#19 – Building Blocks of Life, by Zain Masri – United Arab Emirates

I am passionate about the intersection of Technology, Marketing, and Culture. I was particularly drawn to LEGO from a Marketing perspective as

I admired how LEGO was able to build a legacy as one of the most beloved brands in the world, in fact, LEGO Group is worth $7.57 billion, making it the world’s most valuable toy brand, according to consultancy Brand Finance. This was largely driven by their Marketing team, which also looks after the entire product portfolio, product experience, communication, content, and social channels. 

I always found creating things with my own hands therapeutic, there’s something about building from the ground up that is so fulfilling. I particularly enjoy the peace of mind it grants me, when working on a LEGO set, my mind is so preoccupied by this one task, that I drown out the world around me, it’s a much needed reset and respite from drowning in endless notifications and bottomless social media feeds. 

After building hundreds of LEGO sets and exploring the makeup of the brand academically as part of school projects, I finally managed to get up close and personal with LEGO’s best and brightest at the LEGO Headquarters in Denmark in 2016. To say I was like a kid in a candy store would be putting it lightly, I was mesmerized. 

My day started with a 3 hour trip from Copenhagen to the small quiet town Billund, the location of the LEGO Headquarters. I joined a tour of the LEGO premises where I learned that the name Lego comes from “Leg godt,” a Danish phrase meaning “play well.” Ole Kirk Kristiansen, founder of LEGO, started making wooden toys in his workshop in Billund, Denmark in 1932 and started selling them as toys in 1934. The Kristiansen family still owns the majority of the business via a holding company named Kirkbi.

LEGO bricks may seem like a fairly simple concept, but the magic lies in the builder’s imagination. Our tour guide explained that six simple bricks can be combined in over 900 million ways, so, if you give children (or adults which make up ~20% of LEGO builders) six bricks, the only limit to what they can create is their imagination. 

I spent time with the LEGO brand builders who explained how their brand values of Imagination, Creativity, Fun, Learning, Caring, Quality play a large role in their day-to-day mission to “Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”. Beyond learning about the brand’s history, we dove deeper into understanding their manufacturing process, their massive and influential fanbase and their distribution channels. 

While learning about their logistically complex manufacturing process, which is akin to an orchestra, what struck me the most was how a company with such expansive size and legacy is still constantly innovating at a global scale. LEGO’s motto is “Only the best is good enough” and I got a strong sense of that throughout my visit. 

When it comes to Technology, LEGO navigated the shift to digital very well as they evolved from a toy brand to an entertainment powerhouse, with everything from movies, to series, to online experiences which seamlessly transported their product to the virtual andpop cultural realms. 

In 1988, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the grandson of LEGO founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen, dreamt that “LEGO [will] become something universal. A concept which can be defined by the words: Idea, exuberance and values.” I think that LEGO far exceeded Kjeld’s wildest dreams.

Not only is LEGO a household name, it helped millions, including myself, realize that one of the biggest lies we’re told is that some us are creative, while others are not, that you’re either born creative or you’re creatively challenged forevermore. This lie exists to help certain groups profiteer as creativity becomes commoditized. Creativity is a muscle that you can build, creativity exists in a myriad of ways, for example, problem-solving, communication, spatial awareness, experimentation, perseverance are all forms of creativity, all of which have been democratized by LEGO.

Zain Masri – United Arab Emirates

Timelapse of the WALL•E LEGO set build (676 pieces)Timelapse of The Big Bang Theory set build (484 pieces)