A couple of hours, nearly a hundred components, with the slide, insert, card, buckle action, a building block toy based on ancient architecture slowly show in front of you. Similar “toys” are appearing frequently in the lives of children and even adults.
With the rapid development of the tide play field, both educational and emotional consumer attributes of the building block industry ushered in a golden period of development, its core consumer groups have also occurred in an obvious stratification. A class of adults is the main consumer crowd. At this time, the blocks are more prominent is its collection attributes, but also adults to escape from the stress of the “refuge”, this market has also been occupied by Lego and other international brands. Baidu index shows that in the Lego consumer crowd, 20-39-year-old consumers account for nearly 80%, the main focus of the adult market of Lego and its “flat” people, for the weak innovation ability, no competitive advantage of domestic brands left the opportunity to break out.
Another category of people is mainly younger children. In the building block market, Bruco is the fastest growing children’s building block brand in the market. Bruco, formerly known as Grape Technology, specializes in providing early learning machine products for children, officially entered the building block market in 2015. 2020, Bruco building blocks sales increased 232% over the previous year, the first sales growth rate for three consecutive years; 2021 “Double 11”, Bruco building blocks became the first cumulative sales of Tmall Jingdong dual platform In 2021, Brooke blocks became the No. 1 Chinese block brand in cumulative sales on both platforms of Tmall and Jingdong.
As a latecomer in the building block track, how can Bruco find its own position and successfully break out from the crowd of competitors such as LEGO?
Benchmarking with LEGO, creating differentiation with “large particles
The president of Bruco blocks, Sheng Xiaofeng, once said that there would be two types of brands in the future blocks industry, one is the adult blocks represented by LEGO and the other is the children’s blocks represented by Bruco.
In the block industry, where competition is getting fierce and new players are emerging, LEGO’s position in the market remains unshakable. In order to quickly open up the market, some brands choose “compatible with Lego, cheaper than Lego” brand strategy, become Lego’s followers.
However, Sheng Xiaofeng believes that “replica” and “imitation” cannot make consumers form a differentiated experience. Based on this, Bru can choose to make micro-innovation to the products based on the public’s perception of LEGO, so as to reduce the cognitive cost of consumers. This micro-innovation is mainly reflected in two aspects.
Focus on children aged 1-6 years old, specializing in children’s building blocks
For children, Bruker focuses on the track of “children’s building blocks” and divides the product series scientifically and precisely, with the series of “Kaiju Genie” for children aged 1.5-3, the series of “Traffic”, “Big Eyes” and “Land, Sea and Air” for children aged 3-6, and the series of “Smart” for children aged 4 and above. The series is suitable for children above 4 years old, further refining the children’s building block market. On the contrary, LEGO’s target group covers 1.5-99 years old consumers, and its well-known products combined with Porsche and Harry Potter IPs are also more adult-oriented and known as “big toys for adults”. Compared with LEGO, Bruco meets the needs of children of different age groups.
The first “large particle blocks” concept, i.e. blocks with a base unit of no less than 1 cm
In the block market, block brands including Lego focus more on small particle blocks, which are more suitable for older children and adults, but not for younger children. Therefore, Bruco designed the block ratio as 1:1:1, which is not only easier to put together and shape, but also cultivate children’s creativity, and at the same time, the corners of large particles are more rounded, which reduces the risk of children swallowing and swallowing and cutting their fingers.
As you can see, in terms of target group and product form, Bruco has made a clear distinction from Lego: it is more creative and less collectible, which is more suitable for younger children.
With micro-innovation to jump out of the traditional block brand’s encirclement, Bruco’s development is very explosive and permeable, but this alone is not enough to make it occupy a dominant position in the block market.
IP empowerment, using culture to create brand premiums
The vitality of toy brands depends in large part on the influence of IP, and the greater the influence of IP, the more it can create a premium for the brand and open up a significant gap in the sales of similar products.
But this is what the majority of domestic brands are missing. As the world’s largest toy exporter and the second largest toy consumer market, China has few super IPs comparable to Barbie, Gouda and other popular worldwide, resulting in low concentration in the domestic toy market, and domestic brands can only play price wars in the low-end market, which is not competitive in the market.
