Pink bricks for girls?  Lego builds a new strategy

Opinions on this move has sharply divided Lego fans!  The Guardian invites its readers to vote on the matter to decide if this step is ‘sexist’ or not.  My daughter was seriously unimpressed when her Lego Club magazine arrived this month in a different format to her brother’s copy.
Clearly, the company have decided to put extra resources into refining the market segment for girls’ Lego and developing product lines tailored to their tastes.  What else can we say about their strategy?

When you read some online comments, you wonder if people even realise that Lego is a private company, not a branch of the Danish public sector.  A lot of adults remember Lego from their childhood and fondly associate it with innocent play.  They don’t want a reminder that Lego is almost certainly trying to achieve high profit as a long term corporate aim.

According to The Guardian, Lego’s director for the UK and Ireland said the company had tried on previous occasions to come up with something specifically aimed at girls, but nothing had worked. Now, alongside the usual policemen, helicopters and dustbin lorries is “Stephanie’s cool convertible” – a purple car with pink accessories – and the “Butterfly Beauty Shop”, complete with lipsticks.  He said: “After four years of research involving mums and daughters, we’ve come up with something called Lego Friends that is selling extremely well; it will help drive growth in 2012.”

Lego is doing well – their director went on to say that the company had prospered because of “product innovation and the tendency of consumers to fall back on trusted brands during hard times”.  That’s a reminder that Lego has constantly updated its strategy to cope with the pressure of competition for a children’s building toy that was not long ago in danger of looking outdated and obsolete among PlayStations, remote-controlled cars and interactive robotic film characters.

You can use a framework like Ansoff’s matrix to see how the business has moved over the last 20 years:

- Market penetration: working hard on promotion to build sales of the basic Lego product range in its traditional markets of Europe and America.
- Product development:  Lego is much more heavily based around product lines that have been developed to tie-in with film franchises like Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Diversification:  Innovation is often high risk, and Lego have stumbled at least twice.  First was a costly move into theme parks, from which the company has retreated.  Then in 2011 was the much hyped online multiplayer Lego Universe game, which has just quietly been folded too.  But elsewhere Lego have found success with Nintendo DS, PC and console games.
- Market development:  Here’s where the company has tried taking an existing product, but tried to develop a ‘new’ market that is specific to girls.

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