With over $55 million in tickets sold at the box office since its Feb. 10th release, The LEGO Batman Movie is helping keep LEGO in the top spot as the world’s “most Google-able brand.” While the movie franchise is doing great things for LEGO’s bottom line, while spanking the bottom line of 50 Shades Darker, the buzz is helping the brand become relevant in ways that seemed impossible just a dozen years, ago when the Danish toy-maker was on the brink of bankruptcy.
LEGO Batman producer Dan Lin told Marketplace that the LEGO movies succeed where other toy-based franchises fall flat because they are based on the way kids actually play, thanks to its unparalleled insights into kids and play. While other toy-based franchises are deadly serious about how their products are depicted, the LEGO Group knows that audiences appreciate a little winking, a dash of meta-commentary and a healthy sense of corporate self-deprecation.
Marvel Comics realized this a year ago when its Marvel-mocking hero Deadpool film was wildly popular. DC Comics is learning the same lesson this year as its gamble to let LEGO satirize its famous Batman character is paying off.
Just as DC Comics (and rival Marvel) nowadays add Entertainment to their corporate identities to communicate that they’re in the entertainment business, the day may come when The LEGO Group become LEGO Entertainment.
Other brands are also coming along for the ride as LEGO Batman continues to dominate the box office. As co-branded entities sharing top billing, the LEGO and DC brands are both capitalizing on the movie’s success, while other brands are also benefiting, in both official and unofficial capacities.
The top marketing partner for The LEGO Batman Movie is McDonald’s, offering movie tie-in Happy Meal toys to appeal to kids of all ages. Smart move, as LEGO’s success over the last decade has been driven as much by its adult fan base as its child one.
Easily the most creative official partnership for LEGO Batman is Chevrolet. As we noted a month ago, Chevy’s LEGO Batmobile ad was a very creative use of its ad campaign and gave the brand a sense of humor. Chevy even brought a life-size Chevy LEGO Batmobile to the Detroit Auto Show.
The last of the official brand partners listed on LEGO Batman’s website is Color Me Mine, a network of art and activity centers for children. To promote the film’s release, Color Me Mine hosted LEGO Batman art parties and its centers are carrying official LEGO Batman merchandise for kids to paint and make their own.
Beyond the LEGO movie franchise, the bricks have also become a medium in their own right. For example, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper recreated the Super Bowl in LEGO as part of its “Brick By Brick” LEGO-animated reconstructions of key moments in sports. In fact, there is a whole Bricksports YouTube channel that recreates entire NFL season games from LEGO. The videos get hundreds of thousands of views.
Almost a year before the Chevy Lego Batmobile there was the “Test for Champions,” an official partnership between LEGO and Audi.
Behind the scenes, LEGO has also been working to extend its bricks laterally into areas beyond simple play. At this year’s CES event, LEGO introduced a tutorial system that aims to teach kids how to code. At the same time there is the new LEGO Life, a safe-for-kids social network aims at the under-13 crowd. And on the CSR front, LEGO has committed to “a more sustainable plastic brick.”
LEGO must keep innovating, of course, to remain relevant with its target audience, to keep growing its revenue and to keep its brand value high (and desirable) in the fast-moving world of entertainment. To keep up with demand the brand boosted production and increased its workforce in the last year. The company now employs nearly 20,000 people, expanding its skill sets as it explores new arenas such as launching a social network.
As The Financial Times recently noted, LEGO had refocused its workforce “to keep the group nimble.” It’s certain that LEGO is in a much better place than it was 15 years ago. It’s also wise that the brand remembers its roots as it blurs the lines — is it an entertainment production brand that sells franchise-based toys, or a toy company that produces entertainment?
One key to The LEGO Movie’s success was its uniqueness—audiences had never seen anything like it, and the brand hopes to rekindle the magic with The LEGO Movie 2 slated for 2019. That’s also true of The LEGO Batman Movie, which satirizes a major DC Comics icon that simultaneously has its own movie franchise and brand to protect and grow.
Another test will come this September, which will see the release of another LEGO film project with The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Take a sneak peek below at the future of the LEGO movie franchise—and the evolving shape of the global LEGO brand.