“Lego Friends” excites; Target disappoints

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“This is the most significant strategic launch we’ve done in a decade. We want to reach the other 50 percent of the world’s children.”

Jørgen Vig Knudstorp – Lego Group Chief Executive Officer

“[Target] will introduce Lego Friends on an end-cap ), then shelve it with other girl-oriented toys, not with the rest of the Lego—all currently in the boy section. 'As long as girls find it, I believe it will do very well.’”

Stephanie Lucy – Vice-President and Merchandise Manager for Toys and Sports Goods

If you want to better understand why Lego and  other toy companies, trying to push the boundaries of gender, have such a hard time, just take a look at Target’s reaction to the new, girl focused, “Lego Friends” line.

"Lego Friends"  belongs on the construction aisle with the rest of the Lego products but where did Target put it…as you can see from the above quote…the Girl’s toy department?   Here is how the cover article in BusinessWeek puts it:  “Target’s Stephanie Lucy, vice-president and merchandise manager for toys and sports goods, says the Minneapolis-based department store will introduce Lego Friends on an end-cap (at the end of an aisle), then shelve it with other girl-oriented toys, not with the rest of the Lego—all currently in the boy section. As long as girls find it, Lucy says, “I believe it will do very well.”

I find Target’s reaction to be discouraging.  Think about it, BusinessWeek takes it seriously enough to create a cover article that features a Lego Girl and the words “Lego’s Billion Dollar Girl”; Lego  puts $40 million behind marketing the line as well as “…four years of research, design, and exhaustive testing” and the best that Target can do is put it in the Girl’s department and hope that girls find it?

Lego maybe has it right this time and maybe not (I would have preferred to see them take a gender neutral approach).  What is important, however, is that they are earnestly trying to reach out to girls and bring them back into the toy department.  That is why it is so disheartening to see Target undermine Lego’s effort by staying with a rigid gender policy on toy merchandising.

Here is my advice to Target:  Your customers are educated people.  They are moms who have careers.  They are Dads who stay home and cook.  They are children who watch their moms and dads break gender stereotypes every day.  Your consumers will not be shocked by your encouraging girls to visit the construction aisle.  In fact, some parents may even praise you for being more forward thinking than your competition.

I do hope that Target will reconsider and put “Lego Friends” where it belongs… on the construction aisle.  By doing so they will condition boys and girls to seeing each other on the construction aisle and hopefully motivate older girls to once again make the toy department their destination.  If that happens we can begin the process of reversing age compression and a decade of declining sales. 




14 thoughts

  1. Here’s a radical idea, Target – stop categorising your toys by “boy” and “girl” and start categorising them by function, theme or type of toy – that way all Lego toys will be together, and all toys will be easy to find by what they are.
    Then Lego might find it doesn’t ^need^ to “appeal to girls” because they’re not being told constantly that “Lego is for boys”

  2. Wow, your post is ralely helpful. Sometimes money is a touchy subject and can be very difficult to teach to kids. My daughter likes to play on virtual worlds like eKidnaworld.com and I use it to explain to her how money works. It helps to make her understand about earning money and how we should spend it.

  3. It will be interesting to see how different this line is from the Tyco line “Dreambuilders” produced in the mid-90’s. If I remember correctly it was an invention from Avi Arad.

  4. While Lego spent time to aim girls market, Mattel has rolled out launched in 2011 Blocky House, a brand of building blocks with articulated figures aimed at girls in Colombia.
    Blocky is a construction line produced by the Argentinean maker of plastic toy bricks Dimare, which, together with plastic toy bricks Rasti brand, are imported and distributed exclusively by Mattel, through a joint venture between two companies.
    Blocky (www.blocky.com.ar) and Rasti (www.Rasti.com.ar) are sold in Argentina, Chile, Perú, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia markets.

  5. I agree with Caitlin – Why create a new “girl” when they have such an iconic design that lends itself perfectly well to everyone – this new girl looks like a Lego Barbie to me. I think it’s maybe worse than the cheerleader and the nurse that we discussed last year. I’m discouraged too. Target is promoting indeed – and probably a bit worried about the success of this peculiar Barbie creature.

  6. Introducing this on an end-cap means that it is being FEATURED, where EVERYONE will see it – they’re promoting it, not hiding it!

  7. To be honest I think Lego are going at the Girls market the wrong way again.
    Every few years they try out a girls lego with pink bits or rediculously stereotyped themed sets or even jewellery…I remember my sister getting a jewellery lego set way back in the late 70s/early 80s.
    Why do they feel they need to create a whole new style of figure when the traditional Minifig can be used in 1000s of ways.
    If they want to uses traditional girl themes why not pick up a fashion designer licence to do Shop sets or fasion show sets. Hell they could do a house set (like a dolls house) but more upto date than the old lego basic style.
    Or give the girls an action/adventure set where the figures are stong female characters.

  8. My daughter, 3 years old, loves Lego. We had a hard time to find the best ones, among ninjas and starsips and stuff like that: old styled bricks, doors, windows, roofs. And some wheels for cars, ambulances and stuff like that. In the end we found loads of them… in the cellar: the ones I played with as a boy. Goods for both genders and far more creative than any sort of follow-the-instructions sort-of-model-kits that Lego released in the last years.

  9. Just think, they could break all the rules and put it in two places. It is a new range and doesn’t “belong” anywhere, needs to find it’s space, put it in both and see where it fares best – controversial? Not really, not even that clever….

  10. Much more likely that girls will go to teh “boys” section when they are comfortable with the proposition that construction toys are a good thing for them.
    Seems to be a lot of gender based hysteria in toys at the moment, so why are there so many girls reading engineering in the world’s top universities ? Surely they weren’t all tomboys in their childhood ?

  11. Girls aisle is the way to go, boys or Lego aisle would equal doom.
    That girl in the store YouTube was obviously coached or repeating her parent’s rant from memory…most girls like pink princesses and boys love star wars be they marketed to that way or not, with plenty of gender neutral toys doing very well.

  12. All of my children and grandchildren grew up with legos. At our house it was enjoyed by boys and girls alike. It’s great to see they have developed a new line especially with the girls in mind. Whenever we vist Disney land we always stop in the lego store in Downtown Disney. It’s like legos for moms and dads.

  13. I wholeheartedly disagree! If you know anything about the way moms and girls shop, you know that the girls aisle is where LEGO Friends needs to be to succeed. Moms want convenience and they know exactly where to go when buying for their daughters-why make it difficult for them? Girls and boys will always play differently and retailers need to cater to the needs of their consumers.

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