LEGO balances digital and physical

10 September 2014

NEW YORK: LEGO, the world's biggest toymaker by sales, is seeking to find the right balance between digital engagement and physical building as it aims to connect with consumers.

The firm overtook Mattel to assume the position as the largest player in its sector globally during the first half of this year, as revenues rose by 11% to $2.03bn.

With major successes such as "The LEGO Movie" – which had grossed $468m worldwide by 21 August – and a burgeoning slate of digital assets at its disposal, the company is flourishing across different channels.

But according to Justin Tripp, LEGO's vp/channel development, identifying the optimum combination of digital and physical is a key objective.

"We don't want to drive children to spend their whole day in front of the screen," he told delegates on a webinar held by the Direct Marketing Association. (For more, including the company's approach to measurement, read Warc's exclusive report: LEGO builds for the multimedia future.)

"I'm a parent myself: it annoys me to see my children just constantly looking at the screen. So, if we do want to go that way, it's kind of a double-edged sword: we've really got to tread lightly on how we actually engage digitally, but also encourage physical building."

One way the Danish enterprise is achieving this goal is by introducing LEGO Fusion, a line where users build sets on a special platform, and photograph their creations with a smartphone to import them into a virtual game.

"You can create your own world, you can build a product, you can take a photo of that product, and then that gets uploaded into your world and it becomes part of your ... race track if it's a racing game you're playing or part of your community if you're trying to build a civilization," said Tripp.

Similarly, while "The LEGO Movie" combined a range of spin-offs, including online and video games, the brand's physical roots were an essential component of the mix – right down to the film's plotline.

This example helps illustrate a broader truth about the company's future: bricks remain at the heart of its business, with digital clicks adding an extra layer and level of excitement to the customer experience.

"We're really trying to adopt that, but at the same time we have to be cognizant that our product delivers so much from a physical building experience," said Tripp.

"Allowing a kid the creativity and the imagination with a physical building experience is vital to us. And if we can take that to an online experience as well, then absolutely that's something we're going to focus on in the future."

Data sourced from Warc