It takes guts for an iconic brand to join forces with another, particularly one with a more chequered hero status. But there was little doubt The Lego Batman Movie was bound for success.
Like its predecessor, The Lego Movie, the film instantly topped the US and UK Box Office. Empire called it “the best Batman film in years”.
Because if there’s a brand you can count on, it’s Lego. Since being patented in 1958, the 2×4 blocks on which its empire is built have changed not a jot.
Lego’s stalwart contribution to creative play meant it was among the first to be inducted into the US National Toy Hall of Fame. Many of the class of 1998 have since fallen to the wayside. iPads replaced Etch A Sketch and View-Master headsets were trumped by VR. So, how did a small, plastic brick stand the test of time?
To answer this, we need to establish what Lego really means – because it is much more than a building block. Just six eight-stud Lego bricks can be combined in 915,103,765 different ways. Instead, Lego is versatile. It signifies possibility.
Cast your gaze over Lego’s kingdom, spanning, toys, cinema, gaming and theme parks. The brand might be omnipresent, casting a vibrant, primary hue, but the landscape is diverse.
Plus, the policy in Legoland is open-door. Lego has formed partnerships with everything from Batman to Minecraft to the United Nations, while its customers are invited in with open arms. Lego Ideas, for instance, is an entirely user-generated platform where fans can propose and review new product ideas.
The brand’s head of marketing, Rebecca Snell, said: “Ten years ago, the brand told everything. Whereas now, particularly for Lego, some of the most powerful pieces of content have come from vloggers and bloggers.” Teaming up with Batman is just the most recent example of a long legacy of co-creation. By asking people to co-author the script, Lego creates a profound feeling of partnership.
At a time when consumer confidence is shaky, this means everything. In the past few years, we’ve experienced a global recession, austerity measures come into play, Brexit and Trump. In the UK, the Edelman Trust Barometer describes an “unprecedented crisis in trust”.
But Edelman also says trust can be won back by listening and talking with people through social media, allowing ordinary employees to tell their stories, and playing a more positive role in society. Lego’s marketing strategy doesn’t stop at the former. Walk into a Lego office and expect to be instantly immersed in a world of innovation and playfulness. In the UK, Lego defies Brexit uncertainty and continues to invest in its London offices, making room for future talent and growth. Having visited Lego in the US, I can personally vouch for the brand as one that is loved and protected by its people.
This protective culture extends far beyond its office walls. Lego’s commitment to its core audience, children, is demonstrably a top priority. In 1986, the Lego Foundation was set up to encourage a new way for children to learn through play; while this February the brand launched Lego Life, a safe social network for kids.
Lego also isn’t afraid to confront macro issues head-on. As part of the “Stop Funding Hate” campaign, it went further than most brands by severing advertising ties with the Daily Mail. Lego spokesperson Roar Rude Trangbæk said that by listening to children, parents and grandparents, “we will continuously do our very best to live up to the trust and faith that people around the world show in us every day.”
And there lies the answer to Lego’s success.
In a rapidly changing and uncertain world, winning back confidence isn’t easy. But by listening, communicating and inviting people to assemble things together, Lego has built a multi-dimensional brand that communicates one key thing: this is something you can trust in.