November 30, 2016, HYPEsters had the opportunity to meet with Michael (Mike) Moynihan, Vice President of Global Marketing Excellence and Partnerships for The LEGO® Group. This area of responsibility includes Global Insights (including consumer, shopper, competitor, and market insights), Global Strategic Partnerships, Merlin Affairs (responsible for ensuring a thriving partnership with Merlin Entertainments, which manages all LEGOLAND® properties globally), and Marketing Excellence. Mike shared with attendees some of LEGO’s best practices, how to learn from adversity, and his personal leadership experiences over his 20+ years with the company.
The evening started out with an ice breaker. Each attendee was given a bag with the same six LEGO bricks, and asked to do a simple task; build a duck in 45 seconds. Once completed, Michael collected the ducks for display. Despite being given the same six bricks and the same general directions, each attendee’s duck looked remarkably different. Mike explained that all the ducks were correct, and that there is no one right way to build with LEGO bricks, which is at the core of the LEGO play experience.
In 2003-2004, the LEGO Group was experiencing a challenging time. The company had expanded beyond producing LEGO construction sets to areas such as video games, action figures, arts & crafts and theme parks. They found that consumers couldn’t make a clear connection between the LEGO brand and the products. Simply put, they were not innovating properly. During this time, a new CEO was hired, and really changed the way the company operated, leading to the successes the company has enjoyed. He focused in on a mission, to get “back to the brick” focusing on learning and development through play and to “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”.
How the LEGO team operated overall shifted with the new CEO at the helm as well. With a new and focused mission, the company became less insulated, and began to explore how to stay relevant to what kids want, while remaining true to the brand. The company began to operate under three basic principles; simplicity, collaboration, and coherence. The CEO and high level executives stripped away the complexities to get down to what was important, making the vision simple. A great emphasis on collaboration with both consumers and retailers was implemented, as well as a push for diversity in the product itself. Lastly, adaptation to the ever-changing world was a focus, and keeping everyone on the same page was paramount. There was a greater drive to ensure all employees understood how other departments worked and to highlight the value of how people working together make something so much larger. What each individual brought to the team was now celebrated - a big difference from the previous style of management.
With a new clear vision and a reformed workplace, the LEGO Group now had to figure out how to grow and sustain the company in the long run. They found that the love of LEGO products was still very much present in consumers, but there needed to be an effort to reorient the focus back to consumers, as well as the retailers who would be instrumental in selling their products. Branding logic changed when the company realized that while there was room for the LEGO brand in areas such as entertainment and video games, there wasn’t the internal expertise. With a clear sense of the LEGO brand, they could now partner with companies whose core competencies were in those areas, expanding their reach without doing it entirely on their own.
LEGO estimates that in 2015 approximately 100 million children had a LEGO® experience – through playing with products, in schools via LEGO Education materials or by participating in local community activities. With two new theatrical releases slated for this year, the LEGO Group continues to grow the platforms they have to engage with children and adult fans. Mike said a key to the company’s achievement is to always, “think about the impact you have on other people.” That approach has proven to be successful for the company and has been a source of inspiration for him.
Thank you to Mike and to The LEGO Group for hosting this great Local Leaders After Hours event! Check out our Facebook page for more photos!