A Lego Love-In

What Makes Lego ‘the Most Powerful Brand in the World?

OK, these top 10’s are always very subjective and far from definitive, but it can certainly be said that Lego has got some serious clout. How has it achieved this?

I can’t think of a brand that has deviated from the advertising playbook as masterfully as Lego these past few years.

It is ubiquitous to begin with. I do love this stat: Lego produces 306 million tyres every year, making it the world’s largest tyre manufacturer!

Everyone loves Lego. Well, everyone except my younger brother, who once got a blue flashing light from the battery-operated police cars stuck up his nose. This was somewhat embarrassing for him, although everyone did scatter out of the way whenever he flared his nostrils at the back of the queue for the ice cream van.

Lego are razor sharp at spotting unique advertising opportunities. As Ryan Carroll states in his guest column in the Drum: “I can’t think of a brand that has deviated from the advertising playbook as masterfully as Lego these past few years.”

It is praise well merited. Many will recall this entire ad break that was taken over by Lego, with Vinnie Jones and Lenny Henry made into Lego mini figurines.

Lego make astute PR decisions. The company prides itself on its green credentials, so when Greenpeace ran a campaign calling for an end to Lego’s long association with Shell it had to listen, and made the call to end a partnership with one of the largest oil companies on the planet. This must have been a tough call. Lego were placed in an invidious position, and said as much. The association went back to the 60’s, and I remember the Shell logo on my early Lego sets, but the negative PR was such that they made a quick decision, a decision that ultimately only boosted their global standing.

It was also in evidence as recently as Sunday, when you could say Lego ended up owning the Oscars. The producers of the Lego Movie were snubbed and uninvited to the ceremony, as the movie somehow failed to get nominated for best animation. But the song “Everything Is Awesome” from the movie was nominated, allowing Lego to choreograph-gate-crash the party with this awesome piece of content:

At one stage #LegoOscar was the number one trending hashtag in the US. The social media equivalent of the ‘Ellen DeGeneres Selfie’ from last year is a photo of Meryl Streep, Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood holding Lego Oscars at an after show party. Genius. Only 11% of the tweetage was actually about the movies.

How many brands could have a successful movie that grosses just under half a billion? And, not wanting to rest on their laurels, they employ some very good agencies to help prolong engagement through quality gamification. There are two sequels already in the pipeline.

Lego allows for great breadth in creative diversity. You can get amazingly imaginative and bizarre stuff like this diorama for a Lego contest, or it can go into the realms of sculpture and art, as seen in exhibitions by the artist Nathan Sawaya, who was actually the guy whose Lego Oscar partly inspired the Oscars ‘hijack’. Lego is even put to innovative use in education and science. I once made a Lego cable car with the aid of two lines of parallel cotton thread that ran from the curtain rail to our VHS recorder. An amazing innovation on my part, which was abruptly derailed by my sister being hit full in the face by the speeding cable car when she went to put on Rainbow.

They also invite worthwhile input from its followers. I’m not sure another brand has such a direct, creative influence from the public on its final product. To be fair, it is a bit easier with toys. If Mercedes did the same with cars, it would probably end up like when Homer designed ‘The Homer’ Car in The Simpsons.

The tie-ins with exceptionally popular movies and TV shows are a masterstroke: Star Wars, Harry Potter and, more recently, Doctor Who. This allows for a constantly renewable product, always fresh, always with an instant, huge audience.

In the UK, Legoland, Windsor is approaching its 20th year, which is indicative of the brand’s longevity. Is there another brand and product that has such a vast spectrum of use and form? Maybe not. I think this is the key to its power. This, and its unique mix of cross-generation nostalgia and innovation. I’ve just realised I’ve nostalgia tripped twice back into childhood in writing this blog, two memories I had not recalled for years. That’s some power for a brand to have.

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