Just a few years later, the company is reporting a loss of $130 million and rumours of bankruptcy are circulating.
How could such an enormous and well-loved company tank so quickly? And how did they rebuild into something even bigger and better than before?
The answer is simpler than you think.
Step 1: Think differently
From humble beginnings in a little toy shop in Denmark in 1932, LEGO became one of the world’s most famous and far-reaching brands.
Their success brought confidence. Perhaps too much. Over the next few decades, they wildly diversified their product line. LEGO video games appeared as well as clothing, theme parks, board games, TV shows, a robotics company, business consultancy services … the list goes on.
With each new business and product line, LEGO strode farther and farther away from their core brand values and, ultimately, their most loyal and passionate customers. Their profits began to suffer. In panic, they doubled down, adding even more product lines and diversifying further.
Vig Knudstorp went “back to the brick”. In other words, he refocused on the core of the brand: to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.
This simple shift in perspective cut through the complexity of LEGO’s brand and inspired them to make real change. They simplified their product line, eliminating products that didn’t align with their brand vision. They closed theme parks and shuttered fashion lines and refocused on what made LEGO great – the bricks.
The strategy paid off.
LEGO’s financial situation began to improve and their sales began to increase. In 2005, the company reported a profit of $117 million, a significant turnaround from just two years earlier. By 2016, LEGO had become the world’s largest toy manufacturer.
Step 3: Inspire lasting change
LEGO needed to nurture their brand and keep up the momentum or end up right back where they started. Of course, they nailed that too.
With their products back on track, they refocused their marketing efforts on imagination, boundless creativity and nostalgia. They even replicated and reimagined some of their most famous adverts.
This continuous and constant effort kept LEGO authentic, on brand, and connected to their fan base. It also gave them the freedom to innovate without the risk of stretching themselves too thin. With a strong sense of identity to anchor them, they could develop new products that aligned with their brand vision, such as their iconic partnership with the Star Wars franchise.
Sometimes the best strategy is to go back to the basics and remember what made you successful in the first place.
Building back better
By simplifying and going back to what they do best, LEGO were able to save their brand and once again become a dominant force in the toy industry.
But LEGO were lucky. They found the right person, with the right ideas, at the right time. More than that, they found someone who could cut through complexity and identify the real issues preventing them from inspiring their fans.
But what if you don’t have a Jorgen Vin Knudstorp knocking around?
That’s where we come in.
We help our clients cut through complexity to inspire change even when it feels impossible. We identify what’s getting in your way, and weave the important elements together with strategic creativity, into straightforward solutions that inspire the change you need.
In the meantime, remember the LEGO brick. Sometimes the best strategy is to go back to the basics and remember what made you successful in the first place.