How Star Wars Saved LEGO

You may have heard of the Danish toy brand LEGO. You know, those little plastic bricks that always seem to find just the wrong spot under your foot? In an industry ruled by screens, Apps, and joysticks, how is this nearly 70 year old brand still dominating the toy field?

They didn't always. In the late 90's, LEGO nearly went bankrupt when they lost sight of what made them, well, them! And thus lost track of their own story, dropping them like a tub of bricks. 

At the dawn of the age of toys on screen, LEGO began to feel like their brand of creativity was becoming a little square. After posting their first loss ever in 1997, they threw out the instructions and went into rebuild mode. They invented some amazing things with lights, engines and electricity -- very hip, very trendy! But the new designs didn't stack up, and LEGO was losing money hand-over-two-fingered-fist.

Then, just when all seemed lost, GEORGE LUCAS DECIDED TO RUIN STAR WARS!

And this, ironically, would be LEGO's chance to pick up the pieces. As part of marketing for the film, The Phantom Menace, Lucasarts partnered with LEGO to release new sets themed after his multi-million dollar brainchild. 17 years later, LEGO has produced over 500 Star Wars-themed kits, as well as two Star Wars based video games with a third one in development! This success managed to pull LEGO back out of the red.

There's a point here, and it shouldn't be missed -- consumers aren't buying into brands because they're covered in LED's and glow sticks. Customers, and people in general, are drawn to well-crafted story. When LEGO kits featuring lightsabers and Stormtroopers hit the shelves in 1999, they were promising more than red bricks and cup-shaped hands. Both children and adults reveled in building out the adventures they loved because it spoke into the desire to be part of that adventure.

Narrative inspires participation. Go to stories.

Hunter Smith