coveted "four-quadrant"™ smash (appealing to the over and under 25s alongside both male and female audiences.)
But the movies success didn't happen overnight, or through a sophisticated marketing programme. It was built on Lego's reputation.
The brand reputation of Lego has to be one of the best in the world. Generations of consumers have fond memories of these small plastic bricks, block shaped people and endless possibilities that came with them. Known for its ability to be repurposed into almost any creation Lego is arguable the greatest toy brand ever created.
However, let's not forget that this was not always the case.
Lego's troubled years
During the early to mid 2000's Lego struggled as a business. It was seen to have lost touch with its customer base and as a result sales were decreasing. It had diversified into fields beyond its core products that failed. Even its classic products were becoming more and more elaborate and out of touch with what Lego had always been about.
In the words of LEGO's executive vice-president for markets and products, Mads Nipper:
"With our arrogance, we thought being LEGO allowed us to do anything."
Lego had lost its way. In a rush to stay innovative it had forgotten what its success was based on. It lost touch with what it had originally stood for and didn't have a clear strategy to bring it back.
Lego forgot that a good reputation can easily be lost unless it is supported by momentum, strategy and insights.
Reconnecting with its core
Lego began to turn itself around by reconnecting with its key audience - children.
Lego launched a competition to see what consumers wanted from its brand. They were shocked to see just how many people wanted the classic Lego brand back.
So Lego re-focused its design process on its core principles and connecting its design process to strong consumer insights. In doing so Lego began to produce products that children wanted to play with again.
Lego returned to playing on its strengths - purchasing the licences to popular movies, TV shows, or characters, and making them into Lego.
Creating toys based in reality and fantasy re-connected Lego with children's imaginations. Letting them build, or act out, whatever they could imagine.
Lego's narrative then began to change. Up until recent years Lego was a child’s toy. But with popular childrens' franchises getting an adult reboot (eg Batman, Transformers) Lego began to do the same. They started saying "If grownups can like Star Wars or Batman just as much as children why not Lego? Lego is for everyone not just kids."
Want proof? Just hit YouTube. There are hundreds of Lego re-enactments of classic pop culture moments created by teens and adults alike.
Lego also updated its recognisable figures into a digital medium -the Lego games franchise. Through a clever use of movie licences alongside a strong sense of humour, Lego gave its physical bricks a strong, universal, digital counterpart.
This new digital persona has been continued throughout Legos recent online ventures and marketing. Most notably in the build up to the LEGO movie.
Lessons to learn
Taken overall, what can we all learn from Lego?
- By keeping its brand grounded it its iconic product and natural advantage, Lego restored trust in its products.
- Returning to using popular pop-cultural franchises enabled Lego to connect to new and old audiences.
- Embracing digital channels gave Lego widespread appeal.
The LEGO movie is the latest chapter of Legos growing reputation. Lego learnt the importance of reputation the hard way. But if it continues to listen and connect to those at the core of its success it will continue to enjoy a reputation based on trust, appeal and connections.