By George Farris
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Who’s the top toy maker in the world? Is it Xbox? Meta (aka Facebook) – makers of the Occulus Quest Virtual Reality headsets and games? It has to be a company that makes something electronic or high-tech – like drones. Right? Wrong.
The No. 1 toy company in terms of sales and profit sells a product that has no software, is not powered by battery, electricity, solar or any power source. Its product is not electronic. It doesn’t think, talk or reply to verbal commands. In fact, it still uses a design first patented in 1958.
Give up? It’s the humble LEGO. You know, the little plastic blocks, or “bricks” as fans call them. The name LEGO is an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg godt,” meaning “play well.”
CNBC, among others, recently reported that LEGO sales hit almost $8 billion last year. That report came with the announcement of a billion-dollar LEGO manufacturing plant being built in Virginia.
MARKETING STRATEGY EXECUTED
How could such a low-tech toy sell so much in this hyper-digital day and age? It didn’t happen by accident. There was – and is – a serious marketing strategy behind the growth of this amazing company.
When growth at LEGO became stagnant in the ’80s, for the first time since the products began being manufactured in its form in 1958, bankruptcy looked like a possibility. Instead of throwing in the towel, the family-owned company got innovative. It realized that making simple, quality products wasn’t enough.
It found that many of its target customers were excited about the “Star Wars” movies. The sci-fi franchise had many toy spinoffs. So why not LEGO?
LEGO licensed the “Star Wars” figures and created sets around them. The LEGO explosion resumed and multiplied. Since then, many new sets have been developed and many are licensed movie themes. Staying current is key.
According to BrandMind.com, each year, the company portfolio grows by 60% with fresh new products, the latest of which blends augmented reality with building.
LEGO recognized it could be the bridge that connects kids and adults to other interests. LEGO management says, “Investing in fluid play – the intersection between digital and physical play – will continue to be a priority.”
Other keys to LEGO’s success are:
Customer feedback: Locations in many parks and entertainment venues around the world (including Disney parks), allow LEGO to gauge interest in its various products and licensed figures. It watches and listens and adapts to changing interests, whether they be superheroes or recognizable themes like City Life.
Customer education: LEGO constantly suggests new ways to use its products through demo videos, social media and events.
In-person engagement: This is another critical component of LEGO’s marketing strategy. It holds events all year, all over the world, providing the opportunity for fans to gather and have fun and to expand possible uses.
Social media influencers help LEGO introduce new products and boost existing ones.
AFOLs or Adult Fans of Legos: This quasi-official group that LEGO created in 1995 to encourage use of LEGOs by more than just kids. Creating sets for adults with themes like architecture and Titanic and more kept interest going while the company helped to build and connect the group online and develop a true community.
YOUR LEGO LESSON
Can you use some of these strategies to build or expand your brand? They may not all apply but brick-by-brick, you might be able to build something great.
George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing.