LEGO may be an analogue toy, but that does not mean that there is no space for it in an increasing digital world.
LEGO A/NZ managing director, Glenn Abell, provided the insight during the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA) Forum in Sydney, where he said that the company started dabbling in with the Internet soon as it came online
“Along with a lot of companies, we found that if you are not in that space, then you will have trouble keeping up with the relevance of what is happening out there,” he said.
Abell claimed in the last few years, LEGO has in fact accelerated its presence in the digital space, not only with its own website but with other digital avenues such as video game partnerships.
“We have also launched a social media platform called ReBrick, which is our play on social media targeting LEGO fans,” he said.
“It’s basically a hub for people to do anything from uploading their LEGO models to showing videos, as well as sharing commentary about LEGO and what their thoughts are on various subjects.”
The last three to four years in particular have been a focus for LEGO in the digital space, and Abell says it will continue to be moving forward.
Which is a contrast to a decade or two earlier, when LEGO initially viewed the advent of Internet and the growth of video games as a big challenge.
“We know our limitations and that we are not a video game developer, so we partnered with people who are,” Abell said.
“One of our partners is TT Games, and we have had relationship with them for quite a while.”
The fruits of that partnership have been several LEGO Star Wars games.
In that partnership, LEGO found that there is a link between video games and virtual play to the physical play environment of LEGO.
“If I play the LEGO Star Wars game and see an X-wing fighter in the game, we find that kids say to their parents that they want an X-wing to build,” Abell said.
He is unable to say how much more LEGO is able to benefit from electronic entertainment than other companies, though admits that the toy manufacturer is “uniquely set up” to benefit from the link between virtual and physical play.
While LEGO may have been an early adopter of the Internet, Abell said the same cannot be said for social media such as Facebook.
“We have actually been a late adopter of Facebook, because we take it seriously when we start that conversation with the consumer and keep that conversation going,” he said.
His reasoning is that it can be dangerous “if you dip your toe in that space and don’t follow up.”
“So we have been very measured in how we approach the social media space as well,” Abell said.
As a result, LEGO tends to not use Facbook for promotion but more as a way to engage in conversations with consumers.
“There are events and products that we promote from time to time, but we use it more to have that two way dialogue with our consumers,” Abell said.
“We wanted to do everything right, so we were a bit slower to adopt it than maybe other companies, but time will tell how that plays out.”
An example Abell provides is when LEGO launched its new line this year, LEGO Friends, and there was strong backlash from a women’s group, mainly overseas and not in Australia, telling the company what they thought of the product.
In that case, LEGO used social media as a way to engage in a conversation with them directly.
“That made its way around Facebook in a heartbeat, so we sent some folks over to talk to them,” Abell said.
“We used that opportunity to say that we shared their concerns, talk about it, and convince them that our intentions are wholesome yet appealing for girls.”
Abell said whenever one engages the social space, you are going to encounter people that are “not happy with what is going on” and they are “not going to be afraid to voice their opinion.”
When it comes to marketing LEGO in an increasingly digital world, he said the sweet spot for the toy’s demographic remains six to nine year old boys.
“We have understood very quickly that we have to talk to moms, especially with our preschool line, Duplo, as two year old kids are not asking for products,” he said.
Although LEGO has not done it yet in Australia, the company has already run a global campaign where it marketed LEGO to dads.
“We like to reach out and talk to people about that nostalgia factor,” Abell said.
There is also a growing number of what the company refers to as AFOLs, or Adult Fans of LEGO, and Abell said they are “by far” the toy’s biggest advocates.
“They build with LEGO all the time, post things online, and make YouTube videos,” he said.
“It’s not that we market directly to them, but we absolutely have conversations with them.”
Abell said examples such as these justify a holistic approach with the type of brand that LEGO has, because “parents value it and kids have fun with it.”