He was a master carpenter – from Billund, Denmark- which is where he started his company in 1932. His focus wasn’t on building cabinets, furniture, buildings and the like – rather he produced ironing boards, stepladders and stools. However, his primary focus was on making toys – quality wooden toys. The carpenter’s name was Ole Kirk Christiansen. His motto was “det bedste er ikke for godt” which translates to “Only the best is good enough”.
Through the 1930’s his company grew to ten employees. They produced a wooden duck – on a base with wheels. They produced a product called Kirk’s Sandgame – a construction toy. They produced wooden blocks with decorations. Ole’s son, Godtfred, had become the manager of the company. In the mid-1940’s the company made a bold decision – certainly for that time. They purchased a plastic injection-molding machine with the intent of producing plastic toys. They had no shortage of skeptics.
By the end of the decade they were producing Automatic Binding Blocks – a design inspired in part by a product in the United Kingdom called Kiddicraft self-locking bricks. On a trip to the UK in 1954, Godtfred had a conversation with a buying agent who gave his opinion that toys lack idea and system. That concept resulted in a redesign of the bricks and the creation of a system of play. Shortly thereafter, Ole passed away and son Godtfred became the head of the company.
Today, more than a half of a century later, over 560 billion parts have been produced by the company. It is the third largest toy company in the world. Their products are used for play by kids of all ages. They are used for education purposes both in schools and in homes. There are over ninety retail outlets worldwide along with a chain of theme parks. There are licensed products tied into incredibly popular properties such as Batman, Harry Potter and Toy Story to name but a few. Products now include robotics, video games and board games. NASA has even sent sets to the International Space Station as part of experiments about the effect of weightlessness on construction.
Achieving this level of success is not what has made this fearless brand. This success is the result of The LEGO Group being built into a fearless brand – a brand built on a base of authenticity, an unwavering commitment to quality and the ability to adapt to the times while remaining true to its brand values.
Fearless Brands realize that branding is a process – they maintain their values while they assess, adapt, adjust – and thrive.
The name – LEGO – is adapted from a Danish phrase “leg godt” meaning ‘play well’. Those two words are perhaps the best ‘why’ statement in the history of company names. Certainly LEGO wants its toys to entertain – that is the basic reason why toys exist – but, beginning with Ole, they were determined to do more. At the top of that list is encouraging kids to tap into their imagination – to drive creativity. Two brown blocks topped with a green block is a tree – imagine!
Kids used LEGO to create all sorts of things – from that tree to cars, castles, ships and more. LEGO took note and tapped into their own creativity – they produced sets which would build specific things – a pirate ship, a heavy equipment crane. They added people – characters – into the mix to add authenticity and to create more of an emotional connection.
One of the first adaptations was the Duplo line – blocks made bigger and easier to connect to make it easier for younger children to play. In the late ’90’s a CD was included with sets to provide visual instructions. That was also the time frame of the launch of the Mindstorm line introducing robotics to LEGO. Most recently LEGO has begun to address a key demographic which has been underserved – females. That initiative includes new products, new marketing and new licensed associations. Still more innovation and engagement opportunities are available via LEGO’s website including galleries, a digital designer, message boards, a club and more.
LEGO has been successful for over eighty years and that trend shows no sign of waning. There is a great deal that you can learn from this fearless brand which will help you to achieve your own success. Here are the top four –
Quality counts – Another translation of LEGO’s quality statement is “Only the best is the best” but no matter how it’s translated the point is this – high quality will never go out of style. It is immensely powerful for your customers, prospects or referral partners to know that your product always meets – or exceeds – quality expectations – and that is a surefire way to spark repeat sales.
Create an emotional connection – LEGO has created an emotional connection with parents and children alike because they let the kids engage their imagination, use their creativity and more simply – have fun. From a three piece tree to an elaborate five foot butterfly comprised of over 37,000 pieces there is no limit to what LEGO allows your mind to imagine and your hands to create.
Remain relevant – When a core brand value is to drive imagination – there is no choice but to remain relevant. A look at the history of product creation and innovation of LEGO presents a road map to relevance. LEGO has been quick to recognize changes in consumer desires, likes and interests and then to bring a product solution to market. By doing so, they continue to pique the interest – and engagement with LEGO. Importantly, all LEGO toys are ‘backwards compatble’ – meaning the pieces made today will fit with the pieces made forty+ years ago. Relevance.
Live your values – LEGO’s brand values are seemingly simple – yet they are critical to the success of the company. To be a fearless brand one must identify, embrace and consistently deliver on the core values – be they be your personal brand, your company’s or a combination of both.
The principles which LEGO has adhered to in building its brand obviously work. Importantly, they are relevant and translatable in the building of any brand – including yours. There’s no mystery to how you can build your own fearless brand – make certain that you maintain the highest quality possible, create an emotional connection, stay relevant and walk in your value. Oh, and while you’re at it – play well.