Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Marketing Legos to Boys and Girls

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks to my friends at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood for pointing me to this look at the different way Legos are marketed to boys and girls.  I love the way the website lets you make your own mash-up.

I understand that children and teenagers can exaggerate gender differences to establish a margin of safety as they attempt to understand the complexities of gender and culture and advertisers and their clients want to appeal to them.  But as shown most vividly in the viral video of the little girl who was furious that Toys R Us seemed to think she would only want toys that were pink, marketing this way reinforces a lot of stereotypes that are not appreciated by today’s children.

I like this commentary by CNN’s Mark Joyella:

The new range of girl-targeted Lego toys (by which I mean figures and accessories in addition to the classic blocks that date back decades) features such forward-thinking concepts of what girls want in a set of plastic blocks as a beautician, a pop star and a “social girl.”

I’ll admit all I know about girls is what I’ve learned from my daughter over the last eighteen months since her birth. But the idea of forking over any amount of money for toys that limit her vision to 1950′s stereotypes? C’mon, Lego. You can do way better than that.

As Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brad Weiners reported this week, “now, after four years of research, design and exhaustive testing, Lego believes it has a breakthrough in its Lego “Friends” … a full line of 23 different products backed by $40 million global marketing push. ‘This is the most significant strategic launch we’ve done in a decade,’ says Lego Group Chief Executive Officer Jorgen Vig Knudstorp.”

Four years of research to create a Lego beautician and a “social girl”? Didn’t Barbie pretty much cover that ground sometime before 1960?

These ads give families a good opportunity to talk about how commercials try to trick us into wanting and even thinking we need things and about the importance of asking ourselves who the messages are coming from and what the messages are.

 



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Wendy

    I have mixed feelings about the Lego Friends. I totally wish Lego (and many many other companies) didn’t feel the need to market to girls and boys separately (I was mostly jealous of my brother’s cool gifts when I was growing up), but they got some things right about the appeal of these toys to girls. I never got the appeal of Legos. My spouse grew up on them and loved them. Lego’s research seems to have been right on. After fighting with myself and conferring with my spouse, we bought the Vet Clinic for my daughter’s 5th birthday. She loves it. Just as Lego suggested (but without our suggestion to her) she builds and she stops to role play and she builds some more and she and her Dad are having so much fun. I think she could also enjoy the “boy” sets and her brother might want to play with the cool friends sets, too (the “friends” need some male pals in their group, I think). Why not market to everyone, knowing that these might indeed appeal more to girls? We may never get the beauty shop (though if the child asks, we might go there), but the Vet Clinic, the Tree House, The Inventor’s Workshop–they’re pretty cool. I have REALLY STRONG feelings about the strict gender enforcement I see in our consumer culture. It makes me insane. I really wish the marketing were different. But the kits themselves allow girls to enjoy a building toy they might never have touched in it’s original form in their own way–a far sight different than Barbie.

    • Nell Minow

      A very thoughtful comment, Wendy, and I agree. Some gender stereotypes are based on the prevailing inclinations of substantial numbers of boys and girls. Sounds like the Vet Clinic was a great choice!

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