Lego Is One Firm Which Will Always Have Another Brick Up Its Sleeve; from Humble Beginnings in a Danish Carpenter's Hut, It's Now the World's Most Popular Toy. with Huge Sales and Even Its Own Movie, It's Easy to See Why

Daily Mail (London), October 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

Lego Is One Firm Which Will Always Have Another Brick Up Its Sleeve; from Humble Beginnings in a Danish Carpenter's Hut, It's Now the World's Most Popular Toy. with Huge Sales and Even Its Own Movie, It's Easy to See Why


Byline: John Daly

WHEN it comes to snappy advertising slogans, Lego pretty much owns the playroom. In a clarion call to architects and engineers of the future, its advertising message has always been about thinking big: '1932 Empire State Building. 1973 Sears Tower. 1998 Petronas Towers. 2004 Taipei 101. 2009 Burj Dubai. They all had to start somewhere. Lego. Just imagine.' Some ads showed only a single piece against a white background: 'Lego. It begins with a brick.' Above all, the message was about unleashing the unfettered power of a child's imagination: 'Lego. Small toys. Big stories.' Every generation has its own Lego moments, including this call to creativity I still recall from the distant past: 'What do you want to be today? Lego: More than a toy.' Mind you, not everybody sees these miniature building blocks with quite the same rose-tinted spectacles, especially one Jeremy Clarkson, as recalled in his memoir, And Another Thing: 'Lego is always opened and then left lying around so adults have something to tread on when they are prowling around the house at two in the morning, in bare feet, looking for the source of a noise.' Ouch.

For its millions of fans, the recent news that Lego had become the world's most popular toy was a plaudit long overdue. Knocking long-standing leader Barbie off her winner's perch, the Danish toymaker saw a huge 11 per cent sales surge earlier this year, pushing its turnover to [euro]1.55billion. Helped enormously by the global box office success of the feature film - The Lego Movie - the rush of this year's Christmas shopping will likely take it to even greater heights.

'The majority of Lego sales to consumers happen in the second half of the calendar year in a short time span of a few weeks leading up to the holiday season,' said the company's chief financial officer John Goodwin. With Europe and North America already firmly in thrall to the multicoloured bricks for generations, the vast markets of Asia and China are the new frontiers of the future.

BUT it hasn't always been such a rosy picture for the Danish company founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen and which has subsequently passed from father to son to current ownership by a grandchild of the founder. The name Lego is an abbreviation of the two Danish words - 'leg godt' - meaning 'play well', and very apt for a company whose commercial ethos has rarely strayed from its founding ideals. The brick that began life in a humble carpenter's hut has twice been named 'Toy of the Century', and remains anchored by an interlocking principle offering unlimited building possibilities.

However, a decade ago the company found itself falling out of favour in the dawning technological age, a victim of the tablet, PlayStation and Nintendo. Rather than accept the inevitable, Lego decided to muscle in on the modern toy story by clever merchandising deals with the enormous Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises to once again claim dominance in the playroom. This year's film, which used 15,080,330 bricks and featured 183 mini-figures, helped push sales into the stratosphere.

The success of this enduring Danish toy is not only built on clever marketing, though, as an incident earlier this year underlined. Sevenyear-old Charlotte Benjamin became a global sensation when she wrote a letter to Lego, complaining that there were 'barely any Lego girls'.

In a plea that immediately went viral on the internet, she wrote: 'Today I went to a store and saw Legos in two sections, the pink girls and the blue boys. All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and had no jobs, but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks. …

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