LEGO Branding: Marketing Lessons From The Toy World Champion

A toy company went from being one of the largest toy brands in the world to being nearly bankrupt. Only to rise again! And it still remains one of the most adored toy brands with a tribe of loyal fans all over the world. As evident from the facts and as evident from the title, we are talking about LEGO, the unmatched champion in the toy industry. 

Did you know that there are more than 400 billion LEGO pieces in the world? 

Today, the 90-year-old company has established its presence in more than 130 countries around the world. How did that happen? Through strong branding and consistent marketing efforts indeed. 

So, the LEGO branding approach is definitely a great source of inspiration for anyone who is looking for ideas on how to strengthen their brand’s presence and stay ahead in a competitive market. 

Are you ready to uncover the secrets in LEGO branding and take away some marketing lessons for your own campaigns? Let’s go! 

Before we start analyzing the LEGO branding approach, let’s quickly look back at the story of how it all began. 

Time to travel back to the beginning 

Today LEGO is known for its signature block toys, theme parks, and a host of other experiences. Seeing the command the brand has over the toy market, can you believe that it once started as a small toy business in a carpentry workshop? 

Yes, in 1932, Ole Kirk Christiansen, whose carpentry business was crashing due to the Great Depression in Denmark, decided to start selling wooden toys. The idea was mainly to create cheap wooden items. Once the business picked up, Christiansen had a clear path ahead. 

In 1934, the name LEGO was coined as a derivation from the Danish term, “Leg godt meaning “play well”. 

And that continues to be the philosophy of the brand even today. 

While retaining the core brand values, the identity of the brand and the products have changed. They have evolved to resonate with each generation and this has worked favorably for the brand. 

Let’s take a look at how the logo design and brand identity has changed over the years and what aspects of the brand have evolved along with these changes. 

The LEGO branding evolution – a look back at the old LEGO logos 

The first-ever logo of the brand was a wordmark logo featuring just the brand name and it was introduced in the 1930s right when the brand’s name was officially registered. 

The classic vintage font resonates with the 1930s style. And since the brand name accurately captured the brand’s philosophies, the choice of a wordmark logo worked really well. Additionally, this was the time when the brand was slowly establishing its presence in the market and therefore a clear depiction of the brand name helped firmly imprint the name in the minds of its target customers. 

Over the years, the brand’s logo underwent a lot of updates but they were all wordmark logos. The LEGO logo we see today has been in use since 1998. It incorporates a playful font and a vibrant color palette that captures the excitement the brand evokes. 

The simple yet memorable logo design appears on the LEGO boxes, the brand’s ads, and its social media pages. The clean and functional design ensures that the logo appears equally impactful on all these platforms. 

KIMP Tip: Reds, yellows, or a combination of these hues are quite common in the toy industry. So, the brand’s decision of sticking to a wordmark logo instead of something more abstract makes the brand instantly recognizable.

In a crowded market where most logos look similar, letting your brand name shine is a great idea indeed. So, when you are finalizing your logo design type, remember to analyze your target market and your industry trends before you make a decision. 

Brand differentiation done right 

When you observe the LEGO branding approach you will notice that in addition to the visibly striking brand identity design, strong brand differentiation strategies are at play. That’s how the brand has managed to retain its position in a market filled with technologically advanced toys and ever-evolving brands. 

Some of the ways in which the brand differentiated itself are: 

  • Consistent adherence to quality 
  • Building a strong community 
  • Focusing on experiences 

So, to understand the LEGO branding difference, let’s talk about these brand differentiation strategies. 

1. Consistent adherence to quality 

According to Jan Christensen, The LEGO Group Communication Manager for External Media Relations, in the manufacturing lines, only about 18 in a million pieces are discarded. That is the high standard of quality and precision that LEGO manufacturing units maintain. And this is just one example of the brand’s focus on quality. 

There is also an old anecdote that proves the fact that quality has been the top priority for LEGO from the time of its inception. 

The incident was recalled by Godtfred Kirk Christiansen who took over the business after his father. Reportedly, there was a time when Godtfred Kirk Christiansen told his father that he had saved the business some money by getting only two coats of varnish (against the usual practice of three) for two boxes of their wooden toy ducks. 

But Ole Kirk Christiansen asked his son to go back and get that additional coat emphasizing the need for quality. 

To date, the brand sticks to its quality standards and adheres to a host of toy safety standards. And the well-known motto of LEGO, “Only the best is good enough“ stands as proof of the brand prioritizing quality. Quality and safety are two crucial deciding factors when it comes to purchasing toys. So, this brand differentiator works really well for LEGO. 

2. Building a strong community 

While most toy brands have customers, LEGO has fans and avid collectors. Why is that? Because the brand focuses on building a community rather than just scratching the surface of customer engagement. 

Community building is an overlooked detail in marketing. And brands that have aced this game, like LEGO, have carved a niche for themselves even in the most crowded spaces. In fact, the presence of a loyal community of audience is one reason why LEGO has been able to bounce back from its crisis situations. It has also been the reason why LEGO has been able to introduce new product lines confidently. 

From allowing users to submit their ideas to creating an online space for LEGO customers to interact with each other, take part in challenges, and be seen and heard, the brand has taken a lot of creative steps to build its community. 

The active community also encourages LEGO customers to keep exploring new LEGO sets and keep building more. In fact, this community has been one of the most critical pieces in the LEGO branding puzzle because it has facilitated nurturing not just young fans but adult customers as well. 

KIMP Tip: As the LEGO community has grown over the years, a lot of discussions happen here outside of the regular brand discussions. To streamline all activity, the brand has also built a strong brand identity for the community along with a dedicated social media space for it. 

