Festival of Marketing 2014: How Lego uses social media

Lego's global director of social media Lars Silberbauer gave a talk at the Festival of Marketing in London today explaining how the company uses social media to engage with consumers around the world.

Like most companies, Silbauer said Lego uses social platforms to create value in four ways: to increase sales, improve marketing efficiency, build "brand affinity" and as a damage control tool. With teams based in the UK, both US coasts, Denmark and Shanghai, Silberbauer said the brand aims to deliver content 24/7.

"There's always something happening on social media, and if we're not there [to engage with consumers] someone else will be," he said.

Citing seasonal campaigns such as 2012’s Happy Holliplay (case study below) and one promoting interactive game Life of George, which encouraged customers to build a character and take pictures of him in unusual locations, Silberbauer said Lego’s social content always aims to promote the idea of playing together and appeal to consumer's pride in their creations.

Most of its campaigns on social media encourage customers to share pictures of their own Lego builds, appealing to both adult and child fans, as well as proud parents who like to share photos of their children's creations.

He also highlighted how the company is using the internet to crowd source ideas for new products through its Lego Ideas platform. The site allows Lego fans to upload suggestions for new kits and products and if they get 10,000 votes, the idea is reviewed by Lego designers and marketing staff, with selected ideas put into production.

By building support for the product online before it's made, Silberbauer said the company doesn't need to spend further money marketing goods when they hit stores – "items are usually flying off the shelves," he said.

Although he cited damage control as one of the key functions of Lego's social media, Silberbauer didn't mention the company's handling of Greenpeace's online campaign urging the brand to end its partnership with Shell, but this was perhaps unsurprising, given Lego's stoic silence online during the period.

Pics promoting Lego during Hallowe'en, via Lego on Twitter

The brand released an initial statement online in July, stating it was a matter for Greenpeace and Shell and another in October before confirming it would not renew the partnership but declined to comment further on its site or social media platforms. (Given Greenpeace's aggressive approach to online campaigning and the success of its film and petition, this was probably a wise move).

Silberbauer did discuss other ways that Lego reacts in real time to events, however, mainly through short films and video content posted online, such as a recreation of Felix Baumgartner's jump from the Stratosphere made using space-themed Lego figures, shown below.

It also uses content posted by fans, and sold over $10,000 of merchandise on May 4 by using a fan image of a Star Wars Lego character to promote special offers.

With the brand's social content produced in-house, Silberbauer said staff are required to attend a course, pass an exam and receive a license before posting on behalf of Lego.

Likening social media to dating, he spoke about the importance of building "lasting connections" by not just posting content, but responding to customers, sharing their posts and creating camaigns that encouraged them to think imaginatively while actively engaging with the brand. "You have to be personal and human," he said.

Lars Silberbauer was speaking at the Festival of Marketing, the two-day conference organised by all Centaur's media brands, including Design Week, Econsultancy, Celebrity Intelligence, Marketing week and CR. Details here.