The Lego Story: More than just a toy brand

Written by Andrew Maia on .

Lego has turned 80. To celebrate the milestone, the brand has produced a 17-minute animated short to tell the company's story. The film describes the Danish brand’s modest beginning when it was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen. As a carpenter by trade, Kristiansen began to make wooden toys to pay the bills and support his family. He coined the brand’s name while seeking to communicate "play well,” shortening the Danish phrase "Leg godt" to Lego, which coincidentally means "I put together" in Latin.

Most importantly, the story identifies a significant inflection point in the company's history: in 1954, when Ole's son Godtfred used the company’s plastic bricks to build a system — a world made of Lego houses and paved with Lego roads.

While most people probably view Lego as just one of several major toy brands — in fact Lego describes itself as the “world's third largest manufacturer of play materials” — anyone that has built with its signature bricks knows that it isn’t just a brand meant to entertain children. Lego is in a category of its own because of what it makes possible: the opportunity to create.

To date, Lego's self-proclaimed mission has been to "Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow." But, unless you consider a "builder of tomorrow" in the broadest of terms, this promise falls short of the brand’s true potential. It’s much more common for an organization to want to assert a proposition it can’t credibly back up now, or in the near future. Yet, this is a brand that’s actually too modest. Lego is more than a toy brand for future architects and engineers; it’s a creator brand. Lego enables us to act on our creativity and build what didn’t exist previously… whether that’s a 40-story building or a 400-page novel.

Fortunately, the Lego Story makes strides to assert the brand’s rightful positioning. When concluding the film, Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s grandson affirms "I seek to take the Lego idea even further, encouraging children to explore, express and experience their own world. A world without limits." …that’s more like it.


#1 JP 2012-08-17 08:45
This is indeed an inspiring video. However, much of the Lego product line that we see today does not really support the idea of "encouraging children to explore, express and experience their own worlds."

Market forces, driven by a toy industry fueled on blockbuster characters and franchises, have pushed Lego towards pre-fab modeling kits ("Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle" or "Star Wars Jabba's Palace"). Writer Michael Chabon has contrasted these "pre-imagined environments" with the abstract and imaginative possibilities that drove earlier generations of the Lego experience.

To maintain and grow a long-term promise around inspiration and imagination, Lego needs to make sure that this ideal is reflected in the product experience seen in the Lego aisle in toy stores around the world.

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