Magazine article Marketing

ANALYSIS: Lego Moves in on the Girls' Market

Magazine article Marketing

ANALYSIS: Lego Moves in on the Girls' Market

Article excerpt

As the toy firm bids to become a lifestyle brand, it enters a market of fast-changing fashions and fickle youngsters.

Lego is on a long-term mission to mature from maker of interlocking bricks into a key lifestyle brand for families with children.

As well as the Legoland theme parks, product development at the Danish toy company has seen it embrace technology and secure entertainment licences such as Harry Potter to keep pace with the changing desires of children.

But Lego is ultimately a boy's toy. Girls account for only 10% of its audience but about 45% of the overall toy market.

Eager to plug this gap, Lego has undertaken four years of intensive research, resulting in Clikits, a designer craft rage that represents its biggest attempt to crack the girls' market (Marketing, February 6).

Clikits is targeting girls aged six and above, and consists of 16 collectible kits that can be fitted together to create jewellery, room decor, picture frames and hair and fashion accessories. Available from August, it will be supported by a three-month ad campaign in the run-up to Christmas.

'Clikits fits into girls' interests and their desire to control their immediate surroundings,' explains Raymond Hastings, Lego's market research manager. 'It is open-ended, process-oriented and consistent with Lego's principles of appealing to people's creativity.'

The rationale for Clikits springs from a formal appreciation of the female psychology. 'Boys and girls develop in different ways. Boys play in a more physical manner; girls approach play in a more social and conversational way,' says Hastings.

'Girls focus on characters and relationships within a story line. Boys are more physical, hierarchical and rule-oriented, preferring to make tall buildings and vehicles.'

Hastings admits the research showed Lego is strongly seen as a boys' brand, but claims that girls are open-minded about embracing it.

Lego's aspirations are well placed. According to NPD Group, the girls' toy market accounted for most of the industry's growth last year, increasing by 10.6%.

But eight out of last year's ten bestselling girls' toys were variations of dolls. Hasbro, traditionally weaker in toys than in games, is relaunching My Little Pony, its bestseller from the 80s, this spring. Lego's focus has never been on the repetitive role-playing that springs from interacting with a doll.

The non-doll bestsellers are karaoke-style products, including Vivid Imaginations' table-topping VJ Starz Karaoke (see table). But the real competition comes from the phenomenal success of Barbie. Her latest incarnation takes one of the four positions notched up by US manufacturer Mattel.

Mattel revised its marketing strategy for the Barbie brand in the 90s, shifting focus from accessories to selling more of the dolls themselves.

According to Jon Salisbury, chairman of the UK Toy & Game Council, the average UK Barbie household owns six of the plastic figures, which is half the US figure. Barbie enjoys bigger global brand recognition than Lego.

But even Mattel has identified a demand for female construction, branching out from its formidable foothold in the dolls market for the first time.

Last month it launched a 'creation system', branded ello, a direct competitor to Clikits.

Ello encompasses fashion accessories as well as themed kits based around an aquarium and a jungle. It is the first fruit of a US-led initiative called 'Project Platypus', set up to develop new product concepts. …

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