A huge brand crisis nearly crippled the biggest toy brand in the world. Co-creation brought them back from the abyss to bounce back bigger than ever. In the year of COVID-19 and an impending recession, the comeback story of LEGO has never been more timely.

It’s hard to imagine how small, multi-coloured LEGO bricks can boost your brand’s performance in engaging with your customers. But we’ll get to that.

First, let me tell you the story of the LEGO brand and how a once mighty toy company risked bankruptcy, and how it reversed its misfortunes to become the multi-billion dollar giant it is today.

The lessons it learnt will inspire you in your own COVID-19 recovery campaigns.


When innovation goes too far

In his book, Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry, David Robertson chronicles how, over a ten year period, LEGO lost almost half a million dollars per day, every day, to leave a gaping $1.6 billion hole in their accounts.

How? Because LEGO adopted the ‘Seven Truths of Innovation’ so fervently, self-destruction followed.


The Seven Truths of Innovation

  1. Hire diverse and creative people        
  2. Head for blue-ocean markets
  3. Be customer driven      
  4. Practice disruptive innovation        
  5. Foster open innovation— heed the wisdom of the crowd        
  6. Explore the full spectrum of innovation      
  7. Build an innovation culture

Sounds great, right? Well, most brands adopt perhaps one or two of these tenants. LEGO went the whole hog and followed them all until the critical point was reached:

Innovation became more important than the brand’s connection with their customers.

It resulted in 94% of all LEGO sets being unprofitable.

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Back to the brick

So how did they turn it around? By focusing on retail customers and, crucially, connecting with their audience.

At BrickFest, the LEGO jamboree, Jorgen Vid Knudstorp, the new LEGO CEO, directly asked the fans what they wanted. And they were very clear. They wanted creativity and they wanted quality.

The dialogues Knudstorp had with LEGO’s customers resonated. It became an insight that continues to impact on the LEGO business strategy today. Knudstorp himself said:

“Your most valued customers will tell you what can be done with the brand.”

Customer collaboration helped build a lifeline for LEGO as it teetered on the brink. Even today, now that the brand is more successful than ever, LEGO still values customer collaboration.

At LEGO Ideas, the brand invites creativity and imagination from their customers. People from around the world submit their creations, with the ones with enough votes getting officially produced. Imagine that level of democratised creativity in other brands – the possibilities are mind-boggling.

If you’ve a spare 4.5 minutes, watch David Robertson’s talk about how LEGO harnessed the value of collaboration and creativity in business models.



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How to co-create your COVID-19 recovery campaign

As LEGO continues to show, co-creation is a powerful tool in building connections with your customers that positively impact your bottom line. And after the events of the year so far, it's never been more essential.

A BOUNCEBACK Co-Create by SHARP engages with your key stakeholders – your customers, your employees, the people you want to communicate with – to solve key business challenges, in a time when no marketing expert has any clear answers. Whether it’s for a redesign launch, business strategy, engagement comms or brand marketing, a co-create can reveal powerful new ideas, strategies and insights from the people who matter most.

And sometimes, we even use LEGO bricks in the sessions too. Because what better way to harness everyone’s innate creativity?

In uncertain times such as these, the certainty of knowing, understanding and connecting with your customers is invaluable if brands are to successfully navigate the post COVID-19 consumer landscape. Co-creation makes this possible. 

Find out how your brand can virtual co-create here


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Picture of Alex Allston, Senior Copywriter at The Sharp Agency

Alex Allston

Senior Copywriter