In view of all the Hoo-Haa from certain areas of Lego-fandom and also in the mainstream press, Lego has put out a press release to explain/defend their new Lego Friends theme, aimed squarely at girls.
While I don’t feel the explanation was entirely necessary it’s nice to know that Lego is seeing and caring about what is out there. I do appreciate that they are taking an active interest in how their products are received – but I guess they always do that anyway.
January 12, 2012
LEGO Group commentary on attracting more girls to construction play
Commentary by Mads Nipper, Executive Vice President, Marketing, the LEGO Group:
We know that constructive LEGO play fosters positive, lifelong skills that are valuable to any child. More boys than ever before, and many girls, are engaged with the play experience we offer, however our active household studies indicate that we have not been as successful in drawing the interest of more girls with what we currently offer. For example, of the current active LEGO households in the U.S., only 9% of them report that the primary user of the product in that household is a girl. The totals in other countries reflect a similar opportunity to appeal to more girls. We embarked on four years worth of comprehensive, global research with 3,500 girls and their moms to understand what would make LEGO play more interesting for more girls, because we want to increase the number of girls who currently try and engage with the positive benefits of the construction play pattern.
The LEGO Group is globally known for its co-creation philosophy to ensure that we deliver the best possible products and experiences. We have achieved this distinction because we have a long history of listening very carefully to the opinions and requests of our consumers, just as we are listening to the conversation that is currently taking place about LEGO Friends. We heard very clear requests from moms and girls for more details and interior building, a brighter color palette, a more realistic figure, role play opportunities and a story line that they would find interesting. The result–LEGO Friends–was made with the goal of inspiring more girls than we currently serve to try their hand at building and experience the pride of accomplishment that LEGO play fosters.
We are compelled to clarify the incorrect information circulating about what we have developed:
• Children who find the LEGO Friends theme interesting will enjoy the exact same building experience and developmental benefits as children who choose any other LEGO theme.
• LEGO Friends products do require assembly. The collection delivers the same level, scale and detail of iconic LEGO building as any other LEGO theme and products.
• Like any other set, LEGO Friends leverages the tried and true method of packing LEGO elements in bags and the exact same building instructions for which we are known.
• Pink bricks and elements have been included in LEGO sets for decades. The new colors introduced to create the LEGO Friends collection are two blues, two purples and two greens, based on global research that indicated a wish for a bolder, more vibrant color palette to create the most interesting models.
• Our marketing program for LEGO Friends mirrors the model we apply to any LEGO theme.
We want to correct any misinterpretation that LEGO Friends is our only offering for girls. This is by no means the case. We know that many girls love to build and play with the wide variety of LEGO products already available. LEGO Friends joins this global collection of products as yet another theme option from which parents may choose the best building experience for their child’s skill and interest.
We listen very carefully to the opinions and input that people share. We will continue to do so as we develop the LEGO brand to deliver the best experiences with the strongest appeal, and we will review our communications to ensure that we represent LEGO play for all children. We are proud to have developed a collection that is receiving positive feedback and reviews from parents and children who are now trying it at home, and we hope that we will engage even more girls in the skill-developing experience of LEGO play.”
My Personal View On Friends
It took some convincing but overall I like the line, more so than I have liked Lego’s previous attempts at making sets especially directed at girls. My daughter is right in the demographic of their research (8 years) and she loves the figures and the sets.
The figures are not too large that they can’t interact with other figures depending on the context and the colors and accessories with the varied Friends sets are nicely non-pink.
My daughter will not grow up to think she has to look like a Lego Friend figure in order to be happy and successful. She won’t think her only options in life are to own a cool convertible and visit the beauty salon.
Interestingly enough she can relate to a number of the sets; the treehouse, the bakery and most importantly the designer/entrepreneur who sells stuff on the internet (just like her mum!).
Give our girls some credit! They are super-smart and amazingly multi-faceted. They play sports with boys, climb trees to look at birds, read books late into the night like Hermione and also like to dress up and do their hair.
Lego Friends – The Beauty Of Building? That’s OK by me.
