Ubaid Zargar

Enough of awareness campaigns; 2024 will be the year of performance marketing for LEGO Group India

  • LEGO Group India, amidst pandemic challenges, shifted focus to online avenues while maintaining offline charisma

  • Initial years prioritised awareness and parental engagement, leading to successful homegrown IPs like Small Hands Big Dreams

  • 2023 marked expansion into both online and offline spaces, setting the stage for 2024's performance-driven approach

  • Targeting adults alongside children, LEGO plans an advertising blitz, tailored to passions and interests

Construction toy brand LEGO Group entered India in 2020. The Danish manufacturer instantly faced its first roadblock, Covid-19. The pandemic pushed the brand towards online avenues, even though LEGO’s charisma lies in offline stores globally. 

“We had to find ways and means to reach out to the consumers. It was an unprecedented problem altogether,” says Bhavana Mandon, who is the country manager at Lego Group India. 

The brand focused its initial years in the Indian market on building awareness and making people familiar with the culture of construction toys and playtime between parents and children. 

“Reaching 2023, we have had a full marketing ecosystem at our disposal both online and offline, and it has been quite a journey. It was a year of establishing a presence, with the launch of our own homegrown IPs while expanding distribution from online to a much larger offline space.”

The homegrown IPs that Mandon talks about here include the Small Hands Big Dreams campaign, where the brand aims to promote playtime between parents and children.

The brand has also partnered with streaming platform Disney+ Hotstar for Ninjago, an animated epic-fantasy superhero television series.

A snap from LEGO's Small Hands Big Dreams initiative
A snap from LEGO's Small Hands Big Dreams initiative

The plans ahead

“2024 is about performance and taking it to a new space. So it is going to be a bigger, better, bolder year for us. What I'm personally very excited about is our up and coming portfolio, and the fact that we are also, as a brand, living up to what we say, which is that LEGO is a place for everyone, children and adults.”

The brand has identified adults as part of its target group too. Firstly, because globally LEGO does have an audience in adults who are ardent buyers and enjoyers. Secondly, given that the brand primarily caters to children, the purchasing power still lies with the parents. This cohort, as per Mandon, is in need of some LEGO playtime. 

“I definitely feel that they are the ones who are in massive need of this because, in the middle of a hectic day, these breaks can give you a chance to digitally detox and go into that space of mindful focus.”

To bring these plans to fruition, the brand is going to focus mainly on advertising, and distribution. 

Mandon says, “More products, more distribution and more advertising, it's a year which is going to be quite a packed calendar for us and we are looking forward to it.”

Tailoring the communication

Since the brand caters to both kids and adults as its target group, we wonder what the communications strategy is going to be in the advertisements. Will the ads be segregated or a common message for all?

Mandon answers, “What we do with children is two-fold. When we want to talk to children directly, we typically leverage a lot of our own ecosystem, which includes our website and our app. And whatever we want to lend to children on digital platforms through games and all of that is actually certified for safety in collaboration with Totally Awesome Media Network. It is also important for us to give the child a great first play experience because then you've recruited the child and have allowed him to move on to bigger sets.”

One of the biggest roadblocks is the fact that we are the first generation of parents who are getting exposed to LEGO bricks in our safe environment. We do not know what to do with the bricks ourselves.

For the adults, the brand’s media strategy is tailored according to their passions. The brand employs traditional media and digital to reach out to this cohort, depending on the passions they follow. “If the customer is into sports, we’ll take our ads to sports channels. The most important adults are the parents who are not building and playing with their children, and are also playing a strong gatekeeping role in the child’s life.”

The challenges in the category

Generally, in the toys category in India, construction toys or building blocks aren't as popular as other toys such as dolls, weapons, and vehicles, among others. To make things more challenging, the brand also faces stiff competition from unorganised manufacturers.

For LEGO particularly, the foray into the Indian market is still nascent, while the Danish brand has a legacy of 91 years globally. As per Mandon, the Indian market was expectedly a little hard to crack, but the brand is in no rush.

“We’re still new to India, and the market is very different. It is distinct from how the children spend their playtime. So we definitely know it's going to be a journey. It's not something where we are rushed from our side. It's going to be a little bit of a path to into the lives of children and parents.”

More importantly, as Mandon, Indian parents are still not familiar with the kind of value playtime brings for children. Given the culture of cricket and football, kids choose to step outdoors to spend their free time. But in order to bolster parents-children chemistry, they need to spend more time indoors, in playful activities. 

“One of the biggest roadblocks is the fact that we are the first generation of parents who are getting exposed to LEGO bricks in our safe environment. We do not know what to do with the bricks ourselves. So, when you know a child comes to a parent to play together, I wouldn't be surprised if the parents are nervous to see the set. They have never played with that system. Education in terms of how playtime can become a part of parenting the entire system is needed for the category to grow.”

Going offline

The category sees a lot of reliance on offline stores and that would also mean that for a brand like LEGO, the competition really comes from the shelves which are filled with toys from brands that are unrecognised. But this doesn’t concern Mandon. The brand is all for creating the category together.

Mandon explains, “The category is made up of largely unorganised players, and very few recognisable branded players, so to say. But we are just about creating the category together  There is a lot of space for healthy competition and honestly speaking, the way we as a group view it, I would think it's very heartening to see strides being made by some of the local companies that are trying to compete with some of the recognisable branded players to produce good quality toys which are playful, and educational. We see ourselves as one of the key stakeholders in creating the category given our legacy.”

The brand is also planning on expanding its offline presence. At the moment, LEGO sets are available on e-commerce platforms and offline retail stores from Hamleys. Given that the brand holds a lot of its global appeal in being able to provide experiences in its own stores, Mandon is hinting at similar plans for India.

“You will definitely see us expand in terms of more geographies in terms of more formats and in terms of more outlets. We will see Lego stores coming to India very soon, but that's that's some work which is underway at the moment.”

The brand is seeing a balanced business coming from metros and mini-metros, which are also the markets that LEGO Group aims to expand into.

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