Lego seeks to make more friends

Sheela Sarvananda
Singapore Showbiz

Mother and daughter bonding over Lego. (Dharshini Gopalakrishnakone)

This year was a milestone for the toymaker LEGO, on several fronts. First, the animated movie of the same name passed the US$400 million mark at the box-office, making it the first movie to do so in 2014. Next, the family franchise has taken it back to their roots, introducing a diversified range of toys for their female market – a largely-untapped segment to date.

Not so long ago times seemed a little simpler when it came to play. Communal games like hopscotch and jump-rope were go-to options, in order to build on the ties that bind. Today, the lay of the land when it comes to the toy market for children is drastically different. Brands vie for the almighty dollar in this competitive arena, because while the immediate audience might be cute and cuddly, the billions their parents spend on them make the business of play take on a much more serious edge.

For Danish brand LEGO, a new line targeted at young females is part of a bid for the toy giant to retain its foothold in the industry and remain relevant. In line with this, the company also launched a friendship campaign recently. Rolling-out a multi-pronged approach, LEGO has released a Friendship Diary, as well as launched a short film, Duology, to bring home the message of the importance of friends to its audience. The webisodes feature the lives of five girls, set in the fictional Heartlake City, who champion friendship through interaction and play.

By targeting the largely-untapped young female market, LEGO aims to forge stronger ties with its young clients. Michelle Yeo, Regional Engagement and Activation Manager, spoke about its segue into focusing more on the female demographic.

“LEGO is a brand that delivers a lot of experience for children, and a lot of it is through the play experience. Predominantly, we’ve had toys for boys. I mean, that’s in all honesty. And when we embarked on this journey, we wanted to be able to include the girls as well. It’s something that we realised – it is part of the play pattern, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s boys or girls. This is so they create that bond, that friendship. It is about being together, doing things together, building together. So that is the whole idea behind the whole friendship campaign.”

Embracing the digital wave

A pair of twins spending time while playing with Lego pieces. (Darshini Gopalarishnakone)

With a history of 81 years and counting when it comes to delivering on good old-fashioned fun, keeping relevant and maintaining brand continuity is front and centre with the company. LEGO is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of play materials, after American counterpart Hasbro.

Specialising in construction toys, it ranked just behind Mattel and Hasbro in overall global traditional toys and games in 2012. To keep up with its competitors, the company has continued to diversify its business, with expansion into computer games. In addition, much of its growth has come from its very successful licensing strategy.

In general, economic gains have seen consumers relax their budget restraints. This in turn has helped the toys and games markets to register another year of healthy sales growth. Although video games are a burgeoning growth-industry in itself, the digital sphere will not be etching out physical play any time soon for the giant. However, the company believes it is important to acknowledge the shifting sands in terms of how customers entertain themselves.

This might be a play, as it were, to retain its share of the toy market, in the midst of competitors who are jumping on the digital bandwagon as the new wave.

Yeo says the digital platform is an important part of market share, but does not believe this will render physical toys into obsolescence.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a concern. It’s more that it helps to facilitate our business. Simply because of what you can potentially do on those platforms. We absolutely embrace and acknowledge the fact that kids are on those platforms. And they are watching, they are playing – but at the same time, it’s about being able to tell the story and managing the expectations. Saying hey, you need some of your own time fiddle with some stuff, have your own play time, tumble around on the ground. We are the champions behind the tactile experience they need to have. Because it does help to develop cognitive skills for children, which is important.”

The importance of story-scaping

A pair of twins bonding over Lego. (Dharshini Gopalakrishnakone)

Hazel Ong, Interim Head of LEGO Singapore, spoke about embracing the changing landscape and being part of the digital movement.

“Today, with mobile technology and social networks changing the face of communication, we at LEGO Singapore not only embrace this change, but also continue to encourage fundamental face-to-face interactions and tactile experiences. As a brand that supports the importance of fostering creativity and building relationships, we firmly believe in bringing friends together by maintaining and strengthening social bonds.”

