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17th May 2017

So, it’s the first day at Buy Yorkshire and we start the Conference with one of our headline speakers, Sara Riis-Carstensen, Director of Global Brand Development at Lego. Introduced by Craig Burton from The Works, an exhibitor at the event, Sara took to the stage in the Think Money Theatre.

An introduction
Providing some background about her life and career, originally born in Kenya and raised in Copenhagen, Sara lived in New York before moving to London. It doesn’t come as a major surprise to hear that this jet-setter had a number of roles before taking her place at Lego. Just one example Sara offered had at least half of the room swooning when David Beckham appeared (on the screen) in his Giorgio Armani underpants!

She clearly knows how to grab the attention of the crowd.

Sara explained how she ended up moving to the Lego head office in Billund, a small and very quiet town. With no global brand strategy in place, she realised the vast challenge that lay ahead.

As a paperless office with hot desks, the journey wasn’t always simple, but with Lego recently taking the title of most powerful brand in the world, we can deduce that Sara and her team certainly did something right.

Discovering the brand truth
Taking a step back, Sara explains that Lego is met with increasing challenges from competition with other brands copying the Lego brick. Also entering new markets like China and Asia where the brand is less known, poses completely new brand challenges. For example, in China, the brand has to be build among new consumers.

In established markets like the UK, much of the success of the brand has come from tapping into the nostalgia that people feel when they remember playing with Lego when they were young, which is then passed down to a child.

When Sara joined the team, Lego’s online presence on social media was also at its infant stages. Since that time, Sara has worked closely with the social media team. Today she encourages the team to embrace new platforms and harness the power of social media tools, both within the UK and around the world.

How to deal with complex situations.
Ignore, react, embrace and impact are words which appear on the screen in front of us. Sara explains that she feels a key learning is that you shouldn’t want to be the best at what is happening today, but rather look at being the best at what nobody else is doing tomorrow.

What many of us were surprised to hear was that Lego was facing bankruptcy in 2003; it was doing a lot of ‘stuff’ but not a great deal of it made any sense.

Returning back to the belief about the power of the brick and focusing on making the brick the point of departure helped make the toy brand strong again. As such, the mission is now to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow and the aspiration is to globalize and innovate the Lego system in play.
Lego is now responsible for marketing around 40 different product lines each year. Although they are all different they all link back to the brick and this is further underpinned by the brand and its core truth.

The soul of the brand really lies in the core
In order to implement the brand strategy across the company, Sara briefed Lego’s internal agency on making it come alive. Despite offering a brief and working together with the agency the different concepts just did not seem right. The first response, based on Mad Men, and the second response, based on science icons, just didn’t seem to work.

At this point Sara asked that they try again, and, once again, the response wasn’t right. Having so many stakeholders, including senior and global representatives of the brand – as well as the owners, waiting for the outputs, Sara realised the necessity to get it right.

Sara went back to basics and opened a box of Lego. It was a defining moment; she realised that the brand was the brick.

Keeping it simple, the brand and its strategy would be communicated through a box of Lego and the building instructions. Today this same box is given to new employees who join the company. It can’t be bought, but it gives each person that works for the company the detail and understanding that they need to relate to the brand.
It isn’t over complicated, it makes sense and it is authentic.
Harnessing the power of imagination

So how does Lego then execute the brand? Sara shared a very compelling insight: 98% of us were creative geniuses at the age of 3 years old but only 2% retain these levels of creativity through to adulthood. In order to celebrate the universal potential of children’s creative play, Sara and Lego’s social media team decided to create a strategic collaboration with Facebook.

As a result, the team launched the #Kronkiwongi campaign. Although no adult was able to interpret what a Kronkiwongi was, all of the children that were asked did – they used their imagination.

Taking short clips of children sharing their interpretation of the word made for compelling and shareable content. There were 3 phases to the campaign, across 6 films which were shared in 15 countries. The children that were videoed were not cast, they were asked in their own homes to explain the Kronkiwongi without the need for scripts.

This gave the children the chance to be authentic and to share their passion for their reasoning.

The results of the campaign were brand changing:
₋ Reached 80% of mums on Facebook in targeted markets
₋ Total reach of 27 million mums
₋ Significant uplifts in all markets in brand connection to imagination & creativity
₋ Nominated for several Cannes Lions

What’s more, thanks to the success of the campaign, consumers chose to share their own Kronkiwongis encouraging organic engagement.

Sara continues to build campaigns for Lego and you can tell when hearing her speak that she really does eat, sleep and breathe the brand that she has helped to shape. There is no doubt that everyone leaving the theatre was looking forward to getting home and asking their own children to create a Kronkiwongi – we certainly will be!