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Updated: March 27th, 2020
LEGO is not just the world’s biggest toy manufacturer. According to Brand Finance, LEGO is the most powerful brand in the world. That’s pretty impressive when you consider that toy stores are packed with endless aisles of technologically superior toys, cars, dolls, action figures and anything else you can imagine. And yet, a LEGO is just a simple brick that you can attach to another simple brick. Primary colors. Only a few basic shapes. Holding a LEGO is an emotional experience. It brings you back to childhood.
The LEGO brand is so successful because the product is the brand. The ethos of the brand is baked right into the essential design of the product.
Many people mistakenly think that branding is a logo, or a surface identity for a product or entity. A brand is an interface for a customer’s trust. People get invested in brands because they believe that their own values are in alignment with the values of the brand. The best way for a brand to earn a customer’s trust is to create products that exceed a customer’s needs. LEGO succeeds at this like almost no one else.
A single piece of LEGO really is just a tiny, useless brick. Start putting them together, however, and it’s a different story. Anything is possible with LEGO. You don’t ‘use’ a LEGO brick, you build, create or play with it. It demands interactivity. LEGO’s are endlessly remix-able, immersive and definitively open ended. Building a LEGO object can be competitive (is your LEGO fighter jet cooler than mine?) or collaborative (I wouldn’t have thought to build this without you).
Most brands offer a fixed solution to a given problem. LEGO’s are adaptive to what a customer’s needs are at a given moment.
LEGO’s are finished objects waiting to be built, just like a Moleskin journal is waiting to be filled with ideas, or a Corvette wants to be driven fast.
2014’s The LEGO Movie was basically the most elaborately staged piece of content marketing ever created. That’s the kind of bold move only the most confident, well articulated brand could possibly pull off. When the film, beloved by audiences and critics, failed to secure an Oscar nomination for best animated feature, fans of the film and the brand took to social media with outrage.
Search Instagram for #LEGO and you will see millions upon millions of people from all over the world sharing their LEGO creations. That kind of brand advocacy is unimaginable for most brands, not because their products aren’t toys, but because most brands don’t give customers a reason to dream.
If a brand thinks it’s enough to have a smart logo and a nice looking website, it’s not going to generate the kind of customer affection needed to become something truly valuable.
Compared to everything else out there, LEGO feels infinite. Successful brands must be able to transcend what they simply ‘are’, and become something that is only limited by a buyer’s imagination.
Samantha Novick is a senior editor at Funding Circle, specializing in small business financing. She has a bachelor's degree from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. Prior to Funding Circle, Samantha was a community manager at Marcus by Goldman Sachs. Her work has been featured in a number of top small business resource sites and publications.