Nowadays, LEGO toys are no longer just children’s toys. LEGO toy stores can be seen everywhere, and there are also LEGO figures in movies, animations and theme parks. But what you may not know is that Lego originally came from a father’s love for his son.
From the verge of bankruptcy to the rebirth of Nirvana:
The growth history of the Lego Empire
The Lego company’s trademark “LEGO” comes from the Danish word “Leggodt”, which means to have fun. The Latin explanation is that I put them together (“Iputtogether”). The Lego brand’s self-report is “playon” (“always play”). This shows that its brand positioning is the same. In 1932, Lego founder Ole Kirk Christiansen started making wooden toys in his studio. In 1934, he began to sell it as a Lego toy.
The Danish town of Billund is the founding place of Lego toys, and it is also where Lego is now headquartered. In the 1920s, Ole Christiansen, the first generation heir to a small town carpenter, ran a wood factory whose main business was farm construction, wooden houses, and decoration. His ancestors lived in the middle of Jutland peninsula, Denmark, and migrated several times. Ole’s generation began to settle in Billund. With the advent of the capitalist economic crisis of 1929-1933, it was difficult for carpenters to receive orders. One day, his son played a “shaving machine” and burned the family house. The carpenter Ole didn’t blame his son too much because of his love for his son. He even started to make toys from the corner wood, like a car or a small house for his son. He soon discovered that carpenter work hardly improved, but only the order of toys rose instead of falling. Although it survived the Great Depression, Ole did not make much.
In 1934, Ole named the company Lego. This coincides with the meaning of “combination” or “combination” in Latin. His youngest son, Gotfred, became his father’s right-hand man in the process and later became the second generation of Lego. When Ole’s business began to flourish, in 1942 its factory was once again reduced to ashes due to a short circuit of wires. However, Ole was not discouraged by this, but instead paid more attention to the introduction of advanced technology. In the 1940s, the world toy manufacturing industry entered the plastic era. In 1946, Ole bought a plastic injection molding machine from the UK, which was expensive, equivalent to Lego’s two years of profit. As the first toy manufacturer in Denmark with an injection molding machine, Lego began to design and produce plastic toys that can be assembled, opening a new era in the toy industry.
After Ole died in 1958, Gottfred officially became the new head. He made a bold decision to set the company’s main product as the building blocks. This idea comes from the “self-locking building blocks” invented by British child psychologist Hilary Fisher Page. Different from traditional wooden building blocks, the basic unit of this building block is small plastic squares that can be spliced together, which can be connected horizontally and have stronger stability.
Practice has proved that Gotfred’s decision is quite wise. This kind of building blocks is very popular, and Lego’s commercial territory has since expanded to Europe, Norway, Germany, and Switzerland. Thanks to Gotfred’s persistence, Lego’s continuous investment in innovation has changed the building block market. Lego innovated the technology of building blocks splicing and applied for a patent “TOYBUILDINGBRICK” in 1958, and Lego began to become a mature system. However, by the end of the 20th century, emerging entertainments such as animation and video games had a new impact on Lego. At the same time, the decision-making level also decided to lower the product positioning and produced many simple assembled building blocks, but the company was on the verge of closing. In 1998, Lego lost 47.8 million U.S. dollars, and in 2003 it lost 240 million U.S. dollars.
In order to save the company, Kejelder, who took over as the head in 1979, decided to employ professional managers. In 2004, 36-year-old Jorgen Wig Nastopp became the first CEO outside the family. Nastopp’s strategy is simple and novel, and the proportion of new bricks every year is 60%. This model has brought about the miracle of rapid growth for Lego, allowing the Lego philosophy of “free building” to rise again.
Mission, innocence and humanity:
The secret of Lego’s success
In 2014, Julia Golding, the global chief marketing officer of cosmetics company Revlon, moved to Lego. She believes that marketing is the core of Lego, and everyone has their own Lego story. But in Julia’s childhood, there was no Lego. In her birthplace, Russia, there are no plastic blocks. Later, she bought a model of the Millennium Falcon for her son. The Millennium Falcon is one of Lego’s series of products based on the interstellar spacecraft in the “Star Wars” series. Its latest model has 7,500 parts and is Lego’s largest spacecraft.