Similarly, if you think you do not want the promotional activities for the happenings in your brand’s community to interfere with your regular brand promotions, then work on creating a separate brand identity for the community. This will also make your brand community look more refined and build credibility to attract more new members. 

3. Focusing on the experiences 

While most toy brands just focus on the “product” part of it, LEGO focuses on the “experience” part. In fact, the first LEGOLAND park was inaugurated back in 1968, in Billund (the birthplace of the brand). From there the brand has established that it is serious about creating lasting experiences and about telling its story to the world. 

Today a variety of attractions are part of the LEGO branding efforts including LEGO House, LEGOLAND parks, and LEGOLAND Discovery Centers. These are places for Lego fans young and old to discover everything that’s new in the world of LEGO and also to uncover the brand’s history and of course, for endless play! 

How did LEGO rise again after grazing the edge of failure 

All was good for LEGO until the 1990s. This was the decade when the brand started to diversify its portfolio drastically in order to keep up with the competition. The brand took big risks when it heavily invested in building video games, programmable bricks, and other steps toward digital entertainment since the industry was beginning to boom then. 

The brand was not able to stay ahead in the digital entertainment space as it did in the traditional toys category. As a result, it suffered huge losses and was on the brink of bankruptcy. How did LEGO tackle this situation and bounce back to become a leading name in the toy industry again? 

  • The LEGO branding approach was shifted again to focus on creative play and experience thus allowing the brand to return to its roots. This helped the brand recapture audience interest. 
  • LEGO got active in its brand partnerships and introduced a number of successful products like the LEGO Star Wars collection, the Harry Potter range, and others that put the brand back on the map. 
  • It switched to a more consistent brand identity and stopped changing its logo and brand identity design ever since 1998. It started working toward consistent messaging. 

In addition to all these efforts, this was also the time when the brand introduced LEGO Ideas, the online community of LEGO creators (known as LEGO Cuusoo back in 2008). 

After laying down the brand’s identity, LEGO did not stop there. It has been actively curating campaigns that carry the brand’s core message consistently to its audience everywhere. That’s one reason why the brand has been able to grow and expand in markets around the world. To understand this better, let’s talk about a few popular campaigns from LEGO. 

LEGO branding – notable campaigns from the brand 

One of the main reasons why LEGO has been able to stay consistent after its few crisis situations is the brand’s ability to keep up with evolving customer interests. This includes the introduction of products that meet the market demands as well as the use of ad formats that resonate best with its target audience. From print ads to social media campaigns and events to build better customer relationships, the LEGO branding mix is filled with lots of creative ideas. 

LEGO Future Builders campaign 

One of the most popular LEGO ads is the print campaign from 1981 titled, “What it is is beautiful”. 

And for International Women’s Day 2021, LEGO created the LEGO Future Builders campaign by launching a website where parents could add images of their kids to personalize the 1981 ad. 

The campaign was a huge success! It helped recreate the classic brand image from the 1980s, the glorious days of the brand. Additionally, it also helped evoke nostalgia in adult LEGO fans. 

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Rebuild the World 

This is one campaign that truly captured the brand’s essence of promoting imaginative play. It metaphorically captures the depth of the idea of LEGO sets allowing children to create absolutely anything out of their imagination. 

As the ad captured the idea of creative explorations accurately, it resonated with viewers of all age groups and was a big hit. Days after the launch, the hashtag #RebuildTheWorld received more than 100,000 mentions. And the campaign also helped strengthen the positive sentiments attached with the LEGO brand. 

KIMP Tip: Even the simplest idea can create a lasting impression when you incorporate storytelling. As LEGO did, with the above campaign. And videos are some of the most effective tools to tell a story. That’s one reason why you should be actively investing in video content. 

Need help creating short videos to tell your brand’s story? Get a KIMP Video subscription! 

Anamorphic billboards for the LEGO Dreamzzz campaign 

One of the notable aspects of the LEGO branding strategy has been the consistent adherence to both traditional and digital media for advertising the brand. The brand has adopted traditional media like billboards but with a creative twist. Like the anamorphic billboards, the brand installed in various locations to promote the TV show titled LEGO Dreamzzz. 

Rebuild the World with haptics 

As another creative addition to the Rebuild The World campaign, LEGO created interactive billboards that used haptic inputs to help users build sets on the billboard through gestures. 

This campaign combines the benefits of outdoor advertising and experiential marketing to deliver unique experiences that get people talking about the brand. 

Taking responsible steps forward 

In addition to these share-worthy campaigns, LEGO has also made progress through its responsible measures. From prioritizing sustainability to promoting inclusivity, the brand’s efforts to speak for various causes have shone brightly over the past few years. A few of these include: 

LEGO’s sustainability measures 

In 2018, LEGO introduced a series of plant pieces for the sets most of which are made from sugarcane-based plastic. A few years later, the brand also prototyped its bricks made from recycled plastic. 

Additionally, about 75% of the packaging used by LEGO is made of recycled materials. The LEGO branding strategies also include work in local communities to help establish more sustainable measures, afforestation, and more. 

Prioritizing inclusivity 

Another responsible step from LEGO is the introduction of its LGBTQ+ set titled “Everyone is Awesome”. The set was introduced for Pride Month in 2021 and clicked really well with its audience. Additionally, the idea earned media coverage for the brand. 

Bring your LEGO branding inspired ideas to life with KIMP 

Want to do it the LEGO branding way? Then you need consistent delivery of your brand message and an omnichannel approach! Both of these are possible when you have a strong visual content creation plan in place. This includes all your graphic design and motion graphics for digital and print media. Want to hear about an easy way to tackle visual content? Get an unlimited design subscription, like KIMP.

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