As the festivities wound down at my daughter’s first birthday party, I noticed a pattern. The guests, ranging in ages 1 to 60, all started to play with Legos. Though the main attraction was my daughter’s new pink DUPLO Tub (the larger bricks complete with girly flowers and pet rabbit), my son’s ginormous tub of miscellaneous bits and pieces did not go unnoticed. This simple brick was somehow capturing the attention and imagination of young and old alike.
And of course that’s precisely the appeal and genius of Lego, a company that is as relevant to this generation as it has been to previous ones. It’s an empire that has morphed into a thriving subculture reflected in movies, games, specialty stores, competitions, six themed amusement parks and an adult fan club.
Adult fans of Lego, or AFOLs as they’ve come to be known, understand that the very appeal of Lego isn’t just in initial creations but in the destruction and recreation process. As every parent who has a Lego kit in her house knows, the fun begins when the first piece gets lost or breaks off and the kids start over, use their imagination and make something new.
The Lego brand has been smart enough to capitalize on this. Even as they continue to market kits of all shapes, sizes and themes, the message is clear: follow the easy instructions, but more importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment and actually create something new. (In case you’re dubious, the enemies in The Lego Movie were “collectors” who would dare to [gasp] GLUE your Lego together to keep for eternity [hilariously played by Will Ferrell and worth renting, even if you don’t have kids]).
It’s a good lesson for us all: don’t be afraid to create. So for marketers, pick up on these natural human inclinations and give people an outlet. Lego could have easily been overtaken by imitators and simply stayed put in a child’s world. Its brilliance was to recognize and act on what was already happening organically (in hundreds of thousands of YouTube Lego videos or Banksy- themed Lego murals – Friesen’s “Bricksy”). Lego intrinsically understands that creating is a basic human need not just for kids but for grown-ups, too.