It’s not a secret that LEGO is not just for kids. Adults and even seniors all around the world build LEGO sets with their kids and grandkids, as well as themselves. For many, the hobby of building with plastic bricks is one of the few ways to escape the stress of the modern world. In its pursuit of new consumers, LEGO has recently announced that it is making some considerable changes to its portfolio, including retiring particular themes that have historically been popular with adult builders and collectors. One of the adult-oriented product lines that LEGO has announced that it is retiring is the LEGO Creator Expert theme. However, that doesn’t mean that LEGO sets for adults are going away.
The Brothers Brick participated in a discussion with Genevieve Capa Cruz, Audience Marketing Strategist Director within the LEGO Company’s Product Group Marketing team, to learn more about the new LEGO Adult Portfolio, focused on the 18+ audience. Genevieve told us about the barriers that the new approach is set to overcome and the changes to the products that we can already see in several lineups.
LEGO’s new adult strategy is all about welcoming more adults, who have long been a cornerstone of the brand’s strength and popularity. Adult customers account for a considerable percentage of the company’s revenue, and the figure is rapidly growing every year. With the current quarantine regime in many countries, many adults discovered a new hobby of building and collecting LEGO sets; the percentage of adults who are new to this hobby has skyrocketed in 2020.
LEGO tells us that the company has been thoroughly studying their adult customers. According to the most recent study, one in two adults questioned by the company sees themselves spending their spare time building LEGO sets. Including more adults is one of the primary goals within the new adult strategy. Although 2 in 3 adult customers are new to LEGO, many barriers prevent others from joining the hobby.
“There is this perception that LEGO isn’t really for them, or the models are not things that they are interested in. And this is for the simple reason that they are not aware of the full range of products that we have that are good for adults,” — Genevieve says. “I am a LEGO employee, but when I wasn’t working on the adult category yet, I was not even aware that we had more than 70 products that are catering towards adults in 2020 alone.”
In her presentation, Genevieve told us about three main obstacles between the new customers and the hobby of building with LEGO. The new strategy aims to overcome these barriers and invite more grown-ups to experience building with LEGO.
Barrier #1: “The models are not really for me”
For someone who is not familiar with the whole LEGO assortment, it always has been a challenge to recognize the products that are targeted at the adult audience. To solve this problem, LEGO aims to create awareness and to inform adults about the wide range of products that fit everyone’s interests.
One of the core issues has been the inconsistency of the products’ visual identity for adults. Colorful and eye-catching box designs made it particularly hard for casual customers to identify the products that are not just for kids. And since the adult customers can’t identify and decode all the different styles of packaging, they cannot see the range of adult products that LEGO has to offer them. Moreover, the fact that the sets belong to different themes and franchises make it even harder for new customers to navigate on store shelves and online. These factors created a very unfriendly experience for those adults who want to join the hobby and are looking for products that meet their passions.
“What we’ve done to help address this is that we created a more streamlined and sleeker, meant-for-adults design,” Genevieve explained. “And basically the key takeaway is that this [building set] belongs to one family of adult products.”
While testing and optimizing the new adult visual identity, the team took various approaches and created several different versions. Some designs included more colors, while others focused on the model’s displayability. They even tested the boxes with lifestyle shots in interiors similar to the photos that The Brothers Brick often publish along with press releases for these new products. The LEGO team ran a series of tests in the US, Germany, and China, in which both AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO) and non-AFOLs took part. A wide variety of opinions, as well as careful attention to cultural symbolism, let the team come up with a brand new packaging identity. The new sleek designs are deprived of extraneous details and help to focus the customer’s attention on the model.
Ultimately, LEGO tells us that the new style of box design is intended to help new customers identify their passion points within the LEGO assortment. Whether you are into cars, architecture, or travel, there are sets for you that you can spot on shelves. The box showcases the model, making it easier for the consumer to imagine what the assembled model will look like on a shelf. Unlike children, adults tend to choose LEGO sets depending on how complicated and time-consuming the models are. This is why the number of pieces is one of the most critical indicators in the new visual identity. As for the “18+” label, which provoked a lot of discussions in the AFOL community, Genevieve clarified that the purpose of this marking is “to leave no doubt that these products that we’re creating are catered towards adults.” One of the unexpected effects of the new labeling was the fact that older teenagers who took part in the visual identity testing claimed that they find these “adult” products even more aspiring and exciting because of the age recommendation. The last of the defining pieces of the identity is the sub-branding at the bottom. The fact that the product belongs to the Technic or Architecture lineup may not always be helpful for new customers, so this labeling is secondary.
