The LEGO brand, and the power of free advertising

LEGO has been granted a trademark for its human-like figures, after a European court decided that they constitute a ‘protected shape’. Meanwhile the company also garnered a lot of press attention – and stock images of LEGO scientists – around its plans to fund a professorship at Cambridge University. LEGO obviously has a canny knack for generating positive media coverage around its brand.

The brand’s trademark interlocking bricks are, of course, instantly recognisable, and the brand’s visibility is certainly helped by the fact that most of us encounter it as children, and we retain an affinity with it for the rest of our lives. LEGO’s brand is much bigger than its bricks and toy people, though. In fact, earlier this year LEGO was named the world’s most powerful brand, taking the top spot from Ferrari – an impressive feat for a toy company. In LEGO’s case, the brand’s power comes from its ability to profit from the ubiquity of its signature product, built up over five decades, rather than the traditional advertising of other consumer goods companies. LEGO has always been good at selling itself through unconventional marketing and experiences that aren’t simply adverts for its products – LEGOLAND, for example. A big part of LEGO’s appeal is that, rather than simply selling a toy, it’s selling an idea that, when playing with LEGO, not only is everything awesome, but anything is possible.

The brand’s power was boosted last year by the runaway success of the ingenious and very funny The LEGO Movie. The film appealed to adults and children alike, and was very profitable for the Danish company, grossing over US$460m at the box office and driving annual sales to record levels. Merlin Entertainments, the operator of LEGOLAND theme parks across the world, also benefited, as it saw profits jump 35% to £249m off the back of the parks’ sharp rise in popularity.

The film’s success proved that, even though it’s a big company, LEGO hasn’t forgotten how to be disruptive. The company quite literally disrupted the Oscars when, on being snubbed for best animated film, the film’s director awarded himself an Oscar made from yellow LEGO bricks. The move garnered lots of attention on social media and proved that the brand is very good at not taking itself too seriously. The company’s playful brand positioning was reinforced with the announcement of a sequel to The LEGO Movie, aptly titled The LEGO Movie Sequel.

The vision that LEGO sells is one of being able to build anything using what are really very simple tools. The brand, therefore, benefits hugely whenever someone animates an Eddie Izzard sketch using LEGO on YouTube, or uses LEGO bricks to create an art exhibition or build a robot that can solve a Rubik’s cube in under four seconds. Just like videos of cats doing almost anything, LEGO’s profile has been seriously boosted by the internet, and, with marketing as good as The LEGO Movie, the company has positioned itself perfectly to take advantage of all the free publicity.

What are your best LEGO memories? Let me know at and have a great weekend!