“Let go” of what?
Lego, not “let go”. It’s Danish for ‘play well’.
Oh you’re talking about those little plastic bricks? I had the pirates when I was a kid. Yarrrrr!
Well me hearty, ever since you allegedly ‘grew up’ the creative geniuses at Lego have been turning out more and more great bricksets for kids who are captivated by construction. There are ninjas, Egyptian mummies and medieval knights now, plus a whole host of film and television tie-ins.
Sounds like great fun, but is toy-making really a branch of content marketing?
No it’s probably not, not yet at least. The brand has just launched its mobile ‘shop’ though, which doubles as a content platform with games, product info and a forum where fans can share their love of the brand. When you look beyond mobile Lego’s content offer only gets bigger. There’s everything from downloadable resources for students and teachers, to an interactive online magazine and comic book, to a web TV channel with more than 400 episodes.
400 episodes? That’s more than the Sopranos!
That’s right, and although Lego Club TV may not have such taut dialogue, tightly plotted narrative arcs or character development, it does pack in loads of fun stuff for young brick-builders. Viewers can meet the Lego master builders, find out more about new sets being launched and even have their own creations featured. There’s also an animated online TV series based solely on the Ninjago brickset.
Sounds like there’s plenty of inspirational content for any budding architect. Is all this extra effort having an effect?
Seemingly so, in February the brand announced its profits were up 38% on last year, thanks to continued good performance of big-selling products Ninjago and Star Wars, plus the unexpected success of a new range for girls called Lego Friends.
Why so unexpected?
The announcement of the Friends range was met with some consternation. Some groups (not unreasonably) accused Lego of reinforcing gender stereotypes with its new pink, baking and animal-themed sets. Despite this the demand for Friends was so great that Lego couldn’t make enough product, quickly selling out and having to turn some customers away.
So even when Lego appears to make a wrong move, everything turns out alright. You sure those bricks aren’t Teflon-coated?
It certainly seems like Lego is one of those brands with a deep and intuitive understanding of what its customers want – whether that comes to products, or content. And of course, having a strong direct link to their young audience through channels such as their Club magazines (different versions for boys and girls, incidentally) gives them plenty of opportunity to test out themes and ideas – and encourage lots of user-generated content (‘send us pictures of you with your latest creations, kids!’). That kind of engagement doesn’t come cheap – but the brand’s sustained investment in ‘always on’, multichannel content delivers powerful consumer insights and a highly engaged community. Which is part of the reason Lego is by far and away the biggest construction toy brand in the world. When it’s not being a full-on entertainment publisher, that is.
I’m not sure I follow.
While the brand started life as a toy-maker, Lego is branching out into video games and recently announced its first feature-length film. This is to say nothing of Legoland, the brand’s chain of six theme parks. The UK location in Windsor opened in 1996 and has become one of the most popular family attractions in the country, with more than two million people visiting last year and paying around £170 for a family ticket. The parks add a whole extra experiential dimension to Lego’s content offer – prompting the question, is Lego a toy brand that does content, or an entertainment brand with a sideline in little plastic bricks?
That’s some pretty deep thinking, are we still talking about toys?
Absolutely. What the Lego approach shows is that being ‘a brand that does content’ isn’t going to be sufficient for much longer. The Danish brand has leveraged the huge amount of nostalgia and love that people of all ages have for its core offering and used that to branch into new areas. And while creating a big-budget movie is going to be beyond the reach of most brands, a rigorous publishing mindset is not.