Friday, 27 March 2009

Plastic Fantastic

Someone, somewhere, probably in Denmark, has worked out that there are 62 lego bricks for every person on the planet. Even given that I'd estimate that we have the share of an entire medium-sized country spilling out of plastic crates and strewn around the floor of the messiest room of our house, that's pretty impressive.

Lego is proving itself not only recession-proof but also successful despite the dwindling birthrate in the Western world. On the face of it, the brand should not be a roaring success. The core target group is declining, the products are damned expensive (ask any parent) and the indirect competition is immense and growing - just look at Nintendo, Wii and the rest.

In fact, Lego was in something of a parlous state financially, a mere five years ago. In the 1990s, they had leapt onto licensing and diversification with glee, going into clothing, retail and all the rest, but had lost hold of their core. What has rebuilt Lego and made it the success that it is was to hold onto the core and develop.

So, they have held onto their core product. The standard brick from the 1950s is not only recognisable to today's children - it can also still be used. So little Johnny can happily mix all Dad's 60s or 70s Lego up with Indiana Jones, Sponge Bob or Power Miners and it will work. The core user is still (mainly) boys 6-12 but this has been extended both upwards and downwards. And, in the upward direction, there are not only products directed at teenagers but there is the whole world of Afols (Adult Fans of Lego) who do everything from break records to make films - just look at YouTube. And, finally, the core value of Lego remains: creativity. Lego the word is derived from the Danish leg godt (play well).

The success of Lego is best exemplified in the new approach to what was licensing in the 1990s. With their joint ventures, Lego creates a new world or universe that takes on a life of its own and is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. This world is physical, virtual and the bits in-between. Perhaps the best current example is Lego Star Wars. There is a whole generation of young boys out there for whom the Lego Star Wars figures are more real and have more meaning than the original characters from the films.


Susan Fitzgerald said...

Hi Sue,

I finally realized that you might be the Sue Moss (?) I worked with (and admired) at Saatchi. I found your blog link on Steve Rothman's blog.

When I last saw you, you had just happily had a baby. But that was a while ago.

I have a grandson, 6, who is a Lego expert/addict, and is keeping the brand alive. My cousin, an architect, also designed a children's hospital in LA that looks like Legos. So you've hit a chord. They are alive and very WELL in the US.

What could be better than to be a Lego designer? That's Charlie's goal, for now, anyway. His siblings are not far behind. They do have some for girls, thank goodness.

Anyway if it's you, I hope you're well and having fun! And I bet you're having fun with Legos.


Susan Fitzgerald

Sue said...

Yes, indeedy! I am the Planner formerly known as Sue Moss - lovely to hear from you!

Junior is now 8 and a big Lego fan. I've been freelancing for about six years now and am currently doing a lot of work with IKEA - a company with a lot in common with Lego.

I will go and have a peek at your blog, too.

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