One of the significant consequences of implementing the new adult visual identity is the retiring of the Creator Expert brand. Genevieve mentioned two main reasons for the decision. First, the brand comprised a considerable part of the adult portfolio, including models of vehicles (for instance, 10271 Fiat 500), holiday-themed sets (like 10267 Winter Village Gingerbread House), modular buildings (10270 Bookshop), and even sports (10272 Old Trafford-Manchester United). Second, they try to avoid the perception that only the Creator Expert sets offer models targeted at adults.
This way, the new visual identity helps LEGO let adults know that the brand has a massive assortment of adult products. Whatever your interests are, you will easily find a set you’ll like.
Barrier #2: “It’s a kid’s toy”
While the new visual identity help adults discover new sets and themes, the perception of the product itself as a kids’ toys still keeps many adults from discovering the joy of building with LEGO. Genevieve and her team looked into how LEGO can provide the right experience for adults and communicate why building with LEGO is relevant in everyone’s life.
While the purpose of LEGO toys for kids is absolutely clear, not all adults can see how building with plastic bricks can be meaningful for them. To reveal this, the team set out to determine the tension points of adults.
“We seem to think that the busier we are, the more fulfilled we would feel. But in fact, what we’re learning is that the exact opposite is true because we end up feeling more distracted, depleted, drained, and ultimately dissatisfied,” Genevieve explains.
Our busy modern lifestyle and the fear of missing out cause extreme stress, which is never good for our well-being. Meanwhile, building with LEGO is known as a highly absorbing and engaging activity. Calling it as a therapeutic hobby helps the brand emphasize its positive effects.
“When we build with LEGO, that’s also the mental experience that we have, or you feel like you have decompressed. And you feel so relaxed. And you feel joyful and uplifted because you have created something that you can be proud of,” Genevieve adds. “But also if it’s something that’s a passion point of yours if you’re a sports fan or a Manchester United fan, and you’re building this stadium, it’s almost like also reliving those memories and being immersed in that particular passion point.”
A great example of LEGO serving as a therapeutic hobby can be seen in the passion of celebrity fans like Daniel Radcliffe, who spent nearly 10 minutes on a recent “at home” episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert talking about and showing off nothing but Mark Stafford’s 75936 Jurassic Park T. rex Rampage, which the Harry Potter star had spent more than a week building with his girlfriend.
However, LEGO’s new strategy is not only about communicating the message, but also making sure that the products can provide the best experience. The team led another massive study, in which more than 5,000 adults took part. The aim was to determine the passion points of adult customers and see how the company can build the right products based on the interests of the audience. By looking into adults’ spare time, the team discovered that sports, music, arts, and decoration are the most popular spheres of interest. LEGO has already started exploring these themes with the release of the Old Trafford-Manchester United set, so we should expect more sets on related subjects to come very soon.
One of the core messages of the new adult portfolio is the idea that it’s not only the end model you put on the shelf that matters but also the process and joy of focusing on a particularly absorbing and relaxing building process. However, the company plans to work harder on the displayability of the sets for adults. The way adult consumers can showcase or decorate the assembled model contributes a lot to its value.
According to Genevieve’s presentation, nostalgia and iconic status are yet other driving factors for the best experience. There is no secret that strong emotions are an essential part of a great hobby.
The front of the box of LEGO Ideas 21322 Pirates of Barracuda Bay is a throwback to classic LEGOLAND boxes
Barrier #3: It’s not present where adults are
Unless you are a parent, a toy store is not the kind of place you will head to when you are shopping. This makes LEGO products for adults even less discoverable and available for new adult customers. The solution seems very obvious: put LEGO sets in places where adults are. But the first steps the company is taking are about the way the products are merchandised withing the LEGO brand stores. First of all, we should expect to see specific changes in the layout of products in LEGO brand stores.
“The ambition is that once an adult walks into a store, they will be able to find all the adult products merchandise together with clear navigations on the passion points,” — Genevieve explains.
With the current layout, an adult customer has to course all over the store to check out all the products aimed at the adult audience. The new plan implies that individual sections of the shelves will be devoted to adult customers only, making it much easier for new customers to find their interests.
Genevieve concluded during our call, “But at the end of the day, we’re still LEGO. So we are a brand that’s humorous, light-hearted. So it’s not about suddenly LEGO being so serious and talking about stress and anxiety. Not at all. We want to be able to communicate that in a way that’s still funny and that the adults can really relate and connect with.”