The latest issue of Wired magazine sports a Lego army and talks about Lego’s obsessed fans.
How Lego fans have been alternately ignored and then embraced is duly reported in the book Primal Branding, but it doesn’t hurt to emphasize the switch from manufacturing-minded to customer-minded. (John Deere pay heed.)
While most companies strive their entire lives to obtain, build, and nurture a fan base, some companies with established customer communities—even raving fans, sometimes take that customer zeal too much for granted. Or ignore it completely.
Such was the case with Lego, whose ravenous customers spent hours and thousands of dollars envisioning, building and displaying elaborate Lego fortresses, cities, towns, spaceships, Darth Vader replicas and whatever else their imagination could render.
For decades, confirms Lego community development manager Jake McKee, Lego ignored this shadow culture. “Lego is striving to develop its market of people who are outside the official target markets, but are active Lego enthusiasts nonetheless,” says McKee. That means they’re selling beyond the traditional ages 4-12 market usually suited by Lego. For years, Lego screamed about Legomaniacs as it tried to extend its market beyond the 12-year kid ceiling, not realizing they had Legomaniacs all along.
As the Wired article points out, it took a $238 million dollar kick in the bricks to snap Lego around.
Today, the Wired magazine speculates they have broken through the 12-year old kid ceiling with robotics from Lego Mindstorms. Legobots (my word, not theirs) have that bold equation common to all great toys: imagination + entertainment.
The Wired article sets up the creation story for the next generation of Lego Mindstorms perfectly. What's needed next is to manage the other peices of primal code: creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers and identify who's the leader of the band (or robopack).
The question is not one of ingenuity, but whether or not Lego can give this dynamic new enterprise as robust a sense of community as its 50-year old predecessor. The key of course, lies not in product innovation, but in the primal code. Now that would be a toy story worth telling.
[Primal Branding is a construct that lets you engineer a belief system that attracts communities of people who want to believe. Primal brands contain the seven pieces of primal code: a creation story, creed, icons, ritual, sacred words, nonbelievers, and leader. The word “brand” is an imperfect word. For purposes here, “brand” is considered to be any product, service, personality, organization, social cause, political ideology, religion, movement, or other entity searching for popular appeal.]