This is a post by Jessica Silver

How do you keep a brand interesting and unique for so long when its product is so intrinsically simple?

By injecting a hefty dose of storytelling into the heart of its brand, LEGO has made an immortal mark on popular culture. And provided a content marketing lesson to us all.

Back in the 80s and 90s, with declining sales and patent expiring, LEGO knew it needed to build a powerhouse brand to compete against a growing set of building-block imitators. And it’s fair to say they did just that.The company has since climbed onto the content super-brand podium alongside our friend Red Bull, becoming one of the world’s largest powerhouse media brands.

If you hate LEGO please see yourself out, the door is to the left.  

Here are 5 things the brand did.

1. Landing two different audiences

Historically, LEGO established itself as a children’s-only brand, disregarding its loyal adult fan base. However, the brand turned 180 when it realised the potential of tapping into this untouched goldmine. LEGO recognised that, just like kids, adults have a hunger for fantasy and nostalgia – pretending to take over the galaxy is way more entertaining than writing a business report. The brand leveraged this idea by treating kids and adults as one in the same.

Educational and timeless, from feel good to do good, LEGO’s focus has moved beyond toys and into the educational sphere of today’s generation. LEGO’s learning programs help equip young prodigies with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) knowledge and skills. If only math was this fun back in the day, maybe I would have paid a bit more attention in class.

The brand has extended the LEGO experience one step further with the recent introduction of LEGO FORMA, a premium product range designed for adults with a creative side. From customizable skins to generating life-like movements, LEGO FORMA encourages enthusiasts to express their individuality in a simple yet stimulating way.

2. Projects and places for communities to thrive

LEGO is not for the fainthearted but for those die-hard fans – LEGO ‘beliebers’, if you will. The brand worked out the importance of unleashing passion through audience participation, creating platforms where communities can interact and flourish. From Star Wars to Frozen and everything in between, if you voted for it, they have it. The creation of these LEGO subcultures has paved the way for LEGO’s newest introduction, the LEGO Life App. If you thought that food is life, you’re in for a rude awakening.

This app is where your LEGO nerd juices get flowing. You can access building challenges, tutorials, quizzes and contests all without the pain of stepping barefoot onto a throbbing piece of LEGO. Just like the app’s name suggests this hub is more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. LEGO users can upload their own creations, comment on others and join themed groups – where the hell is the Ninjago group and why am I not already a part of it? There are tribes within tribes..   

3. Creating those “data moments”

Do you want to embark on the LEGO Life journey? Do you want to share your genius with like-minded people? I’m getting revved up just thinking about it! LEGO makes this a possibility in exchange for one small thing, your data. By giving people an incentive to sign up LEGO has placed members in the palm of its hand. From your age and birthday to the types of content you like and watch, LEGO sees it all. It’s like real life Big Brother- he’s always watching you. Always.

Not only does LEGO love your default data but equally your deliberate wishes. On the subsite LEGO Ideas, community members can upload product suggestions and vote for their personal favorites. Imagine LEGO choosing your idea, it’s better than shaking hands with God. It’s through this crowd-sourcing data that LEGO has opened an unparalleled window into authentic audience insights. While we’re on the topic, I think the brand should create Lion King LEGO. (RIP Mufasa).

4.  Events and experiences

Beyond the toys and further than the digital, the brand has extended LEGO into a fully-immersive live experience. With six LEGOLANDS across Europe, America and Asia, enthusiasts are able to step foot into their LEGO-centric imaginations.

But you don’t need to go to a theme park to immerse yourself in LEGOmania. LEGO meetups are here and they’re a thing of the now. Facilitated through LEGO Life, LEGO nerds are able to host group gatherings in any city around the world. If you can’t go to LEGOLAND, bring LEGOLAND to you. Okay it’s not quite the same, but it’s all my bank account can afford right now.

5.  Operating like a media brand

What really supercharged LEGO’S performance was its piece de resistance: The LEGO Movie. Making $468 million at its release, the film helped LEGO’S sales skyrocket. Not too bad for a once-dying brand. The LEGO Movie has proved to be the definitive content marketing device for the brand. It appeals to both children and adults; the kids want to play with the toys, while the adults connect with the universal message of the film.

LEGO’S social channels have since boasted the success of the brand’s marketing strategy. On Facebook alone LEGO’s page sits at 12 million likes, and yes, I am one of them. We have all caught the LEGO bug and no pill can cure it.

LEGO’S story is living proof of the power of content marketing. As a small shot thinking like a big media brand, LEGO became just that. Lesson one learned, innovation through multiple formats is key. Lesson two, download LEGO Life and become Batman.

PS. Ed Sheeran still waiting on you to build me a LEGO house. It’s been 7 years...