When consumers talk about LEGO, they’re usually referring to its primary-colored construction blocks. But the company is on a mission to prove it’s much more than that. Already the third-largest toy company in the world (behind Hasbro and Mattel), privately owned LEGO plans to double its business by 2005, says Andrew Black, president of LEGO Systems.
A former Nike wunderkind, Black (at right) is using a two-pronged approach: Innovation in both products and marketing. The product push is well underway. LEGO Mindstorms, the computer-programmed robotics sets introduced five years ago, continue to be hot sellers, and a new line this year — Spybotics — is geared to a younger audience. LEGO just signed a deal with Miramax to shoot a digital movie based on the popular Bionicals action figures introduced last year. And several new lines of preschool products are designed to extend LEGO’s reach to the toddler set.
However, it’s the marketing thrust that’s most new for the 70-year-old company. “Products come and go, but no product is bigger than the brand,” Black says. To the brand-building end, expect to see LEGO toys not only at the movies, but also this fall in McDonald’s Happy Meals, in Cap’n Crunch cereal boxes, at 150 malls around the country in free-standing kiosks run by Waldenbooks, and even in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.