Lego’s social media strategy excites hard-core fans, attracts new customers

Head of social engagement at the world’s second-largest toy company pushes for more real-time connections with customers across many platforms.

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It wasn’t all fun and games in 2011 when Lars Silberbauer joined Lego, the world’s second-largest toy company.

Hired to develop a social media strategy for the family-owned company, Silberbauer wasted no time. In his first month on the job, he said he administered “shock therapy” to the organization to stimulate its presence on social media. Results came quickly.

“We could see that started changing the company” he said in this Ragan Training session, The Bricks of Curation: Distribute Customized Content That Your Audience Values.

“Now we started getting a lot of feedback, and I could bring that feedback to the corporate management,” Silberbauer said. “They could see that we were actually in communication with the customers. We integrated social media in our whole development program.”

Working to connect with consumers

A Christmas 2012 campaign provides a good example of the strategy. Launched through social media, the promotion encouraged consumers to create family moments with five Lego-brick figures, take pictures of them in real-life settings and post them to a special website to complete a holiday “fairy tale,” he said. The “Brickmented Reality” campaign created thousands of family moments with Lego, “creating an emotional bond between the brand and consumer.”

In three weeks, photos of the Lego figures were submitted from people in 119 countries. More than 150,000 page views were logged, as well as thousands of “likes,” shares, and comments, he said.

“The campaign captured the spirit of Lego” around the world, he said. His strategy is to keep the technology barrier as low as possible—using devices that people have and building on that connection.

This is excerpted from a Ragan Training video titled The Bricks of Curation: Distribute Customized Content That Your Audience Values.

Silberbauer, the director of social media, now heads a global team with four core leaders in Denmark, the United Kingdom, Mauritius, and the United States. He said he has another 20 to 25 social media champions embedded in local markets. These managers have social media responsibilities that make up 10 to 75 percent of their jobs. He said another 300 people have been trained in Lego’s social media strategy.

“We have given them a social media driver’s license, so they have the ability and the right to represent the company.” He said they have to pass an exam, and the license can be taken away “if they misbehave.”

Several components to creating value

He said social media is a key component of the Lego mission to create value in its company through:

  • Increasing sales
  • Improving its marketing efficiency
  • Building brand affinity
  • Damage control

To increase sales, Lego must follow a business strategy that recognizes customers’ social needs. Lego knows that one social need is individuals’ desire to “build together”—whether it takes the form of Lego models or real-world communities, Silberbauer said.

Lego’s most popular commercial features a father and son working together to build their dream home—a castle of suburban architecture. He said the video reflects the changing family pattern of fathers getting more involved in decisions about buying toys that “give good memories” to their children.

A “Star Wars” promotion tied to May 4 (that is, May the 4th, a play on “May the force be with you”) was a big hit, driven by social media. The deal? Buy $75 in Lego products from its website and get a free R2D2 toy. In six hours, a fan-created image of the R2D2 droid had generated 14,000 “likes” and 5,500 shares. More than 1 million people connected with the campaign that week. More than 8,300 people visited Lego’s e-shop and spent $10,136 in that period.

“The test was ‘Are we able to drive real revenue out of social media,'” Silberbauer said. They passed the test. He joked that his boss was happy-and curious: If his idea could generate that much revenue with only 15 minutes of his time invested, what could his team do in a full work day?

High hopes for ‘The Lego Movie’

By producing its own content and connecting with consumers directly, Lego can improve its marketing efficiency, he said. “The Lego Movie,” opening in February 2014, will be a big driver for customer engagement, supplementing the company’s efforts to produce programs for television and videos for YouTube. A 17-minute cartoon, “The Lego Story,” drew 2.1 million page views in two weeks when it was pushed on social media in 2012. It was the most viral video in the world during that time—without any paid support.

“We invested a lot in the video, but it delivered a lot,” he said. “If we just invest in content, it has the potential to really, really drive a lot of views, a lot of impressions, a lot of brand awareness.”

Consumers will develop an affinity for characters that are introduced first on social media, he said. The new toys get lots of PR and will have instant recognition when they hit the market.

The company wants to bridge the gap between hard-core fans (high affinity) and its mainstream audience (low affinity). A website for hard-core fans, (Cuusoo is Japanese for “I wish”), allows them to share their own concepts. The most popular ideas then “are amplified to the mainstream social media channels,” he said.

Round-the-clock commitment

Lego’s social media strategy does not sleep. It takes a 24/7 commitment to stay abreast of and participate in conversations about Lego products and to address customer-service complaints before they mushroom out of control, he said.

Silberbauer said he pushes his team to find new ways to make connections.

“A lot of organizations only look through the rear-view mirror. They look at their revenues, they look at what they did last year, they look at best practice cases of other companies,” he said, “but we want to look ahead and use the full front window.

“Social media is about creating this connection,” he said. “There are no tricks. You have to do a lot of hard work and be transparent about it and honest about it. You have to put your soul into it. You cannot really fake it, because you’ll be called out at some point.

“It is about being brave, about doing things before others do it.”

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