For Dr. Dharshini Gopalakrishnakone, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, physical play is important – not just from her perspective as a doctor, but also as the mother of three young girls. She says that for oldest daughter Kiera Shandhiri Lim, 6, the benefits far override those of computer games.

“The pincer grip requirements and spatial awareness and problem-solving skills necessary in physical play is absolutely unparalleled. It felt really reassuring that despite all my concerns about her attention span and ability to finish difficult tasks, here was my preschooler persevering through a huge box of toys, reading the instruction booklet religiously, and following it through to the end – all the while yelling at her over-attentive parents to “Stop finding the pieces for me!” It was absolutely amazing to watch her develop her fine motor skills and neuromuscular abilities. The development of patience and perseverance was something no computer game could have taught her.

To Dr Gopalakrishnakone, who also advocates such physical building-blocks for her younger twins, the art of physical play cannot be relegated to the back of the shelf due to its importance in encouraging developmental rigour in children.

“Many parents are aware that addictions to electronics like the iPad, television and computer games can lead to the development of shortened attention spans and other issues in their children. But they are at a loss on how to keep their little ones occupied for longer periods of times in this era. In this day and age, where most toys are electronic and encourage shortened attention spans, many kids are finding it difficult to settle down to read books or have a proper conversation with their peers or adults. The constant need for stimulation has become indoctrinated into their psyche. Physical play has the ability to engage children and push them to complete a three dimensional puzzle, while having fun and building important life skills.”

It would seem that digital games remain a complement, rather than the new wave to be embraced at all cost. The approach of melding the old with the new is critical in keeping LEGO relevant in today’s market. Competitors like Mattel and Hasbro are leading the pack as well, and the giants are locked in an unending dance to get a bigger slice of the market.

But the ethos of the Danish toymaker is one that resonates with its audience – and the movie’s surprise success is a strong indication of this. Consider this your conventional wisdom married with the innovation of today, for a concept that works. A dash of fun, a little ingenuity, a whole lot of slapdash fun – mixed with building blocks in the literal and figurative senses of the word. And as long as LEGO does not step on one of its own building blocks, the toy manufacturer will not get in its own way on the march towards success.

Visit the new LEGO channel on Yahoo Singapore. The film Duology can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/lego.

Lego makes inroads into lucrative toy market with friendship campaign, on the back of breaking box-office records for movie

This year was a milestone for the toymaker LEGO, on several front. First, the animated movie of the same name passed the US$400 million mark at the box-office, making it the first movie to do so in 2014. Next, the family franchise has taken it back to their roots, introducing a diversified range of toys for their female market – a largely-untapped segment to date.

Not so long ago times seemed a little simpler when it came to play. Communal games like hopscotch and jump-rope were go-to options, in order to build on the ties that bind. Today, the lay of the land when it comes to the toy market for children is drastically different. Brands vie for the almighty dollar in this competitive arena, because while the immediate audience might be cute and cuddly, the billions their parents spend on them make the business of play take on a much more serious edge.

For Danish brand LEGO, a new line targeted at young females is part of a bid for the toy giant to retain its foothold in the industry and remain relevant. In line with this, the company also launched a friendship campaign recently. Rolling-out a multi-pronged approach, LEGO has released a Friendship Diary, as well as launched a short film, Duology, to bring home the message of the importance of friends to its audience. The webisodes feature the lives of five girls, set in the fictional Heartlake City, who champion friendship through interaction and play.

By targeting the largely-untapped young female market, LEGO aims to forge stronger ties with its young clients. Michelle Yeo, Regional Engagement and Activation Manager, spoke about its segue into focusing more on the female demographic.

“LEGO is a brand that delivers a lot of experience for children, and a lot of it is through the play experience. Predominantly, we’ve had toys for boys. I mean, that’s in all honesty. And when we embarked on this journey, we wanted to be able to include the girls as well. It’s something that we realised – it is part of the play pattern, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s boys or girls. This is so they create that bond, that friendship. It is about being together, doing things together, building together. So that is the whole idea behind the whole friendship campaign.”