In addition to marketing, Julia’s work also includes the entire product portfolio, product experience, customer communication, product information, social communication, etc. She believes that Lego is a mission-driven company focused on inspiring and cultivating future builders. This is one of the secrets of Lego’s success in the world. For Lego, toys are not only entertainment, but also education and creation.
The attention to children’s interests is another secret of Lego’s success. Peppa, who invented the puzzle blocks, is a child psychologist, often to understand the children’s true thoughts and listen to their opinions and suggestions. This approach was very revolutionary and forward-looking at the time. Nastopp once asked investment companies to conduct professional ethnographic research to find out how children all over the world play. At present, Lego has a secret R&D team called Future Lab to be responsible for the development of technologically enhanced gaming experiences.
Faced with the rapid development and severe challenges of technology, Lego continues to use new technologies to satisfy human nature. In theory, Lego bricks can create any image, from the Governor of Washington to the X-wing starfighter (a fictional space fighter in the “Star Wars” series). The other departments of the company continue the original R&D tradition, producing cool and eye-catching airplanes, fire trucks and ninja castles, but the task of the laboratory in the future will be more difficult-making toys more digital.
In 2016, Lego quietly launched an experimental project called Lego Fusion in Future Lab. When assembling a house or castle model, children can watch their creations by shooting on a tablet computer and upload them to the Internet to become part of the virtual world. David Graham, who is in charge of marketing and business development at Future Lab, believes that through this project, they redefine a class of games. Although this is still in its infancy, when the audience builds a model in the future, it can be scanned into a game.
The world beyond toys:
How Lego changed lives
In order to create more profits, Lego has built a huge business empire connecting movies, games and building blocks. It promotes building blocks by shooting movies and designing games, forming a business model in which the sales of movies, games and building blocks are mutually driven. In addition to Lego movies, Lego even opened a number of Lego theme parks around the world.
First of all, Lego drove the magical town of Billund. In Denmark, there are not many examples where a company can promote a small town. No one can imagine what a miracle the carpenter Ole of 1932 will leave the town. The Lego company has provided thousands of jobs locally and has also developed Billund into a famous tourist destination in Denmark. In the 1960s, Billund opened the second largest airport in Denmark, and built a library and church in the 1970s. In the 21st century, a racecourse, various hotels and shops opened in Billund. Although Billund today has many pillar industries, toy manufacturing is still the center of the town, and Lego is the town’s largest manufacturing plant and employer.
Secondly, Lego has created an online platform for players to realize their DIY dreams. In order to better cater to the needs of players for free creation, Lego and Japanese partner CUUSOO created the LEGOCUUSOO project in 2011. The project is created by the players themselves, voted to determine the production suit. This platform was officially launched in Japan on April 23, 2011, and opened to the world in October of that year. According to incomplete statistics, the platform has produced at least 7 suits, most of which have a technological style. In 2014, the cooperation between Lego and CUUSOO ended, and the platform was renamed LEGOIdeas. The renamed website introduced some new regulations, such as relaxing the age limit for participation from 18 to over 13 years old.
Third, Lego pays attention to humanistic care and advocates feminism. For girls, friends have a very important position. The friendship that helps each other and shares together is an important spiritual strength and spiritual wealth for girls to grow up healthy. In the course of life, girls can discover and cultivate common interests, hobbies and ideas, and share each other’s happiness, happiness and dreams. The themes of Lego in 2011 included Lego City and Star Wars. They were not specifically designed for girls, but there are still many girls who like Lego. Based on a research, Lego decided to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to design LEGOFriends themed series of toys to attract more female audiences.
At the headquarters of the Lego company, there is the world’s largest 2×4 building block and a huge logo built by 12,500 dolls. This perfectly interprets Lego’s understanding and pursuit of perfection: any complex model can be built firmly with enough building blocks, and it is also easy to separate. What is amazing is that, except for the replacement of hard ABS plastic in 1963, Lego bricks have not changed. Existing research shows that children will be more interested in other entertainment methods and spend less and less time on Lego. Lego’s R&D staff are working hard to prevent this day from coming. Regardless of the final fate, the Lego Empire’s business logic’s focus on the future, childlike innocence and humanity will undoubtedly be recorded in history.