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We have written previously about how Lego has struggled in its efforts to appeal more to girls. Years of war-themed sets, populated solely by male superheroes and figures, had left a sense that the building toys were for boys—while also sparking frustration in parents of girls who felt alienated by the educational games. When Lego introduced its Friends line, some parents still felt as if the company was missing the point, by emphasizing pink and purple in the packaging and bricks and by introducing mainly “girly” sets associated with beauty salons or horse stables.

Lo-res_AAGA88-SBut even amidst all that criticism, Lego stayed calm and confident in its product line. Company executives met with some protestors and listened carefully to their feedback, but at the same time, they noted sales figures that showed that the Friends line was surpassing sales expectations. Therefore, the company made some adjustments, such that the girl-oriented sets might contain more pink and purple blocks, but they also contain all the other colors and integrate easily with boy-oriented or more gender-neutral collections. Yet they also stayed the course, maintaining the Friends line as a profitable and well-targeted option.

Part of its confidence in maintaining this strategy came from the knowledge Lego had gained from some previous failures. For example, the Paradisa line contained larger blocks, which made the construction projects easier. Noting some evidence that girls found the toys boring, because they did not offer enough of a challenge, the Friends sets are equally challenging as any other, ensuring that children have the pleasurable experience of finding a toy somewhat difficult, and then successfully resolving that challenge.

Although Lego, as a family-owned firm, does not release specific sales figures for its separate lines, a market research firm has determined that the market for construction toys for girls has tripled in value, up to $900 million, and attributes much of that growth to Lego Friends. Other data show that the percentage of Lego players who are girls has increased dramatically in recent years.

Thus, the critics might continue to protest, often with reasonable demands about ensuring that most toys be made available to all children, regardless of their gender. But as senior designer from Lego explains, with regard to Lego Friends, “We had made so much research and so much testing on girls that we were never in doubt about the product itself.” When a toymaker can give children—their ultimate consumers—what they want, the value is never in doubt.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What kinds of information did Lego gather when developing its Friends line?
  2. Which sources of information did Lego consult when repositioning its image through Lego Friends? Which of these sources was most important for Lego?

 Source: Jens Hansegard, “Lego Builds Stronger Ties to Girls,” The Wall Street Journal, December 29, 2015

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