A balance of embracing the digital wave, while staying with the tried-and-true

With a history of 81 years and counting when it comes to delivering on good old-fashioned fun, keeping relevant and maintaining brand continuity is front and centre with the company. LEGO is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of play materials, after American counterpart Hasbro.

Specialising in construction toys, it ranked just behind Mattel and Hasbro in overall global traditional toys and games in 2012. To keep up with its competitors, the company has continued to diversify its business, with expansion into computer games. In addition, much of its growth has come from its very successful licensing strategy.

In general, economic gains have seen consumers relax their budget restraints. This in turn has helped the toys and games markets to register another year of healthy sales growth. Although video games are a burgeoning growth-industry in itself, the digital sphere will not be etching out physical play any time soon for the giant. However, the company believes it is important to acknowledge the shifting sands in terms of how customers entertain themselves.

This might be a play, as it were, to retain its share of the toy market, in the midst of competitors who are jumping on the digital bandwagon as the new wave.

Yeo says the digital platform is an important part of market share, but does not believe this will render physical toys into obsolescence.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a concern. It’s more that it helps to facilitate our business. Simply because of what you can potentially do on those platforms. We absolutely embrace and acknowledge the fact that kids are on those platforms. And they are watching, they are playing – but at the same time, it’s about being able to tell the story and managing the expectations. Saying hey, you need some of your own time fiddle with some stuff, have your own play time, tumble around on the ground. We are the champions behind the tactile experience they need to have. Because it does help to develop cognitive skills for children, which is important.”

The importance of story-scaping

Hazel Ong, Interim Head of LEGO Singapore, spoke about embracing the changing landscape and being part of the digital movement.

“Today, with mobile technology and social networks changing the face of communication, we at LEGO Singapore not only embrace this change, but also continue to encourage fundamental face-to-face interactions and tactile experiences. As a brand that supports the importance of fostering creativity and building relationships, we firmly believe in bringing friends together by maintaining and strengthening social bonds.”

For Dr. Dharshini Gopalakrishnakone, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, physical play is important – not just from her perspective as a doctor, but also as the mother of three young girls. She says that for oldest daughter Kiera Shandhiri Lim, 6, the benefits far override those of computer games.

“The pincer grip requirements and spatial awareness and problem-solving skills necessary in physical play is absolutely unparalleled. It felt really reassuring that despite all my concerns about her attention span and ability to finish difficult tasks, here was my preschooler persevering through a huge box of toys, reading the instruction booklet religiously, and following it through to the end – all the while yelling at her over-attentive parents to “Stop finding the pieces for me!” It was absolutely amazing to watch her develop her fine motor skills and neuromuscular abilities. The development of patience and perseverance was something no computer game could have taught her.

To Dr Gopalakrishnakone, who also advocates such physical building-blocks for her younger twins, the art of physical play cannot be relegated to the back of the shelf due to its importance in encouraging developmental rigour in children.

“Many parents are aware that addictions to electronics like the iPad, television and computer games can lead to the development of shortened attention spans and other issues in their children. But they are at a loss on how to keep their little ones occupied for longer periods of times in this era. In this day and age, where most toys are electronic and encourage shortened attention spans, many kids are finding it difficult to settle down to read books or have a proper conversation with their peers or adults. The constant need for stimulation has become indoctrinated into their psyche. Physical play has the ability to engage children and push them to complete a three dimensional puzzle, while having fun and building important life skills.”

It would seem that digital games remain a complement, rather than the new wave to be embraced at all cost. The approach of melding the old with the new is critical in keeping LEGO relevant in today’s market. Competitors like Mattel and Hasbro are leading the pack as well, and the giants are locked in an unending dance to get a bigger slice of the market.

But the ethos of the Danish toymaker is one that resonates with its audience – and the movie’s surprise success is a strong indication of this. Consider this your conventional wisdom married with the innovation of today, for a concept that works. A dash of fun, a little ingenuity, a whole lot of slapdash fun – mixed with building blocks in the literal and figurative senses of the word. And as long as LEGO does not step on one of its own building blocks, the toy manufacturer will not get in its own way on the march towards success.

Visit the new LEGO channel at Yahoo Singapore. The film Duology can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/lego.