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May 16, 2017

Stone by Stone: LEGOs Hero’s Journey to the Storytelling Olympus

In the beginning of the year, both young and old have gone on an exciting adventure in the cinemas. The Danish toy manufacturer took on the story of Batman and Robin vs. Joker in brick form with the LEGO Batman Movie, the spin-off of 2014’s The LEGO Movie, and brought it to the big screen. The fact that LEGO has made it from the classic, almost dull toy maker to a Hollywood blockbuster was by no means a self-runner and was made possible by a marketing campaign par excellence.

What most of the young LEGO fans already knew, the corporate bosses had yet to recognize – good stories are mesmerizing. As classic advertising failed and it was no longer sufficient to solely bring the products into the spotlight, LEGO proved the right hand with the storytelling approach. They not only managed to raise their own company communications to the next level, but instead set themselves apart from the persistent competitors in the long run. With the help of a whole story universe surrounding the colorful stones and their fans, LEGO emotionally tied their customers to the brand.

Once upon a Time in Denmark

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The Ordinary World

LEGO was founded in 1932 by the Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen. What began as a wooden toy developed into the well-known colorful bricks in 1958.

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The Call to Adventure

With the turn of the millenium game consoles captured the toy market. PlayStation, Xbox and Co. threatened the classic toys. In 2004, LEGO was faced with a declining fan base and had to cut 1,000 jobs worldwide.

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The Refusal of the Call

The family-run traditional company struggled to give fresh impetus to the company and to depart from its out-dated way of communicating, which focused the products only. The competition kept up with the times and developed better products for a broad target group. It was hard for LEGO to keep up with them.

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Meeting with the Mentor

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp was appointed to the top in 2004. As a former McKinsey company consultant, he was exactly the captain that LEGO needed for its boom.

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Crossing the Threshold to the Special World

The image of the brand was struck. Old-fanshioned plastic bricks for mainly boys, as well as new series, coulnd’t compete with the financial capacities and creative approaches of the competitors. LEGO was caught in oblivion.

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Tests, Allies and Enemies

The cooperation with large media groups, like Lucasfilm, and the acquisition of the rights of Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings worked in favour for the brand. LEGO used the well-known heroes both digitally in video games, as well as offline in game sets.

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The Ordeal

After a court sentence, which allowed replicas of the small bricks, the market was open to competitors. Less expensive sets, which could also be used with the classic ones conquered the toy stores and online shops. For LEGO however that meant to shift the focus away from the easily copied bricks to the steady expansion of the universe around it.

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The Reward

LEGO succeeded in expanding its target group with its new strategy to create whole storylines and new imaginary universes, which rekindled a positive identification with the colorful bricks for both young and old.

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The Resurrection

In 2013, LEGO earned a profit of 920 million euros and for the first time registered a larger turn-out than Hasbro, which makes LEGO the second largest toy manufacturer in the world.

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Return with the Elixir

LEGO discovered the key to storytelling on its own journey. With stories of good versus evil, they appeal to the baser human instincts thanks to traditional narrative patterns. The heroes – the players, the bricks and figures – master all kinds of adventures on a fantastic journey.

From Hero to Mentor

LEGO is both a muse and a magician. As a mentor, the brand wants one thing above all: enable its heroes to live out their imagination and creativity. LEGO manages to put its heroes at the center of all its channels and supports them on their adventures. The mixture of user-generated content and the company’s own story, unfolded on all available platforms, makes LEGO a textbook example for an unique storytelling approach.

The Happy End!

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Workshops

Consulting

Manja Rehfeld on EmailManja Rehfeld on Linkedin
Manja Rehfeld
Senior-Beraterin bei Mashup Communications
Mit ihrer Leidenschaft für die englische Sprache, Notizen und ausgiebiger Recherche ist Manja der Sherlock Holmes der Earlybirds – immer auf der Suche nach Fakten und Informationen für Geschichten.