The Toy Universe is excited to be able to spend some time with Justine McKenny — Brand Director for LEGO Australia. Justine has held various brand management roles during her time with the LEGO Group and has recently stepped up to take responsibility for the direction of the overall LEGO brand. In our first edition of The Toy Universe, we had the chance to ask Justine a range of questions and we started by asking her a little about her brand roles with the LEGO Group.
Justine, can you tell a little about the nature of the various brand role you have undertaken at the LEGO Group?
I have worked at The LEGO Group as part of the ANZ team for almost 13 years. I started my LEGO journey as a Marketing Assistant and later moved into the Brand Team as the Assistant Brand Manager, since then I’ve had a very linear progression in the function. During my tender, I have had the pleasure of leading several exciting campaigns such as “Build Your LEGO Christmas” (for four years!), which included the statement LEGO Christmas Tree at Pitt Street Mall, and four LEGO® Star Wars May 4th events. These campaigns really highlighted the creative possibilities of the LEGO brick, which despite my affinity to the brand, I still find very inspiring! I have been leading the Brand Team for almost five years and recently assumed the newly created Brand Director role. Together with the Brand Team we aim to inspire the builders of tomorrow through exciting and impactful consumer campaigns, and I am really proud of our high performing team.
We often here about the LEGO System, what is it and how does it play into your overall brand strategy? The LEGO system is really one of the most amazing things about LEGO bricks?
The LEGO System of Play refers to the play pattern of LEGO bricks, how the bringing together of two or more LEGO bricks can unlock a world of imagination and endless possibilities! The way the bricks connect together like glue, we refer to this as “clutch power”. And they can be easily pulled apart and rebuilt into another display of creative self-expression. This timeless play pattern is the essence of the LEGO brand, and really delivers the joy of building, and a sense of pride for the creation! What I love most about LEGO bricks; if you can think it, you can do it! And that’s the beauty of the LEGO brick both from a consumer and a marketer’s perspective!
Many have tried to imitate the LEGO block without success. What is it about your product that provides the resistance against those that might seek to infringe on your IP?
I think it comes down to our LEGO Values (imagination, fun, creativity, quality and learning) that are showcased in our products and emulated in our culture. We are all very proud of our products, performance and push ourselves to test boundaries, even if sometimes it doesn’t land. That culture of continual learning has definitely fuelled my career — and definitely keeps me energised with the many possibilities!
Justine, what dictates the makeup of the various Universes in the LEGO product mix?
Kids’ have very diverse interests and passions. This is because they are still discovering who they are and what they love. These passions shape who they are and how they interact with the world around them. Our LEGO portfolio is grounded in catering to these passion points; if a child loves epic vehicles for example, there is an array of exciting desirable products very relevant to this passion that we can introduce kids to. We hope that from there, kids will then continue to navigate the buildable and rebuildable world of LEGO, either through expanding on their existing passion points or discovering new ones. And overtime, they’d hopefully turn that curiosity to boundless creativity and imagination, and those interests and passion points to a genuine love for the LEGO brand.
This timeless play pattern is the essence of the LEGO brand, and really delivers the joy of building, and a sense of pride for the creation! What I love most about LEGO bricks; if you can think it, you can do it! And that’s the beauty of the LEGO brick both from a consumer and a marketer’s perspective!Justine McKenny
Can you tell us a little about the origin of LEGO® DOTS?
LEGO® DOTS is a differentiated play proposition designed to complement our portfolio, adding breath and diversity to our range by expanding our footprint into the arts and crafts space. LEGO® DOTS was founded by the passion and growing trend of self-expression, and delivers a unique and customisable creative outlet for kids. They are literally meant to be blank canvases to a child’s colourful and creative imagination!
Where does LEGO® CITY sit in terms of the framework of your product line? How important is it to the overall conversation?
LEGO® CITY is based on the recreation of everyday scenes that kids are very familiar with. We celebrate everyday heroes and jam pack the LEGO® CITY universe with awesome vehicles, missions and adventure. The sets are designed to inspire endless possibilities, and there’s always a quirky surprise just around the corner!
LEGO® CITY is typically a favourite amongst LEGO colleagues around the world as it is synonymous with the LEGO brand — and therefore is a powerful recruitment theme into our portfolio. It’s a quality, inclusive toy that challenges imagination and creativity delivered through a fun, quirky humour and tone of voice.
Sustainability has become a more prominent part of the conversation both in licensing and toys, what is the LEGO Group’s mindset when it comes to this emerging focus?
We want to play a role in building a better, brighter world for our children to inherit. Our sustainability agenda covers Children, Environment and People — and we’re joining forces with children, parents, our employees, partners, experts and non-governmental organisations to make a lasting impact and inspire the children of today to become builders of tomorrow.
When children play, they can build valuable life skills while having fun. Learning through play enables children to solve problems creatively, boosting confidence and resilience — and we aim to continue to broaden our impact and help develop future leaders of tomorrow.
From an environmental standpoint, we want to play our part in building a sustainable future and making a positive impact on the planet our children will inherit. Not limited to, but some of the inroads we are making in this space include a goal to eliminate single use plastic from our packaging by 2025 and ensure our products are made from sustainable materials by 2030.
And finally, as part of our People agenda, we ensure our workplaces are inclusive, safe and motivating. We are focused on building diversity and ensuring our teams reach and inspire children, regardless of who they are or where they come from.
As an employee, a consumer and a parent, the developments in this space both from the LEGO Group and the industry gives me hope that we are all working towards a similar mission of providing a better future for the children today and the children of tomorrow.
Technic is the more collectable and technical range in the LEGO World, what’s the brand strategy behind this amazing category?
LEGO® Technic is all about a challenging building experience matched with realistic functionality, just like the real thing! It is an offering that is perfect for kids that are looking for their next building challenge, or for adults that have a passion for building and vehicles!
Internally, it’s a theme that we are immensely proud of, as there’s nothing quite like it in the market — and the IP collaborations are taking our innovation and functionality to the next level! From a market perspective, it continually exceeds our expectations and our recent McLaren Formula 1™ Race Car is a key example of this!
When children play, they can build valuable life skills while having fun. Learning through play enables children to solve problems creatively, boosting confidence and resilience — and we aim to continue to broaden our impact and help develop future leaders of tomorrow.Justine McKenny
What is your outlook for 2022?
We always aim to offer newer, more innovative and unique products each year, and 2022 will be no exception! We have a fantastic broad range this year that all children, adults, families and AFOLS will be able to find a set they’d be excited about, regardless of age, gender and passion point. Additionally, this year the LEGO brand turns 90 years old — on average only about 1% of brands reach this milestone! So, we hope to celebrate this significant occasion with our fans, consumers and partners. But we also acknowledge that the year won’t be without its challenges, so are getting ready for another dynamic year of pivoting!
Justine, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to The Toy Universe for this edition of our new magazine! We will check in with you again a little later in the year and hopefully gain some further insights into your business and the brand.