Journey Down the Toy Aisle: LEGO
by Justin Keys (@mrjroc83)
LEGO: Building imaginations brick by brick.
What toy would allow a child to build a tower and then smash it or build a spaceship then break it a part only to build a house? The answer is LEGO, a toy that has captivated the minds and imaginations of both children and adults since 1949, when a carpenter named Ole Kirk Christiansen improved on the interlocking plastic toy bricks made by Kiddicraft. However, it wasn’t until 1963 that LEGO developed the ABS polymer interlocking brick that we know and love. Over 400 billion bricks have been made since then. Interestingly enough is that the brick design from 1958, when the LEGO brick was patented, can still be used with the current LEGO bricks of today.
LEGO has come a long way since their inception and have remained fairly popular for over time. However, during the late 1990s, LEGO sales fell to an all-time low and the LEGO Company even considered closing its doors. Then in 1999, a movie came out and LEGO wanted to create sets for it; the movie was Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The LEGO Star Wars line was born, and it became the bestselling line for the company, even beating out the Pirate and Space lines that have always been main staples. From that point, on LEGO began to create newer themed lines from popular movies and comic heroes, such as Harry Potter, Prince of Persia, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, etc…and now they have sets for the Marvel Avengers. But LEGO doesn’t want to rely on these license sets, planning to continue developing their own characters and lines as they have been since the beginning.
LEGO translates to “Play well”
LEGO as a company has always adhered to their motto of “The best is never too good,” and they have kept a very high standard of quality in their toys and manufacturing process. They also have a good pulse on their marketing segments, through studying and testing they developed new lines and quality products that customers like and enjoy. The quality shows forth in their product, from the design of the pieces to the packaging and marketing of the toys.
LEGO has been a favorite toy of many and they are appealing to both boys and girls by offering a gateway to adventure and inspiration. Not many toys have the ability to offer a lot of replay value as LEGO does, it allows a child or an adult to be an engineer of sorts. Playing with LEGO toys encourages a child to be as creative as they want to be.
It is a toy that is almost indestructible (unless you set fire to them, which is not recommended), can be used as a toy and a learning tool, and can be used as an art medium or used for a science project. YouTube is full of videos of LEGO builders creating awesome constructions. Some of the more captivating builds have been of the Great Ball Contraptions (or GBC for short), and other robotic builds utilizing components from LEGO’s Mindstorm line (which was developed with help from MIT). With new lines and themes LEGO has crossed different segments of the toy market and in doing so they have been able to grow and add stability to their brand.
LEGO: more than a toy
LEGO wanted to expand from toys into other markets and has done so by diving into the video game segment, board games, clothing, retail stores and theme parks, and now a full length featured film.
As a brand, LEGO has developed well, but at first it was a struggle. The idea of venturing into games and movies was not widely accepted within the company, but LEGO translated well into video games. When playing a LEGO-based video game, the characteristics of the toy seem to come to life. The most common trait of all the games is that the player can build LEGO sets in the game as well as break them down, which adds to the playing experience. The funniest thing to do in any LEGO video game is to go around with the mini-fig character and slap around other min-fig characters. Oh the joy of slapping the mini-fig’s heads or arms off.
LEGO has also tried its hand at theme parks, in conjunction with Merlin Entertainments. LEGOLAND may not be Disneyland but it is a fun theme park to visit nonetheless. It offers the joy or being in a larger than life LEGO world, with just about everything made out of LEGOs or in a brick design motif. This venture added another brick in their bucket along with retail stores and clothing lines. One of the more exciting ideas for LEGO is a movie. Be on the lookout for a big Hollywood production movie that will be released in theaters in 2014. Warner Brothers has green lit a film on the popular toy and will be working with the industries best actors and producers in the making of this film.
LEGO has been able to take their brand globally, from a small start in Denmark to the homes of children and adults worldwide. From thousands of different sets with basic designs to sets for those who want a challenge, LEGO will continue to live on as it has become a pop culture phenomenon as a brand and a toy that has encompassed the lives of many.