How Can Product Managers Help Lego Get Over The Brick Wall That They Are Facing?

Digital play has started to cause problems for Lego product managers

Digital play has started to cause problems for Lego product managers
Image Credit: WRme2

So what do small children want to play with? In the past the answer to this question was fairly easy: dolls, trucks, and of course Lego bricks. In fact, the Legos Company has seen its sales rise for the past 13 years. That would have looked good on anyone’s product manager resume. However, recently something happened: they reported a drop in sales. All of a sudden this changes everything in terms of their product development definition. It appears as though today’s youth have become distracted by other items such as cell phones and video games and perhaps the multicolored Lego blocks don’t hold as much of an attraction as they used to. What should the Lego product managers do?

What Went Wrong At Lego?

There are a number of different things that have caused the sales of Lego blocks to suffer a setback, but the cause of these problems can probably be traced to the success that Legos has had in the past. Right now the company’s structure has been designed to create a company that was able to deal with double digit sales growth. The problem is that with sales starting to decline, the company now finds itself with too many different layers and too many departments that have overlapping functions.

The company’s current structure makes it harder for their product mangers to implement product strategies. The company is also struggling to react to the trends that they are seeing in the marketplace. Finally, the way that the company is organized keeps the product managers too far away from their primary customers: the retailers who sell the plastic blocks. Lego understands that they have made a mistake and that their organization as it currently stands is going to make it difficult for them to realize their growth potential.

The fundamental problem that the Lego product managers are currently facing is that their end customers, children, are having their attention distracted by other toys and activities. The problems that Lego is facing are not unique to them – other toy manufacturers like Mattel are facing exactly the same set of challenges. Today’s children like to be distracted by playing video games or watching countless videos on YouTube. The response to these types of challenges has been that the Lego product managers have tried to find ways to modernize their toys for the digital age.

What Can The Lego Product Managers Do?

The Lego product managers are looking for ways to bring their plastic brick toys into the modern age. In order to accomplish this, they have created video games that are based on the bricks. Additionally, they have created a line of programmable robots that can be built using Lego bricks. However, these efforts so far have not been enough to turn things around at the company. The traditional lines of toys are still seeing erosion that is not being made up by the new toy lines.

The Lego product managers have been busy trying to find different ways to keep their end customers involved with the plastic bricks. Back in 2013 the product mangers created online video games, videos, and a Lego themed TV series. The product managers have also created Boost which is a robot-building kit that combines bricks for physical construction along with computer code. The company has also ventured into the social network space and launched its own app based social network that is closely managed in order to allow children builders to exchange information about things that they have built with Legos.

The good news for Lego product managers is that studies of how children play have shown that the digital distractions that they have are not threating to do away with physical toys anytime soon. Children are making a place for physical toys in their lives. However, play on touchscreen devices outranks all other forms of play currently in terms of frequency. Lego has faced additional challenges because toys tied to movies have not sold as well as expected. It is hoped that by streamlining the company, the product managers will be able to get new versions of their toys out to market faster.

What All Of This Means For You

The Lego bricks that children play with have been popular toys for a long time. The Lego company built it’s company around the double digit growth that they have seen for a long time. However, now things have changed. They have recently had their first decrease in sales. Now the company has to make some changes in order to allow their product managers use their product manager job description to be successful.

Lego’s past success has led to its current problems. The company created too many layers and too many departments in order to deal with the double digit sales that they were experiencing. Now what they are going to have to do is to remove some of those layers and combine departments. This structure has hindered product managers from quickly introducing new products. Today’s children have a number of different things that can attract their attention and so they are spending less time with Legos. The Lego product managers have tried a number of different things in order to bring their products into the modern age. They have created Lego video games, videos, and robot kits that can be built with the plastic blocks. Physical toys are not going away, but touchscreen devices do seem to be taking over. The Lego product managers are going to have to get creative to hold on to their customers.

The Lego product managers have had a good ride for a long time. Now they are going to have to spend some time getting creative. They need to find new ways to get children to be interested in buying and building with Lego blocks. Children inherently want to do this, it’s just going to be up to the Lego product managers to find a way to show them that it’s still cool to do it!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think the Lego product managers should try to make their products more modern or rely on their retro appeal?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In the world of product managers, we can dream big. We can use our product development definition to imagine products that can solve customer problems perfectly. They are skinny, strong, wide, long, and fit perfectly where our customers need them to go. Right after we get done imagining what our product needs to look like, what generally happens is that we come crashing down to earth as reality settles in and we realize that the perfect product cannot be created using today’s manufacturing processes. They are too complex, too detailed, or simply can’t be made to be strong enough. The good news is that things are changing. 3-D printing is going to make all of our product manager dreams come true.