OK, I understand that ultimately Lego wants to attract more girls to construction toys and so it needs to widen its external brand to appeal to sectors that previously had not been interested in it.
But what doesn’t necessarily tally is why it’s pushing this through marketing channels targeted at existing consumers, like the Club Lego Magazine.
My daughter’s immediate reaction on seeing the “girl” branded copy of her magazine last week was that it was boring and full of rubbish, compared to the “regular” version which her brother got.
While the “regular” version got excitement, action and interaction, the “girl” version got a safe, sanitised scene in a supermarket where the girls could play safely in shopping roleplay. And I think that, more than the introduction of the FRIEND theme is what is irritating – the idea that it should allow girls to play at shopping and domestic chores.
OK, so the pictures illustrating this article are making some painfully politically correct attempt to show that Lego FRIENDS can be scientists or designers, but the feature all over my daughter’s club magazine was grocery shopping. That’s poorly thought through.
I completely understand your point of view – I guess this is early days for Lego in regards to the magazine and though I haven’t seen it personally, given your description I can understand that it could possibly irk me and bore my daughter to tears.
For me, I am willing to work with Lego because I know they aren’t trying to foist stereotypes onto girls, they really are trying to reach out and offerring constructive feedback is part of that process.
In regards to “the idea that it should allow girls to play at shopping and domestic chores”, I would hesitate to offer that it is actually ok for girls to enjoy activities like baking and being in the kitchen…My daughter is naturally drawn to baking and creating sweets – I see no problem with that.
I guess we all have our hang-ups with this theme.
My knee-jerk is with the beauty parlor and it’s addition in the theme does push my buttons- but as a woman with a past of reacting negatively to the narrow perceptions of feminine beauty and struggling through my late teens and twenties to find my own place in that, I know this is something that I probably need to deal with and undertand, not pass unconsciously onto my daughter.
Given the breadth of sets in a theme set in a realistic-world environment I think Lego have done a good job. Obviously they aren’t going to cover all bases with this first wave (after all where are the genetic-scientist Friends sets) and the theme may be refined over time, based on sales and consumer reactions.
So it’s good to hear your reaction to the Newsletter and hopefully someone over at Lego will take that on board.
Inger – Thanks for the considered reply. Of course it’s OK for girls to play at shopping and domestic chores, or beauty, for that matter.
I think my point is whether it is right for Lego to have presented these options ONLY in a “Girl” edition of a publication, while the boys still get adventure and exploration?
I’d argue that the issue here is not that Lego are now exploring shopping and beauty themes, but that they are only pushing them to girls. My sons love to cook, as much as my daughter loves to play with engines.
The concern is that Lego has added itself to the vast repertoire of toys that reinforce the gender stereotype that boys do adventure, excitement and outdoors while girls are expected to do shopping, cooking and beauty. Previously, one of its virtues was the gender neutrality that boys and girls could explore the same themes of adventure and such like. Now this has been lost.
I agree that it would be wonderful to see more balance in all the Lego themes to make them more universally appealing to both boys and girls. However I think Lego has been dividing their sets into “girls” and “boys” for a decade or three and I feel Friends is a small step forward, more so than Belville was.
Have you noticed that ,like everthing marketed to girls/women, is higher priced then the “boy”,or unisex lego….I guess it cuz the colors cost more..always a reason tho…
I have to admit that I was disappointed with what Lego came up with, it was too much like (boring) Belleville. The girls get role play and the boys get fantasy play? That doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to stop myself from picking up a set as a gift and a couple of smaller sets for my 5 year olds. My twins were very happy with the dog groomer and bunnysomething or other set- they were very proud to have assembled the sets by themselves. On the otherhand, I suspect my younger girls would have been thrilled with ANY LEGO set I surprised them with. I was hoping Lego would have come up with a different approach.. perhaps something that incorporated the wonderful architectural elements of the Hans Christian Anderson sets that my older daughter enjoyed very much. When my girls play Lego together, the Arabian princesses and mermaids, onion domes, and the like are the first to be chosen. A winner for us would have been a fantasy kingdom, something that could have tied in with the existing kingdoms. I am thinking that I might introduce my girls to the Star Wars films …whilst excitedly waiting for Lord of the Rings!
As a fan of the Star Wars films since I was 7 year old girl I can heartily recommend the films (especially the orignal trilogy). Lego could also do more to make this theme appeal to girls by making Padme, Asoka and Leia appear more active protagonists in the sets. Harry Potter might also appeal?
I agree a mermaid/fairy/fantasy/forest theme would be awesome and appeal to all.
I so agree with Corina as well, and you Inger! What a fantastic idea!!! fairy and mermaids and Female Star Wars leads!! Now that would be AWESOME!
I think we are being confounded by a few semi seperate things regarding these sets. If we break down the elements we can see what is really great about them, what is not so great and what is just wrong.
Great is the sets themselves. They really are nice scenes. They are some of the best Lego kits I have encountered in awhile outside of the really expensive AFOL Modular type stuff. And the buildings and accesories are neither childish, nor truly girl specific. Heck I was talking with a friend and his son about these, and they keep coming back to wanting to use the dinner as a starting place for a Star Wars MOC. They have great designs, great colors, great elements, lots of new non gun detail parts.
Not So great is the Dolls. I know TLG was trying to target something more “dollish” as opposed to minifigs at the girls. Well these are the resounding failures of the sets. Yeah Girls want Girl stuff. But they also want it to be just like and interact with the boys stuff. Her girl fig from Dot’s Diner or whatever better be able to slap on Luke Skywalkers gear and go save the universe as a spacefighter pilot, as well as serving fried foods. Almost more than anything else those jarringly different dolls threw up that “these are boys, these are girls” wall between the sexes. That same wall that the actual sets themselves are so good at breaking down. Kind of tragic really. They finally create real thinking toys for real creative girls to share, and then they include a little Plastic Paris Hilton in each. GAAAAHHHH!
The Truly Ugly is where they put these things in stores. Aisles away from the Lego department, and in the pink abomination of Barbieland. /shudder! A Bad marketing decision if there ever was one.
My take. It’s a fantastic line. Move it adjacent to or next to the regular Lego’s. Watch the Synergy form if they aren’t quite so typecast by clueless marketing drones.
The ideal situation is a daughter should be able to march proudly down the lego aisle and announce she wants the Corner Diner and Ice Cream Shop and the Aliens Conquest Earth Defense HQ to go along with it!
Awesome comments Andy,
I couldn’t agree more (and Earth Defence HQ is an awesome set to boot!).
I coveted the Lego sets my male cousins received for Christmas from our Gran (she always gave me dolls). Since I was deprived of my own Lego as a child, I now buy it for myself as well as for my daughter and son, and one of the shortcomings has always been that girl minifigs were underrepresented in the sets. Most stores also place Lego on their “boy-themed” aisles which furthers the image of traditional Legos being boy-centered. Though I was initially glad to hear that Lego was launching a line aimed at girls, I have to say I was disappointed by the results…doll-looking minifigs that don’t articulate the same way that regular minifigs do with themes like “going to the Malt Shop.” With all the creative themes Lego has done over the years, the best they can do for girls is Heartlake City? A few of the sets look mildly interesting, but they just don’t compare to the variety of regular Legos. Hopefully Lego will address this issue in future offerings. And I still think that regular sets should all come with at least one boy and one girl minifig. Girls can be race car drivers/space adventurers/ninja warriors/sword-fighters, too!
Thanks so much for your input.
I agree with your sentiments and while my daughter (as well as the rest of our family) like the Friends sets, I’m looking forward to the next stage of evolution for “Lego For Girls”.
In The Netherlands the Lego Friends series are located in the normal Lego ailes, we actually do not really have ailes for boys or girls, maybe this has to do with the size of the shops in our small country, but even the bigger shops have all Lego in an aisle and also have all Playmobil (they have girl and boy sets too) in an aisle.
No pink aisles? I wish our stores were like yours!
I love Playmobil and would love to have a whole aisle dedicated to it and Lego.
Sadly Playmobil is not so big over here – Lego seems to have taken over.