Lessons from LEGO: Becoming a Social Company

By: Guest | February 26, 2013 | 

Today’s guest post is by Pat Perdue.

Practically all companies now have Facebook pages, and many have Twitter accounts.

But does simply having a social media presence, even a slick, expensive one, mean that a company is truly social?

While many may tell you that is enough, the answer is much more complex than that.

A truly social company is social from the inside out, rather than outside in.

A social company can withstand the scrutiny of a wider audience into their one-on-one customer interactions, and this scrutiny adds value to the brand by delivering a wider audience.

A recent example of this can be seen from LEGO, which turned a customer service inquiry from a young fan into a social media sensation.

When seven-year-old Luka lost his adored LEGO Jay minifigure he had painstakingly saved his Christmas money to buy (and he carried with him wherever he went), he wrote to Lego to ask for another (after asking his skeptical dad what he should do).

The brilliant customer service reply became a viral, social media hit, and is a textbook example of how a company can be truly social.

LEGO Responds to Luka

Here’s the reply:

Luka, I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay minifigure was purely an accident and you would never ever ever let it happen ever again.

He told me to tell you, “Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!”

Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a really big Ninjago fan.

So, I hope you enjoy your Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines three different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight!

Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: Keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad.

A Social Company: Bring the Magic

It’s no mystery why this response became a viral sensation. It’s not because they replaced the minifigure, or because they threw in something extra. It’s because this response spoke to the magic that made Luka love his Jay minifigure, and it spoke to the child in all of us.

Like many, before I heard about this story, I didn’t really think that much about LEGO. Now, because of the social media attention this received, I want to go buy some mini-figures myself!

Or to say in marketing language, the customer service response to an inquiry from a lone customer was so perfectly linked to the intangible magic of the brand, it contributed to the its overall marketing message and value.

This response arguably had more “impressions” than many of their ad campaigns.

So how do the rest of us get that magic for our brands?

Here are some things we can learn from LEGO:

  1. Allow your Customer Service Reps to be Authentic
    Clearly, LEGO has a culture where this type of authentic communication is allowed – perhaps trained – in their front line. We can all benefit by ensuring our front line really knows their customers, and understands how to genuinely communicate to them. A canned, pre-written message may save a customer service agent 30 seconds composing an email, but the few minutes taken to compose an authentic response to an authentic inquiry like Luca’s can help foster generations of new customers (you think Luka won’t tell HIS kids about this?). Purely transactional messages can stay transactional, but your agents also need to be able to add the magic when the situation requires.
  2. Think One-to-One First, but Consider a Wider Audience
    How many of your customer care emails would you want to go viral?  (Yeah, I see you wincing all the way from my desk here in Toronto!) What if a percentage of your emails really were “share-worthy,” like this example from LEGO? How cool would it be to regularly mine your most brilliant email messages and put them out there for the social media world to evaluate? Doing so is a big step forward in making your company truly social from the inside out.
  3. Be in it for the Long Haul
    This isn’t a simple fix. Creating a culture that sees customer service, loyalty, and authenticity as central pieces of the puzzle isn’t easy. This requires preparing for a long-term investment. If an organization isn’t committed to becoming a true social business, it will just be another company that is good on Twitter, and has yet another Facebook page. Oh, and if you’re looking for an example of how this can pay off, recall Zappos took this approach, and that’s why Amazon paid nearly a billion dollars for them.

LEGO is a huge, multi-national company, but what they’ve taught us about interaction, engagement, and authenticity can be applied to your company, regardless of size. Take the challenge and become a truly social company be emulating what they’ve done. It will pay off in ways that will surprise you.

What are some of the ways you try to go above and beyond to create those loyal customers, brand ambassadors and supporters?

Pat Perdue is the chief customer experience designer at Toronto-based Socialicity and has worked with the likes of Scotiabank and Tommy Hilfiger USA. He helps clients use social media to build high-value relationships with their customers. Connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, or over at this blog.

  • What a great story. That says a lot a company that is willing to let their customer service people react in a true way and not just with form letters. Makes me want to go out and buy Lego’s too! When is the next lego playdate 🙂

    • patperdue

      @aimeelwest Haha!  Okay, we need to call a “Lego Day!”  Thanks Aimee!

      • @patperdue  @aimeelwest Agreed, it’s these stories that got me into the field in the first place. Lego Day sounds awesome, btw!

