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Introduction

The Lego Group is a private company with is headquarters in Billund, Denmark. The company business focuses on the development of children’s creativity that is enhanced through playing and learning activities. It presently provides toys; experiences and materials that are used in teaching children located in more than 130 countries. This paper seeks to discuss the brand communication strategies and tools that Lego has applied over the years leading to its emergence to become the third largest manufacturer of the play materials. The work also involves an objective and critical review of the Lego’s post 2004 integrated marketing communications program.

LEGO’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) as in the year 2004

An analysis of the LEGO Group paints its picture in terms of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats the company had in the year 2004.  A SWOT analysis has identified various strengths that the company had. To begin with, the company is rated as the sixth largest manufacturer of toys in terms of its sales.  This gives the company an edge over its competitors in the same market (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 104-105). Its products are also well-distributed across the globe. The company is known for its products such as toys, experiences and materials that aid teaching for children. The records indicate that the company has its products in at least 130 countries. This is a wide market operation that gives the company a big boost.

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The official website that hosts the company is written in 16 divergent languages thus enhancing effective communication and marketing strategy across the globe to potential clients with different backgrounds. Further, the LEGOLAND Discovery Centers are relatively more popular and operates on the basis of all the popular LEGO products. Through these, the company invites families to explore and interact with an exciting world full of educational fun.

 The company is buoyed by the fact that its club has over 2.7 million members who are evenly distributed across the globe and the fact that it is actively involved in the education projects world over in collaboration with local agencies that are operating in the field of education. The company also has strength in the way in which the popularity of its bricks is recognized globally (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 104). It is particularly reputed for helping children improve their creativity through innovative play and learning activities. The level of imagination that children use in order to build using the bricks greatly improves their imagination and creativity. This has boosted the popularity of the LEGO Group.

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LEGO Group is also known for certain weaknesses in its operations. The products of the company are known to be very expensive when compared to those of its rivals even in the same market. This is the situation both in the domestic and foreign markets. This has made LEGO loose a good percentage of customers in markets where the company has outlets. In order to improve its productivity and profitability, the company must first overcome these hurdles.

LEGO Group has a great opportunity for its products, operations, growth and profitability. First, its target consumers, kids who need to play using the colorful bricks always gives the company great opportunities. Besides, the company’s main markets are located in Europe and U.S with great prospects for getting additional markets across the globe to distribute its products and increase its productivity and profitability. Since the prospects of launching into new markets remains high, the company has great opportunities that could inform the development of new products to meet the demands of its products in the new markets.

The threats that LEGO Group faced in 2004 can be simplified to include the possibility of negative publicity gaining root as the company continues to invest heavily in advertising and online marketing. This is likely to paint a negative image on the company thus lowering its sales targets and market base. Besides, the fact that children prefer watching television than applying their creative and imaginative skills in making items using their own brain is a threat to the demand of LEGO Group products. Such realities imply that less and fewer children are likely to demand the bricks with time as interests’ shifts to the media as a means to meeting their recreation needs.

LEGO’s Communication effects and Communications Objectives for the post 2004 period

In the post 2004 period, LEGO adopted more of online marketing and communication strategies. This strategy was informed by the realization that children had preferred watching online games to gain imaginative and creative skills at the expense of using the play bricks during their leisure time. The company moved further to utilize mass-customization of consumer designs, a move that was extended further when a deal with Lucas Arts that allowed for the creation of video games was enabled. This later became the top-selling game after its launch. The communication initiative whose prime objective was to promote sales later thrived through the adoption of display strategies such as in-store displays.

The communication strategy that encompassed retailer promotional platform and an advertising approach formed LEGO’s aggressive campaign its products. The communication strategy here took the form of “living point-of-purchase” road-shows that made use of designated marketing teams from LEGO Group. The goal of putting in place campaigns targeting potential product users aided the growth of the popularity of LEGO Group products. The use of methods such as print magazine, web-based promotions, family events, online parent-specific contents and forms of adverts that persuaded parents to perceive the world from children’s perspective greatly boosted the product. The strategies got the parents provoked with strong memory evocations enabling parents to value the product in the lives of children. For example, the “Build it” campaigns made the company to win the Gold Lion during the Cannes International Advertising Festival of the year 2007.

