Marketer of the Year No. 8: Lego
In March, with countries falling like dominoes into lockdown, one toy company moved particularly swiftly. Realizing that millions of kids were suddenly homeschooling around the world, and that many of them were online, Lego stepped in to help parents desperate for home activities to do with their families.
Within two weeks Lego had created a new social media platform, “Let’s Build Together,” designed to inspire families to make new Lego creations and share them online. It included some specific challenges—asking people to build a Lego rainbow to support frontline workers, for example—but it also encouraged kids and adults to tap into their own creativity.
"We repurposed a lot of our marketing, after asking how can we help families and how can we inspire them?” says Lego's Global Chief Marketing Officer Julia Goldin. “We had a very clear objective—we weren't looking for a commercial outcome, but for a way for the brand to be relevant and support our audiences. It resonated, and people jumped on the social conversation.”
There is no doubt the pandemic has been good for Lego, with home-bound families driving double-digit sales growth. In the privately held Danish company's half-year results announced in September, consumer sales grew by 14% over 2019. Revenue for the period grew 7% from 2019 to 15.7 billion Danish kroner ($2.49 billion) and the brand’s global market share increased.
But Lego's success isn't merely due to circumstance. In addition to clever licensing deals and savvy moves in branded entertainment, in the past year Lego has successfully managed to communicate its brand purpose, which is to "inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow," via new marketing platform “Rebuild the World.”
First launched in the fall of 2019, the campaign aims to highlight Lego’s role in stimulating the creativity of children–not just in play, but in creative problem-solving skills. It kicked off with an epic TV spot in which a madcap chase involving dragons, flying cars, cops and toboggans is eventually revealed to be a Lego brick fantasy. According to Kantar research for Lego, the spot ranked 100% for breakthrough and long-term brand impact among U.S. audiences.
In 2020, Lego further evolved the idea of “Rebuild the World.” Its social media efforts during the pandemic led directly to the creation of a huge brick globe showcasing some of the kids’ lockdown creations sent in from around the world. Unveiled in October and currently on display in the “Lego House” at company headquarters in Billund, Denmark, the globe features creations based on ideas to improve the world, such as a “Dream Hospital Treehouse” and a sustainable farm.
In November, the brand debuted a Christmas spot continuing the theme of kids making the world a better place; perhaps serendipitously, it broke during U.S. election week. “There is a greater need in the world for brands that are sending out positive and optimistic messages,” says Remi Marcelli, senior VP and head of the brand’s in-house Lego Agency, which originally conceived "Rebuild the World" along with French agency BETC. “Given our brand purpose to inspire the builders of tomorrow, we decided to be as optimistic as possible.”
Lego has also played its part helping countries to handle coronavirus response by partnering with governments in the U.S., U.K. and Mexico on safety PSAs—including a film created with the U.K. government encouraging kids to “stay home and be a hero” over the Easter holidays.
Lego also continues to extend its reach in branded content. Its “Lego Masters” reality show, in which families compete on brick challenges, now airs in eight countries and has just been renewed by Fox for a second season in the U.S. More Lego movies are also planned; in April, the company signed a five-year deal with Universal to develop theatrical releases. And in November, it released the "Lego Star Wars Holiday Special" on Disney+.
According to Frederique Tutt, global industry analyst for toys at NPD Group, Lego also benefits from a “360-degree” approach to entertainment with consumer products. “They want to be where the kids are: If they play sports, they play video games, they go to entertainment parks, then Lego will be there.”
The brand continues to strike astute licensing deals; one of its best sellers last Christmas was a brick set based on the “Central Perk” coffee shop from “Friends.” According to Goldin, the set was conceived out of Lego’s crowdsourcing platform, Lego Ideas, where kids and adults alike can suggest ideas for the brand.
Brick-loving “kidults” are set to play a bigger part in Lego's marketing strategy. The brand already caters to them with its Lego Technic and Lego Architecture sets, and in the future, says Goldin, it intends to target them even more specifically via its owned, shared and earned channels. “We see our community as really wide,” she adds. “It’s not age-bound.”