The legendary Danish toy brick manufacturer is well-known for its various ingenious content marketing efforts such as Lego Club Magazine, Microsites, Lego Mini Movies, Lego Click, Lego Network etc. However in 2014 this privately held company with nearly $5 billion in annual revenue outdid itself – yes, we’re talking about The Lego Movie, produced by Warner Brothers, released in February 2014.
One of the best case studies of content marketing ever, the movie was a smash hit with kids and adults alike, all of whom seem to be in agreement with the now cult background score – ‘Everything (at Lego) is Awesome!’
Many marketers might be tempted to ask – “entertaining the consumer by playing filmmaker is all well and good but did it impact the bottom line?” The answer is a big YES. The movie which cost $60 million to produce has earned a whopping $468 million worldwide (as of September 2014). It is said to have had such a significant effect on sales that the company has been forced to cut down supply to many independent toy stores during the holiday season.
The company reported a 15 percent increase in sales and 12 percent jump in profits versus the same period (Jan – June) of 2013. In a half yearly earnings press release issued in September, Executive Vice President and CFO John Goodwin said, “We are thrilled by the reception of The LEGO Movie products that provided a significant boost to our sales during the first half of 2014.”
Here are 5 reasons why the movie should be a benchmark for content marketers in the future:
- It has a story – The movie has a strong story-line with a clear beginning, middle and end. The narrative is the highlight of the movie and not the toys – they blend seamlessly. At no point during the movie is the viewer subjected to any kind of sales pitch; in fact it would not be wrong to say that the movie does not sell anything.
- It shares knowledge – It demonstrates how and what can be built by using the toy bricks, without taking away from the story-line. The spaceship, bunk sofa and the Cuckoo Land that the master builders assemble in to plan against the evil intentions of Lord Business, are all built using the toy bricks, giving ideas to Lego’s young customers for their next project.
- It encourages good habits – The movie has a ‘moral’ side to it with pointers on good habits that kids should follow through the day, while still striking a balance with thinking outside the box and challenging authority when needed. This is a critical element of any media product targeted at children, given that parents are often the ones deciding what will be watched.
- It forms an emotional connect with the audience – The ‘hero’ Emmet, a simple guy with all his vulnerabilities on display, manages to form a connect with audiences of all ages. Especially with the ones who grew up believing that there is nothing ‘special’ about them (which is most of us). The movie sends across a positive and feel good message – ‘The only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be!’
- It manages to promote its product to a new target market- Through the character of ‘Wyldstyle’- a girl, who is practically the ‘cooler’ co-star of the movie – Lego has ensured that its building bricks will no longer be seen as a ‘boy thing’. In fact the movie ends with a father telling his son – “Now I will let your sister also play here”
In the final analysis, what worked was Lego’s decision to make a genuinely great movie rather than a glorified merchandising campaign. Pablo Smithson, writing in The Guardian hits the nail… or rather brick on its head:
It would have been easy for Lego to make a piece of nonsense that played well for kids, but instead the company brought in Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (of 21 Jump Street and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs fame) to create a genuinely funny and clever movie.
Much like the piece of resistance (spoiler alert!) that saves the (Lego) universe from destruction, The Lego Movie itself could help save content marketing from the threat of clumsy product placement!