By the late ’90s, not everything was awesome at LEGO.
After a string of product launches that deviated from its core product, LEGO was stretched thin. In 1998, it lost money for the first time. The iconic toy company struggled to compete for the attention of children enraptured by video games.
With the consumer internet coming into full swing, the brand seemed destined to become a nostalgic remnant of times past. But then it didn’t. When Jørgen Vig Knudstorp stepped in as CEO in 2004, the company refocused on its core product—the LEGO brick—and rocketed into the digital age. It became the most popular brand on YouTube and released a movie that made nearly $500 million worldwide. The company’s profits grew 31 percent last year.
Image via Socialbakers
At the dmexco conference in Cologne, Germany, LEGO CMO Julie Goldin sat down for a fireside chat in front of a packed audience to reveal how her company has become one of the world’s most popular content creators.
(Full Disclosure: LEGO is a Contently client.)
Focus on your audience above all else
To kick off the chat, Goldin held up a small toy brick and spoke at length about the key factor that drives everything LEGO does, from its content to its product: imagination.
“Six of these bricks can make up nine hundred and fifty million different combinations,” she said. “By building with LEGO, a kid, a child, anyone who touches it has a world of possibilities. And we know that when kids build, it builds so much of their skills. Imagination, creativity, problem solving. We are very clear about this mission, and when we innovate, we start with that core experience.”
“Just because they bought us last year doesn’t mean they’ll buy us this year,” Goldin said. “We’re always thinking about what we can create.”
LEGO also eagerly encourages and amplifies user-generated content from fans. The company, which calls certain supporters AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO), considers these people some of their greatest allies. LEGO seeks out those who create the best content and turns them into certified creators for the brand.
“We focus a lot on this community,” Goldin said. “They’re very important to us. They generate a lot of content. They’re massive advocates for us.”
Don’t operate in silos
Content teams are often siloed within the marketing department, but not at LEGO. The company believes in an agile and integrated approach.
“When we have a product or idea, the whole team comes together. We’re not that linear. We don’t start with a product then move to advertising then move to content,” Goldin explained. “We bring everybody together in the same room, and they start working on: What are the right choices within the three-sixty? That model then dictates what’s the right content for us to leverage.”
The best data comes from being in a room with your customer
At an ad-tech conference obsessed with data, Goldin was one voice advocating for a balanced strategy that incorporated more traditional marketing tactics.
“There are a lot of different tools available to us to see how different aspects of our marketing mix are working,” she said. “But when it comes to understanding kids, the best way to capture data is to get them in the room and give them some products to play with. Or put them in front of a TV set because that’s the best way to see what kids actually like. We really balance looking at big data and connecting it back to the true insight about who the kid is and what’s interesting to them.”
For LEGO, this is partly out of necessity, given the EU’s regulations on tracking the behavior of children online. But the philosophy still speaks to LEGO’s intimate and customer-first approach.
As Goldin put it, “What always has to be at the heart of everything is: What are the most relevant and engaging ways to connect with your audience?”