The CMO of Lego Says the Company’s Focus on Learning Through Play Has Made It Last

Julia Goldin took the stage at Cannes to talk about the brand's longevity

"Maintaining relevance and staying true to your brand purpose doesn't happen by accident," Goldin said. Cannes Lions
Headshot of Diana Pearl

CANNES, France—When Julia Goldin, CMO of Lego, asked the audience at the Debussy Theatre who in the room had played with Lego as a child, nearly every person shot their hand up.

Case in point, Goldin said: Lego is a brand beloved by people all over the world and across generations. But getting to that point has taken work, according to Goldin.

“Maintaining relevance and staying true to your brand purpose doesn’t happen by accident,” she said.

Just over a decade ago, Lego was struggling financially and was at a “crisis moment,” said Goldin. To turn things around, the company’s leadership decided to double down on the value that it had started with: learning through play. This focus has led Lego to rebound from its past struggles, making a difference in communities around the globe along the way.

Implementing that message came with many elements. In the end, the company started to focus on four principles: promoting and defending every child’s right to play, innovating by embracing change, collaborating with people who love the brand and supporting children.

Many of the new initiatives from Lego focus on driving home those values. