LEGO is awesome, but man, have they made a misstep.
Just because I already happen to have the research down, lemme give you a little background info.
LEGO was created in 1932 by the Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen in the town of Billand in Jutland, Denmark. LEGO was built around the premise that children could develop and learn skills by engaging in “good play” and would enrich their young lives as well as their subsequent adulthood. In 1958 the LEGO brick that we all know and love was introduced with the intention of stimulating creative and structured problem solving, imagination and curiosity.
Amazing, right? And who hasn’t experienced the joy of creating a castle or a house or a boat or an animal or a whatever-you-want-because-they’re-frickin’-LEGOs-and-they-can-be-anything! at some point or another? The awesomeness of LEGO lies mostly in the fact that there are no gender boundaries and there are no rules with regards to what you do with your bricks. It’s not strictly a girl’s toy or a boy’s toy, because being creative and liking to build stuff is not mutually exclusive to one gender.
Then WHY does LEGO suddenly think this isn’t the case?
LEGO has recently introduced a new line of their bricks (LEGO Friends) and a new marketing scheme to go with it. And it sucks.
In an effort to attract a larger female market, LEGO has decided to take the most cliche, boring and lame route ever. Let’s give the girls boobs and makeup! Let’s make everything pastel! Let’s make it as stereotypically girly as possible! The reason this is so disappointing is because LEGO has always seemed smarter than that. They had a campaign in the 70s where they promoted beautiful creativity and the girl in the ad is an adorable little redhead in overalls and a boxy looking LEGO creation, grinning at the camera with a look that clearly says she’s proud of herself and she feels good about what she made.
What an awesome message to send to kids and to parents and to anyone else who happens to see this ad. Being yourself, being creative and making a kick ass LEGO thing is way more fun and cooler than doing what is expected and playing with dolls. Why, then, has LEGO decided to take a giant step backwards when they already know that toys for girls don’t have to be pink and princessy, and toys for boys don’t have to be primary coloured and tool-based. My friend here will help me elaborate. This chick knows what’s up.
That saying about people who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it is 100% true. LEGO went through a crisis in 2003/4 when they decided to try and change up what was working for them and, as a result, were basically losing about 2.2 million Danish kroner per day between 1998 and 2004 when they started outsourcing their production to a Singapore-based company called Flextronics. One of the huge reasons they started floundering was that they lost confidence in their original product of the LEGO brick and were trying to diversify their offerings in order to deal with the decline in the traditional toy market by coming out with computer games, clothing and tv shows. All this did was confuse employees and customers.
I get that sometimes you get tunnel vision and it’s not always easy to see the hole you’re digging yourself into, but man, it always amazes me when companies let themselves get so far from the KISS philosophy (Keep It Simple, Stupid for the uninitiated.) Quit compartmentalizing and stick with what you know works. LEGO bricks in their purest form work. For boys and girls.