Inspiration can be found everywhere and for Lego executives, they found it in an 11-year-old German boy and his old adidas.
The story was written by Martin Lindstrom for Fortune and it details how in 2003, a troubled Lego company faced grim prospects as the its profits were down 30% from the previous year and then fell another 10% in 2004. All the big data studies concluded that future generations would lose interest in the brand because it lacked the instant gratification that people desired. Things weren’t looking good for Lego, but somehow, the brand managed to turn things around.
It went with a “less is more” approach as it sold off its theme parks, reduced its product line, and focused on its partnerships with Star Wars, Harry Potter, and other significant brands. And while all those maneuvers were key in its turnaround, the decision to meet with the German boy in 2004 to figure out what made Lego stand out may have also saved it. Along with being an avid Lego fan, the child was also a passionate skateboarder. When asked what were some of his prized possessions, he pointed to a pair of unnamed adidas that was described to have been well-worn and rundown from his skating exploits. It was this beat-up pair of adidas and the boy speaking proudly of them that ultimately provided the spark the Lego team needed. In talking about his worn down adis, the boy spoke of how the shoe symbolized his skill and his ability as a skater, and helped show that he was amongst the best in the city.
The idea lights went off amongst the executives as they realized the importance of skill and that by mastering a certain craft, children would attain the “social currency” amongst their peers. After refocusing its strategies, re-designed products, and the aforementioned maneuvers, Lego finds itself, for the first ever, as the world’s largest toy maker.
Make sure to head over to Fortune to read Lindstrom’s full story on this interesting Lego and adidas connection.