LEGO made its first brick in 1958 and has been building ever since, but not without difficulty. Facing major competition from interactive electronics and computer games, the Danish company almost crumbled into bankruptcy in the late 1990’s. Then LEGO redesigned the brand blueprints, with a little help from its amateur architects.
Last week, Santa Clara hosted the first global augmented reality event - gathering the developers, creative directors and engineers from around the world who are driving nascent “augmentation” technology into our immediate reality. If you said “Say what?” to that sentence, you will appreciate the following. In the first keynote of the conference, WIRED’s contributing editor Bruce Sterling defined a singular challenge for the assembled that had very little to do with technological wizardry and everything to do with communication: create and shape the language of this brave new world.
The world of branded content has changed. Suddenly branded movies and TV shows are competing for the same marketing dollar and chunk of free time as everything else in the entertainment world. Advertising, in many cases, is no longer a toll you pay to watch content but is taking the form of content itself.
In an age when anyone can share, download and create not just digital files but also physical things, thanks to the proliferation of cheap 3-D printers, are companies at risk of losing control of the objects they sell? In March Levin and his former student Shawn Sims released a set of digital blueprints that a 3-D printer can use to create more than 45 plastic objects, each of which provides the missing interface between pieces from toy construction sets. They call it the Free Universal Construction Kit.
One Romanian man's tribute to the end of the space shuttle era may leave you slightly misty-eyed.
From space probes to royal weddings, LEGO is inserting itself into all sorts of newsy events--and getting that instant exposure which few others have replicated.
It’s the spring of 2002, and you’ve just been invited to attend one of Blockbuster Video’s quarterly board meetings. Great news: the company’s stock has just hit a new high of $30, and spirits are rowdy. As the board is on the verge of wrapping up the proceedings, and congratulating the CEO for yet another successful year, you discreetly slip a Powerpoint slide onto the screen with the tagline, Blockbuster. Watch your favorites. Anytime. For free.
Not so long ago, brands were in the limelight. They were seemingly powerful, and virtuous. Any inconvenient truths were hidden by glossy packaging and one-way, big-bang marketing campaigns. Now, as organizations become ever more transparent, people can see behind the marketing facade and are questioning what they are told.
A recent New York Times article about a beautiful new Hendrick’s Gin website - the Curiositorium - got us thinking about brands that differentiate themselves by playing up their more curious, or quirky sides. Hendricks got us thinking about some other brands that appear to be embracing and celebrating their quirks to generate – and tell a story behind – curiosity. It doesn’t hurt that at least a couple of these brands and their agencies are being awarded for it.
Geek culture is strongly linked these days to brands, commercialism and cash. Apple, Wizards of the Coast, Star Wars, LEGO, Marvel, Pixar (and the list goes on) are all brands that link very strongly with any geek’s sense of belonging and meaning. They also, consequently, get a lot of our hard-earned cash. We live in a highly commercialized world, and money helps make it go ’round. But, how much does geek culture need brands and how much do the brands need us geeks? What is the relationship like and are we being charged excessively for our passionate fandom and connection to brands like LEGO and Apple? How do we define our geekiness without these brands? And, how do we foster our children without overemphasizing the importance of having the new release LEGO or movie-associated merchandise.
There are moments in life that we have have experienced that put all the other moments to shame. These are moments when suddenly everything seems to come together at once. An idea is formed, a solution is realized, a problems is solved. At the pinnacle of these moments, there is a sub-moment. A sliver of time where everything just seems to click into place. LEGO recognizes that moment, and wants to help everyone who ever yells “eureka” to share that moment with the world and each other. So LEGO created a new portal to bring every inventor, artist, innovator, and creative person to one place. This place is called LEGO CLICK.
During a recession, virtue can be a major asset, especially for toys. Lego Group says virtue is part of the formula that has allowed the small, Danish company to buck the downtrend in toy sales. In addition to cutting costs and outsourcing some production, the company has worked to combine the demand for movie-related products with the creative-play foundation that has made its plastic building bricks popular with parents for decades.
This weekend, I went to the local Lego store here in Silicon Valley (Hillsdale) to see a practical version of Augmented Reality. I was previously briefed by Metaio, the technology vendor that empowers the software for the Augmented Reality kiosks called, Digital Box. This store, outfitted with a kiosk with a screen and webcam gives instructions on how to show the contents of any box assembled in real time. Not all of the boxes were equipped (I tried the Star Wars line with no available) but was able to grab this lego kit of a bus, hold it in front of the kiosk. You can see that the contents ‘assembled’ on the screen, and came to life as a pre-set animation, as I rotated the box, the virtual animation would move with it, giving the illusion that the bus was actually moving over the box.
David Weinberger tells the story of Jake McKee, the man who taught Lego how to have a conversation with its consumer. It turns out McKee supplied a crucial piece of Lego's cultural intelligence.
Lego is one of the world's most creative companies. What kind of office is equal to the task of housing its development staff? Here's a peek inside the company's work space, designed by Bosch & Fjord.
Sometimes when you're building a brand, you need to knock it down and start from scratch. Like Lego.
Lego and Digital Blue have partnered to bring out Lego-branded kid's tech products. The line, which is due to launch this summer, will include digital cameras, MP3 players, video cameras, and walkie talkies. There's also talk of Lego boom boxes and clock radios.