LEGO managed to restore the thrill of its toys by using PR agency (360 PR) to create an online platform. The objective of this move was to enable LEGO toys remain relevant and exciting even in the age of digital world crowded with consoles and ipods. In effect, the LEGO toys registered tremendous growth in terms of demand and actual purchase. The company also used the ‘LEGO Builders of Tomorrow’ campaigns. The objective of this communication strategy was to attract parents to develop a liking for the LEGO products. The aim was to remind the parents about the importance of cultivating the creativity and imagination of the children through child games that are aided by the devices that the company was manufacturing. This scheme got some parents hooked up to spend substantial amount of money in purchasing LEGO toys among other tools.

The promotion was supported by the use of a regular interactive blog that enhanced online interaction with the parents. This in effect boosted the sales and enabled the company to spread a positive brand message to the target consumers including parents, children and attracted another additional 500 unique monthly visitors. These increased and expanded the market segment for LEGO products that targeted various consumers. 

LEGO Positioning Strategy and Positioning Tactics/ Tools

The positioning strategy adopted by LEGO Group involved integrating the interests and input of their customers in the manufacturing, promotion and pricing of the products. This enhanced improvement of the relationships with the toy retailers (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 104). The company adopted positioning strategies which reminded its target customers of the strengths of its products over those of their rivals. For example, the marketing communication strategy focused on reminding the parents of the value of LEGO toys in building children’s creativity, imagination and cognitive skills. For example, the company used the ‘Build it’ campaign which reinvigorated the market for LEGO Group products (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 104). The products got a cutting edge over rival companies’ products especially following the adoption of online gaming tools that received a warm welcome among the parents and kids who had warmed up to the digital and online gaming in children.

LEGO adopted the use of actual and metaphorical building bricks. This enabled the company to engage with its target market base. Further, the LEGO Group successfully managed to build a tapestry of individual stories who had used the products of the company. The LEGO toys, for example, were introduced by the company to advance the image and value of the company products. The individuals who had used the LEGO products reported that the products were worth spending on. This gave the company an edge over its rivals given the reported personal experiences with the LEGO products.

Brand Narrative as LEGO’s Communication Strategies

LEGO Group has adopted the use of brand narrative. This involves use of social networking that consists of thousands of real individual stories that are born in true user experiences. The company also uses the ‘LEGO Builders of Tomorrow’ campaign which targets the parents and reminds them that children grow to become successful adults through the promotion of creativity and imagination of children (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 106). Such brand narratives have proven to aid the promotion and marketing of LEGO products. The company also made use of the parents’ stories especially about ‘Builders of Tomorrow’ that basically was a marketing tool which enabled the company to paint an image of how valuable the toy bricks would enable children build their creativity and imagination.

The company also applied brand narrative in the form of print magazine which provided a dialogue with the consumers thus giving the company insights into how it can expand its market base through website and media. Brand narrative has in the long run enabled the LEGO Group to promote its products and enlarge its market base. The brand narrative strategy used by the LEGO Group was geared towards one-to-one personal experience programs which had the objective of reaching out to innovators and customers that had adopted the products early and seen its positive impact on their children. They were in turn used to spread the message about the product through word of mouth. Thus brand narrative as a communication strategy enhanced increased sales for LEGO Group (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 106).

Brand Encounters as LEGO’s Communication Strategy

Brand encounters are a product marketing communication strategy involving promotion of the product image by linking it to success, popularity and effectiveness (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 31).  This strategy aims at creating a positive image of the product at all points of contact with the customer. Dahlen and Lange (2008, p. 106) argue that this aids creation of brand meaning to the target customers. LEGO Group used ‘targeted touches’ as a communication strategy. This was aimed at increasing the number of potential and actual consumers with whom the brand had physical contact and dialogue. The brand road-shows that came to be popularly known as ‘retailtainment’ produced excitement among consumers (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 106).

The brand encounter program adopted the use of a scholarship contest and plays tips, podcast and continued interactive blog. This strategy boosted the sales of LEGO Group sales leading to spread of a positive brand message especially among the young children and their parents. The use of actual and metaphorical building bricks in a bid to promote an engaging approach that led to the LEGO logo trademarks. The brand encounter strategy was used by the LEGO Group to create an impression that children who use its toy bricks end up becoming very creative and imaginative. This revamped the market base of the company.

