In 2012, LEGO launched the Friends line of products marketed specifically at girls¹. The pink and purple world containing doll-shaped figures that spend time on stereotypically female activities in a suburban setting devoid of male figures was apparently developed after four years of market research.
Two years and much criticism later, LEGO released the Research Institute set featuring three female scientists at work in their labs². This fan idea was so popular on LEGO’s crowd-sourced platform that the company created it as a limited edition set. The Research Institute sold out within days of its release, and LEGO has no plans to mass-produce it.
Interestingly, many decades ago LEGO promoted their products (focused on creativity, role-playing, detail-orientation, and construction) to girls and boys equally³. The big idea behind this marketing campaign was pride: kids held up their inventions with big grins on their faces, delighted by their accomplishments.
You can look up many articles and blog posts that criticize LEGO’s marketing decisions, so I won’t repeat what’s already been said. Instead, I want to ask three questions:
- Why did LEGO start by advertising their products to girls and boys alike, and then abandon this approach?
- What made them think they could make more money by targeting only half of their previous audience?
- Why did they choose to win girls over again with a new product line instead of simply re-imaging their current brand?
If LEGO is driven by the bottom line, I would expect they could have made more money by:
- Keeping girls interested in their products all along
- Speaking to the common interests of both genders
- Taking all of the money that went into four years of research and development and directing it towards rebranding that appeals to girls and boys equally
Do you agree or disagree with my assertions? If you were part of LEGO’s marketing team, what would you recommend for 2015? I’ll revisit this topic again later, but I wanted to start getting people thinking about these sorts of decisions, and how they can impact both the perception of a company and its bottom line.