Bruco in the IP strategy layout can be broadly divided into two paths.
Self-produced animation, creating original IP
As early as 2017, before the product was launched, Bruco launched the cartoon “Hundred Variations Bruco” in advance, attracting younger children by shaping three masters with special power and different personalities: Bu, Lulu and Coco. In the setting of the cartoon, Bu Bu, Lu Lu and Coco each represent different colored cars, and the scenes where they summon weapons are also designed as block building scenes, thus attracting children’s interest in blocks and directly cultivating a large number of brand fans for Bruco blocks. In addition, Bruco will also launch a new series of animated films called “Bruco Heroes Wireless”, which will continue to give the IP a long life in the form of stories.
Cross-border association with influential IPs
Under the background of national cultural confidence, more and more young consumers start to support national brands, and designs with Chinese elements and Chinese IPs are gradually loved by consumers.
In the existing product system, Bruco launched the “Happy China Bucket” product in early 2021, which is based on the three traditional festivals of Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival; jointly with many official organizations and famous IPs, Bruco launched a series of themes such as Forbidden City culture, Chinese spaceflight and Three Bodies, empowering Chinese blocks with cultural IPs; taking Shikumen architecture as the prototype, Bruco launched the first “The Site of the Great Congress of the Communist Party of China” building block with a major cultural creation across the border, restoring the architectural appearance of the site of the Great Congress of the Communist Party of China.
With the original IP as the core, the product is extended from functional consumption to emotional consumption, and the brand influence is driven by sales, and then the brand influence is further increased with the famous IP to expand the brand premium. Although IP is a high-investment project for the brand from the current perspective, the benefits brought by the IP effect are also obvious. After the first season of the cartoon was launched, the pull on Bruco’s sales was about 30%-40% when no other brand attraction strategy was done. It can be seen that the IP effect has a long-term and profound impact on the block industry. But is the road to differentiation really good for Bruker?
The road to success is not free of hidden worries
If Lego is a “big toy” for adults, then Bruco is an emotional toy that mobilizes the curiosity of younger children. But this does not mean that there are no hidden worries in the future development of Bruco.
Narrow track, limited growth ceiling
Choosing a niche category to build a small but beautiful brand is becoming the choice of many new brands, and although the brand is growing fast by focusing on the early stage of development, it limits the ceiling of brand growth. In December 2021, Bruco announced a brand strategy upgrade, an important change was that Bruco expanded its target audience to children under 10 years old, attempting to achieve brand growth by breaking the circle of the population, but such a move will inevitably usher in a comprehensive blockade from other brands.
Serious homogenization in the market
Empowering brands with cultural IP can undoubtedly gain more market attention and seize consumer minds, but it also faces homogenization competition. As in IP licensing, other brands such as Enlightenment blocks, easy to build blocks, keeppley, etc. also have a lot of popular IP products – Forbidden City series, Chinese space series, “Nezha’s Magic Boy Descending” series, “Little Column under the sea” series, etc., and even more price advantage, how to maintain the attractiveness of IP is a problem for Bruco to consider.
Public data show that building blocks in the Chinese market accounted for 16% of the entire toy market, production reached about 13 billion yuan. However, “weak brand power and strong sense of OEM” has been the consumer’s perception of Chinese building block brands. With the upgrading of consumption, this model has become unsustainable, through the market forces, the Chinese building block industry is ushering in a turnaround, the birth of a number of building block brands that choose to differentiate themselves from the competition.
In addition to Bruco, which is a large particle, cutting into the 1-6 years old children’s crowd, there are also LOZ Li Zhi, which reduces the particle size of blocks and focuses on micro-drill blocks; for children aged 1.5-6 years old to launch the enlightenment in the particle block brand small pieces of fun, for children aged 12 years old and above to play small particle block brand Keeppley, etc., so we see the blocks market’s infinite possibilities. Along with the changes in the market, we also look forward to seeing how these building block brands will be invincible in the market.