What are the secrets to LEGO’s success?

The LEGO brand has achieved iconic status since it created a range of colourful interconnecting plastic bricks in 1949 and turned them into the world’s favourite toy.

Along the way, LEGO has attracted a global subculture of devotees and has extended its brand name across Legoland theme parks, Hollywood blockbusters, TV shows, magazines, websites and even art exhibitions.

To discuss how it nurtures its brand through so many touch points, The Content Marketing Association invited Conny Kalcher, VP of marketing and consumer experiences for LEGO Group, to speak at its International Content Marketing Summit held in early December.

LEGO is a brand that people tattoo on their arms. There are fans who give up their day jobs to become professional LEGO artists. Most of us are somewhere on the LEGO journey. So what is the secret of its success?

“The more we can get them into the LEGO experience, the more engaged they will be,” Kalcher told some 200 delegates to the conference, a mix of marketers from global and independent brands as well as creatives and agency executives.

She used a pyramid graphic to describe LEGO’s customer strategy. The bottom layer represents all households, followed by a layer of “covered households” who have bought LEGO once or twice. The groups get smaller as you ascend the pyramid – next come active customers who are regular purchasers and visit the theme parks. These are followed by “one to one” customers with whom LEGO has a close relationship. The company holds their addresses and creates a dialogue with them. At the very top of the pyramid are the committed LEGO leaders.

As Kalcher said: “People at the top of the pyramid want to co-create with us, they want to be part of making our decisions, to be involved, to visit us, talk to us, so we need to address them in a different way from the rest of the consumers.

“Our strategy is to bring people onto this pyramid maybe with their first experience or Facebook visit or a trip to Legoland and after that to bring them up the pyramid. Our whole digital strategy is how we bring them from one touchpoint to the next and engage with them.”

The company has a constant thirst for creating content and has an in-house agency of some 100 creatives and also employs external agencies. “We do so many product lines, consistency is important but for that not to go stale we need the new ideas,” she said.

Kalcher explained that an overall communications strategy is formulated 18 months in advance then a live team works on the strategy from day to day.

“If it is relevant, we make new creative, we can change stuff over night because we realise marketing is going more and more live. It is about being responsive to what happens to your consumer base, not just to deliver your messages to them.”

There is a monthly editorial meeting across all channels to plan activities and content. “We realised we only had seven pieces of content for the Star Wars launch so we had to talk to Lucasfilm and get some more,” she revealed.

People close to the content operation meet once a week to discuss tactics and she adds: “We can imagine we will move to meetings once a day. That whole editorial mindset is important to us. We need to stay nimble, we need to stay flexible, if we see something working in Turkey how can we deploy that in Italy?” The 360-degree approach involves taking the same material and putting it on different channels.

“We are getting more diverse, realising that people want different things and realising what they want and where, so our data becomes stronger and we will see more personalisation going forward as well.”

LEGO also has a nudge strategy to find ways of nudging people from one channel to another and from one experience to another. And Kalcher said LEGO constantly measures the effects of its content and other activities.

“We are big advocates of Net Promoter Scores – you ask consumers would you recommend this? Then we look at the findings to understand what drives detractors and we discuss this at meetings. It is not so much what you do but having that cadence of constantly listening to the consumer voice and taking action on it. It is the key to how we operate.”

Kalcher, who has been with the company for 30 years, revealed that LEGO had at one point lost touch with its consumers and became arrogant and self-obsessed, culminating in a crisis in 2005 when it faced steeply falling profits. But the company learned from this experience and has made a strong recovery.

“We had a crisis 10 years ago because we lost focus on the consumer, we were focused on ourselves and got a little bit arrogant. We turned that around and became more consumer focused. Over the last ten years we’ve had constant growth.” She said living through the crisis had helped her to gain a greater understanding of the brand and its consumers. “In those years of crisis, I learned a lot,” she said. “It makes you humble.”

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