Brand Conversations LEGO’s Communication Strategy

Brand conversation entails building enhanced interactions guided by technology. Technology-assisted peer-peer communications is a new communication strategy that allows LEGO to extend its brand narrative strategy on its websites (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 35).  This strategy enables the company to engage customers on interactive internet-supported dialogue. LEGO Group made use of the internet to promote its bricks products by persuading potential customers to embrace the products. Parents also got to embrace techno-savvy (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 35). The introduction of online brand conversations saw LEGO Group launch websites to market its products through the internet. For example, the company launched three devices that enhanced parents’ interaction across the website. In such websites, parents’ stories especially in relation to the ‘Builders of Tomorrow’, the ‘LEGO Playtime’ podcast and a regular interactive blog. Through this, the company registered growth in product sales, and spread of positive image of the products to young children and parents. The brand conversation initiatives through the internet even created 5000 unique visitors every month (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 106).   Brand conversation strategy also enabled the company to launch its product marketing through the children websites designed particularly for these target users.

LEGO’s post 2004 Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program

Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) is a concept used in marketing management to refer to the concept encompassing deliberate harmonization of all forms of communication that an organization applies in its product promotions (Proctor & Kitchen, 2002, p. 56). Thus it aims at ensuring that all the components of marketing communication work collectively with a single aim of increasing sales and maximizing profitability (Gurau, 2008, p. 44). LEGO Group applied integrated communication marketing through the use of advertising, sales promotion, brand conversation, brand narrative, brand encounter and the use of interactive media to harness its market potentials. The company adopted key customers in the promotion of its new products and to improve relationship with toy retailers in its target market. This enabled it to grow its market base since the retailers in turn created better in-store displays. However, this approach was not very effective especially given the fact that by the time the company launched this initiative, the target customers had moved and adopted online gaming and movies (Gurau, 2008, p. 44).

The adoption of integrated communication marketing saw the introduction and implementation of marketing strategies such as retailer promotional platforms and the use of advertising campaigns (Keillor, 2007, p. 78). This helped the company to retell its ‘brand that builds’ legend. Such promotional approaches included use of road-shows such as ‘living point-of-purchase. These were implemented by various marketing teams. Although these marketing communication strategies were adopted, they were not effective enough to reach all the target market for the LEGO products that were being marketed worldwide. As a result, the company adopted the brand narrative marketing to market its products.

The LEGO Group adopted and used ‘retailtainment’ programs as part of its integrated marketing communication initiative (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 105).  This created excitement and increase the purchase of the products with the company brand names. Although the company had initially launched the use of cardboard signs to promote its products, this move was brightly complimented by the use of ‘living point-of-purchase’ campaign that was being moved from one store to another. Dahlen and Lange (2008, p. 105) argues that this elicited responses that the cardboards could not manage. This was part of its integrated marketing communication framework. The company also integrated its advertising strategy through online parent-specific content and advertising with the aim of influencing parents to see the world from a child’s perspective. This was mixed with image-supported advertising such as ‘Build it’ campaigns which had far-reaching effects after being recognized and receiving an award during the Cannes International Advertising Festival in the year 2007 (Dahlen & Lange, 2008, p. 106). 

Technology supported advertising was adopted by the LEGO Group to support its integrated marketing communication strategy. This was used as strategy to tap into the growing marketing competition that was taking a digital shift. LEGO’s decision to use ipods and social networking paid off especially considering that thousands of individual stories were shared in these networks especially those that emerged from true users of LEGO products. The brand narrative approach was thus integrated into the internet and social networking approach to marketing. This added to the use of websites, podcasts, and adverts made the company gain footing in the post 2004 period enabling the company to register tremendous growth in the demand for its products.

Conclusion

Integrated Marketing Communication is a strategy that enables organizations to coordinate its marketing approaches and effective manage penetration into new markets. LEGO Group used various approaches of integrated marketing communication to register tremendous growth of its market, sales and demand for its products in the post 2004 period. The adoption of this approach was informed by the realization that marketing strategies require strategic planning and approaches that would ensure various promotional approaches are well-coordinated, harmonized to produce expected results. A critical analysis of the approaches adopted by the company reveals the significant product growth potentials that can be unlocked through integrated marketing communications. 

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