What Lego can teach us on consumer engagement

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Few brands have retained their popularity and relevance in the way that Lego has over the past 85 years.

Lego’s never-ending focus on consumer engagement, across all age groups, takes many forms – from its Ideas platform where fans can submit their own designs for new product sets to its Lego Life social network where children can share their creations and be part of a broader community.

Lego sees its brand as something that is co-owned with its customers, and this extends to environmental leadership. At RWM 2017, Lego’s renewable and buildings senior manager Andrew McMullen gave a talk on how the toy-maker is making a positive impact on society through its various Promise commitments.

Lego's environmental goals 

Lego has set some big environmental goals as part of this. These include balancing energy consumption with production of renewable energy by 2020, using sustainable materials in all packaging by 2020 and core products by 2030, and achieving zero waste to landfill across its operations by 2025.

Progress to date against these targets and others can be accessed from the company’s latest responsibility report – which is the usual port of call for investors, NGOs and other corporate stakeholders. But Lego, mindful of its international fan base, also wanted to present this information in a more creative way to get some wider public engagement on sustainability issues.

McMullen says outside of the business community, nobody really looks at CSR reports. “We wanted to make them more accessible, and get some of this information out to children.” He adds that it’s important to ensure that the messaging is genuine – and that any content is not only relatable, but shareable on social media. “You need to make it engaging – and if you can’t, don’t bother.”

Team up with Lego heroes to build a greener planet

One example is Lego’s Planet Crew micro-site which encourages children to team up with Lego figures like Batman and become a global citizen, a force for good to help build a greener planet. The site employs simple messaging like ‘Do you want to protect the planet with the power of play?’ and embeds gamification into interactive elements like wind turbines. Users can download instructions to build their own version of a Lego wind machine, and share their creations on the site.

We’ve had a great response to Planet Crew and want to do more in this area.

Key environmental messages, such as how much progress Lego has made on climate leadership are communicated in creative ways throughout the site – for example, in this video featuring Lego Batman.

McMullan says it’s important for companies to learn how to promote sustainability messaging in a digital age, adding: “We’ve had a great response [to Planet Crew] and want to do more in this area.”

Lego’s engagement strategy is very much focused on making its toy bricks relevant to people’s lives. Could the same be done with waste? Within the industry WRAP arguably have had most success here with campaigns like Love Food Not Waste. Outside of this, most industry messaging is rather blunt; consigned to bin lorries or leaflets through letterboxes.

A more creative approach would be to look at not only what Lego is doing, but how brands like Adidas and Timberland are now engaging consumers on upcycling or circular solutions for ocean plastics and litter. They talk of waste materials delivering social value, linking them to more positive human-centric themes like jobs, ethical fashion or lifting people out of poverty. This not only builds engagement, but encourages people to think much more deeply about how they can contribute as a global citizen and make a difference through simple actions like recycling.