Lego is certainly a great success story.

Especially when you consider that several years ago some believed the brand's fortunes were destined to decline as they surely couldn't hope to compete with video games and other forms of digital entertainment for the attention of a generation that had grown up on technology.

I certainly remember many Saturday afternoons playing with Lego bricks with my young nephew and being amazed at not just how long he could sit there building things, but how absorbed he was in his own story or the creation of what he was building. Certainly everyone I know seems to have had some contact with Lego. 

Now Lego is not only one of the most profitable toy companies in the world, but is one of the most profitable companies overall. And according to Brand Finance’s Global 500 list for 2017 Lego is also the World’s Most Powerful Brand. 

I was fascinated therefore to listen to Global Director of Social Media at Lego, Lars Silberbauer talk at Web Summit about the secrets behind the Lego brand.

A late social bloomer

Whilst the brand was late to social media, Adweek recently scored Lego as the number one brand on Social Media and YouTube in the toy industry, and Mediapost still ranks Lego as the most engaging brand in the world on social media.

Silberbauer explained how for every video Lego creates and uploads to YouTube, their customers create 20 videos. The source of Lego’s continued success, he explained, is making its customer experience digital and anchoring that experience in social media.

Lego supports its toys with apps and books, along with feature films. However, it is social media that has been central to their success. 

Global Digital Marketing Director at Lego, Sara Holt presented at Econsultancy’s Festival of Marketing 2017 and highlighted an impressive 1.2 million pieces of user generated content, with over 3.7 million subscribers on the brand's YouTube channel and 12 million likes on the Lego Facebook page.

Lego has also developed a great way of getting new product ideas and gauging their popularity. Fans can submit proposals for new Lego sets through Lego ideas, as well as supporting their favourites, giving feedback, and sharing ideas with their friends. 

In light of this social success, Silberbauer was keen to point out that social media is nothing but a set of technologies that enhances our social nature. Businesses that want to create success in social media must understand their customers’ social needs and behaviour.

At Lego they identified two huge needs which they used as core pillars behind their campaigns and engagement.

  1. Building together with someone 
  2. Pride of creation in what you have built and showing what you have created

Connecting social with the bottom line

"Engagement is great," said Silberbauer, "but you also need to create value and connect with the bottom line."

He went on to discuss the matrix shown below, used to measure value not just in sales, but in brand building, improving marketing efficiency and also protecting the brand online.

The Lego marketing team has been building the infrastructure, technical structure, processes and integration with the rest of the company to ensure they can perform in these areas. The matrix helps set the scene for engagement. 

Changing campaign culture

One example of demonstrating marketing efficiency was seen in the social media team's first campaign, which was done with the purpose of challenging the existing campaign mindset and culture.

Silberbauer asked people in the office to empty their pockets and that became the budget for this global campaign, a grand total of $100. Silberbauer emphasised how "outrageous constraints create the need for radically different solutions and delivers fast learnings (failures) or big wins."

The campaign they were taking to market was for a connected game called Life of George, shown in the video below.

It was difficult to make a truly compelling story around this product in 2011, so instead the team focused on the character of George.

They asked people to find their old Lego bricks, build George and make him travel the world, with chosen photos winning their creators a prize. Twenty minutes after launching the campaign George was popping up everywhere including Greece, kissing a kangaroo in Australia, San Francisco, at someone’s wedding and then getting married himself. 

This was a campaign that was launched in 2011, yet even in 2017 George was still travelling and had turned up in Borneo. This demonstrates how sometimes you can create campaigns that live on much longer than intended.

It also helped demonstrate to Lego that the creative power of the crowd is always much greater than the team's own ideas, and that they need to look to their fans as the truly creative people. 

Successful customer experiences are anchored in social media

Lego’s success story reinforces key findings from a survey carried out by Harvard Business Review examining the relationship between social media and customer experience.

Consumers deemed the importance of social media today much lower than its expected importance in 2020.

From its survey, HBR identified that leading-edge companies are moving beyond treating customer experience as a customer service challenge and seeing it as a fundamental driver of competitive advantage at every customer touchpoint.

The organisations taking the lead don’t treat social media as just a marketing channel, but are able to thoroughly integrate social media and customer experience to offer superior customer experiences than their competitors. This then translates into stronger growth and dominant positions in their markets.

No doubt there will continue to be many great success stories from Lego as it harnesses the power of social media to ensure Lego continues to be on many a Christmas list this year.

Related reading:

Lynette Saunders

Published 21 November, 2017 by Lynette Saunders @ Econsultancy

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