April 25, 2017

Lego and Content Marketing: The Nuance Matters

Is the Lego Movie a great example of a brand using content marketing to sell stuff? Yes, but which brand?

lego movie and content marketing


Lego was on the receiving end of a brilliant concept originating from Warner Brother’s desire to keep up with other movie companies who had success with animated toy stories. 

Why did I write this article?

I believe in the nuance of things. There are many articles being written about the success Lego had with the production, marketing and distribution of their Lego movie. Many in the “content marketing” space are making proclamations about how Lego’s success validates the notion or concept of “content marketing’. 

On the surface of it, this seems harmless. To me, however, the nuance tells a more accurate story, and provides more valuable insights that can be derived from watching this story unfold. I am not convinced that Lego was executing “content marketing” as much as they were smart enough to see that a particular piece of content was a brilliant business move. 

More importantly, because enough attention isn’t being given to the actual origin of the idea, from conception to approval by Lego, a very valuable lesson is being missed. The risk, as I see it, is that the Lego movie will give marketers the idea that content needs to be entertaining to have business value. 

The last thing this world needs is more content created for the sake of creating content.

Content Marketing Strategy/Plan 

A content marketing strategy or plan, is devised when a brand sets off with the intention of using content as a marketing vehicle. Purpose and motive matter. To give the brand full credit as having devised the most amazing content strategy every conceived by mankind, I would have to believe that Lego conceived of the concept on their own. This simply is not how it went down.

The Origin of a Great Idea

In 2007, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal Online, “Hollywood was getting excited about old toys. “Transformers,” based on Hasbro robots, grossed $710 million world-wide for Paramount and DreamWorks”. The implication here is that Warner Brothers wanted a piece of this action. Given their already solid business relationship with Lego, Lego was a natural target for Warner Brothers.

Movie companies make money making movies about toys. They also know that toy companies make money making movies about toys. Seemed like a no-brainer for Lego to think of this as a great thing to do. It certainly appears that content marketers believed Lego had the vision all along.

Seems, however, that Lego was not at all in a rush to go make a movie about Legos, and for good reason.

The Truth – Lego’s Reluctance

In another article, from Variety Magazine online, this point is driven home with “Directors and producers in town have attempted to make a Lego movie for years, approaching the Danish toy maker with various ideas, but Lego turned down most of them because it’s highly protective of its brand.”

When viewed from this perspective, one shouldn’t have a hard time seeing that Lego didn’t view just any old movie as a great way to use content marketing to sell more Legos. In fact, Lego, according to the article above, had been approached before, by other toy companies, and resisted the tactic all together. Why? Because business is more important to Lego than content.

If the movie companies were going to get Lego to make a movie, they had to make it about the business value of the movie, for Lego.

The Real Lesson – Warner Brothers Approach

As a result of their long standing relationship with Lego, Warner Brothers knew that Lego was reluctant to do a movie of this nature. When they pitched the concept to Lego, they focused on the business value of the content, not the movie itself. 

  • A Lego movie done right would appeal to audiences of all sizes, helping Lego deriving a revenue stream from kids outside the ages of 5 to 12.
  • They focused on the core values of Lego, maintaining that the movie would be a story told that highlighted the things that Lego hold dear; “a fun factor, creativity and that imagination has no boundaries”

Content for content sake, even if it is a great story telling vehicle, must start with what a business is going to get out of it. 


I have been overly critical of articles that make it out that Lego was the creative genius behind this movie. For sure, Lego and Warner Brothers and an entire host of characters, had something to do with this film.

It is indeed, a great example of content marketing, and an even better example of how a brand, Warner Brothers, used business value to get a reluctant brand, Lego, to finally make a feature film that will not only help both brands, but put a smile on the faces of anyone who watches the film.

And THAT is great marketing!



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