4 Things Your Brand Can Learn from Lego

by | Oct 15, 2018

LEG GODT IS TO PLAY WELL

In 1932 one of the world’s most valuable toy brands was founded in Billund, Denmark. When it was first formed, however, it was not a toy company—it started as a manufacturer of stepladders, ironing boards, stools, and wooden toys. Within two years, founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen adopted a new name—Lego. This was a combination of the Danish term “leg godt” which means “play well,” and thus Lego was born.

You have probably heard of Lego—those small plastic bricks that people build toy constructions from, or they leave around your house so that you can almost always find them when you are walking barefoot in the middle of the night. The Lego brand has a rich history that can provide great insight into what is capable with a brand and how your brand might not always go the way you want.

Here are four things that your brand can learn from Lego:

A Name Can Have Great Meaning

As mentioned already, in 1934 Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s company adopted a new name. The term Lego was a combination from “leg godt.” Leg godt, in the company’s native Danish, means “play well.” This term is a natural fit, as the company was moving towards solely providing wooden toys. It is not until later that Lego discovered that in Latin legomeans “I put together.” Lego is a simple word that, until its creation, had never existed before. Lego, as part of their story, shows that even when they were “creating” themselves they had to put themselves together.

In choosing and creating their own name, Lego was able to create a word that no one else could mistakenly use. However, Lego has had to try very hard to not allow their brand name to become a common noun—a problem that Google, Kleenex, and others have had to deal with. Lego is very protective of their name and is an example of how a brand needs to defend and protect itself.

Fans Can Become Avid Advocates

By embracing your fans, customers, and users, they become advocates and will defend your business the way you want. For Lego, there is different names for the fans of the brands. Adult fans are known as AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego), while if you’re a teen fan you’re a TFOL (Teen Fan of Lego). Neither of these should be confused with ALEs (XXX) or ALH (XXX). Lego has embraced the terminology and they know that they have a loyal fan base. As a result, Lego tries hard to reward their fans. By rewarding their fans Lego has turned their fans into advocates.

Previously I mentioned that Lego has worked tirelessly to defend their name. This includes proper usage of the word Lego. In attempting to curtail the common-noun issue, Lego has asked that not only their brand but also their product be referred to as Lego, never Legos. The simple addition of the “s” is practically an insult to many Lego advocates who will always point out this mistake. This defense of the Lego brand is due to the fans reciprocating the care they feel they have received from the company.

Know When to Cut Back

For many brands, a common problem is brand expansion, the belief that a brand must always “do more.” When brands expand it is often hard for them to cut back. In the early 2000s Lego had expanded itself, almost to the point of failure. They continually added new sets (a term for any new product grouping). These sets often required new molded pieces, a pricey expense for any company. They had expanded into amusement parks, in-house video game development, sets with parts that cost more than they sold for, and much more. In 2004 Jorgen Vig Knudstorp came in and changed the company.

Knudstorp knew that for the brand to survive it needed to scale back. The scaling back was a hard thing for the brand and its employees. This scaling back caused a lot of concern, and for many they thought it signaled the possible end for the toy maker. Knowing when to scale is an important growth tool for any brand, however knowing when to scale back can be the move that saves a brand.

Allowing Your Product to be More than It Is

The tiny plastic toy is to many simply another type of building block. To Lego, however, one of its bricks might be an abstract snake, a building, a car, or even a spaceship. Lego allows their customers to determine what the bricks are. This alternative way to look at their own product has allowed Lego to position their brand as a way to build with your imagination. When you directly associate your brand with a person’s imagination you will receive a different answer with every person who uses it. For some, Lego is their creative outlet; for others it’s their bridge back to their childhood. Others will tell you that it is their connection to their children, whereas still others use it as a way to voice political opinion. Lego allows people to make their own connections and typically embraces these unique interpretations.

Lego has a remarkable history for any brand. Their insights and ability to change direction has shown how they can turn from a business on the brink of collapse into $7.57 billion toy juggernaut—not bad for a brand that originally started with one employee!

Ideas To Make Your Brand Better Now:

  • Learn more about the Lego brand by watching the Lego story here: https://youtu.be/g1dxiHgx3PU
  • Determine a plan to embrace your fans and turn them into advocates

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