        • @yvettepistorio  I know that is one of the reasons why I fell in love with marketing – especially when it is a product/ service that I can stand behind.  @patperdue  “Lego Day!” I knew there was a reason that Sype was invented 🙂

        • patperdue

          @aimeelwest  @yvettepistorio Woah!  Love that you upped the ante by bringing Skype into the picture.  I think we’re onto something (or could be Google Hangouts).  I’m kinda thinkin’ we need to do this.  🙂

  • And Legoland is in my backyard…..really. They have been open in Cen Fla for a little over a year and have exceeded expectations, enough that they are already implementing phase II ahead of schedule. Adrian Jones, the GM of Legoland, Fl is a pretty sharp guy and embodies all that is Legoland.
    Great story, and it does not surprise me.

    • patperdue

      @bdorman264 Thank you Bill for your kind words.  And isn’t great when a great brand gets properly rewarded?  Thank you again!

  • Ron Smith

    I try to never intentionally run over their cats.

  • belllindsay

    Allowing people to be authentic – and *maybe* not requiring every action or email to go through a ringer of time wasting checks and balances is SO KEY!! Great post Pat, cheers! 🙂

    • patperdue

      @belllindsay Thank you so much Lindsay for taking the time to read and comment!

  • Lindsay Bell-Wheeler

    Note to self….! 😉 ^^^

  • Arment Dietrich, Inc.

    Phew, thank goodness for that Ron Smith! ^yp

  • Ron Smith

    It’s the least I can’t do

  • Ron Smith

    BTW I’m sitting in a surgeons office waiting to see when I get to have surgery. Fun!

  • Love LEGO – this is just one of so many examples from them. Everything they do, from their brand story, customer experiences with augmented reality, and customer service as it is supposed to be…
    Great piece!

  • I love this story! I love they answer Luka full of personality and it’s completely customized to him. I’m reminded of the petition Star Wars fanatics created to have the White House created the Death Star. After getting the required number of signatures, they sent it off and waited for the response. Of course, we can’t really build the Death Star, but the way the White House responded showed true personal engagement and a great sense of humor. I hope executives far and wide read stuff like this so they’re reminded it’s okay to be human. In fact, it’s required these days.

    • patperdue

      @ginidietrich Thank you Gini for reading and commenting!  Such a great point!  That “Death Star” did wonders to lighten the often heavy perception of the government.  Here’s a link:  And I fully agree.  In this increasingly digital age, companies that thrive will have figured out how to let their employees be fully human.  Thank you again!

  • Hey Pat,
    Greetings from just down the QEW!
    An outstanding example of employee-customer engagement and the ROI of social media.
    And I have to say that I absolutely love LEGO. I’m thinking if you ask my parents when I stopped “playing LEGO” they would likely say some time not too long ago… So, to see LEGO embracing a culture of engagement makes me grin ear to ear.  I can also appreciate how they empower their employees and allow them to be authentic.
    In my experience, this comes from establishing a strong behavioral foundation of core values, purpose and a vision for success. Once employees understand where the company is meant to go, they can act from a place of authenticity and do whatever it takes to get the company there.
    And having just recently learned what Ninjago means, I think it’s time to head back to Toys R’ Us and continue embracing my childhood dream of being a professional LEGO builder (whatever that means)!

    • patperdue

      @Geoff Reiner Ha! Great comment Geoff!  And spot on about the behavioural foundation of core values.  Here’s a question for you:  Do you see that happening in training?  Or does that even begin at recruiting?  I also love that this is a bit of a Lego Love in!  Thanks again for reading!

  • The key is that their culture rings through from the social experience all the way down to the retail experience. A few years ago, my son lost a very important piece of a LEGO set we had bought a long time ago. I happened to be at a LEGO mall location, and on a whim stopped in to ask whether they could help me. The friendly staffer patiently listened to me describe the piece, what set it came from, and then went to the back room. Even though the set was no longer available, he found a matching piece and gave it to me for free. The piece probably cost them 2 cents, but I’ve been a raving LEGO evangelist ever since. That’s how it’s done, son.

    • patperdue

      @rosemaryoneill Thank you Rosemary.  What a wonderful story.  Shows you that great customer experience is as much, or perhaps more, about company culture than it is about policies and procedures.  Thank you again!

  • Great post Pat. This reinforces what folks around here say a lot: you can’t slap on social media and suddenly consider yourself a truly social business, it has to already be in your company DNA.
    Also, people who say “we don’t really have any news or content to share” are just being lazy. There are tons of great stories in any company.

    • patperdue

      @JoeCardillo Thanks so much Joe.  I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.   And yes, I fully agree that companies can go a long way with mining their sucesses to help create content.   Thanks again!

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