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People are tired, stressed, and overworked. It may seem oversimplified, but it also appears to be a lasting consumer trend, meaning that more and more marketers can use their sense of stress as an effective targeting tool. Consider, for example, how LEGO is promoting its bricks and building sets as the perfect respite for frazzled consumers who just want a break from modern life.

Unlike its conventional market of children learning to develop their cognitive skills, adults playing with LEGOs tend to want clear instructions. They do not want to have to think too hard, exhibit creativity, or come up with solutions to design-related problems. In many cases, they are actively seeking a state of mindfulness, encouraged by popular wellness programs that suggest meditation and calm thinking states can be greatly beneficial for health and happiness.

Clicking together bricks, according to specific, diagrammatic instructions, is one way to achieve such mindfulness. They also might play while watching television or interacting with their families, so even if they are not achieving a meditative state, it is enjoyable. Such pursuits also help explain the increased popularity of adult coloring books and puzzles—engaging and enjoyable activities that do not demand too much cognitive energy from tired people at the end of a long workday.

For these consumers, LEGO has designed sets that evoke nostalgia and familiar scenes, such as one that represents the fictional Central Perk coffee shop from Friends. The instructions are “foolproof” and emphasize that there is no way to mess up a LEGO build, because it is always possible to take it apart and try again. These efforts aim to eliminate any risk of frustration or feelings of inadequacy, for consumers who already experience enough of those negative emotions in their daily lives.

Of course, not all adult LEGO fans are seeking easy escapes. A notable contingent of AFOLs—that’s “adult fans of LEGO”—pursue the hobby vigorously and even competitively. They would likely reject easy builds of nostalgic Batman vehicles from their youth, because they want to demonstrate their impressive skills, as highlighted in the new reality competition show LEGO Masters. Yet this demographic is well supplied by LEGO’s existing products, which offer compelling challenges.

The casual adult builder is the new market. Because of the diversity of product versions it already has established over the years, LEGO did not need to undergo much product testing to come up with new iterations. The little plastic blocks, when packaged and marketed in various ways, can seemingly be all things to all consumers. It just depends on what people want to build with them.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other target markets might LEGO define and pursue, beyond children, AFOLs, and casual builders?
  2. Are there any other segmentation variables that LEGO should use in marketing its toys to casual builders? For example, is gender a relevant variable?

Source: Abha Bhattarai, “Lego Sets its Sights on a Growing Market: Stressed-Out Adults,” Washington Post, January 16, 2020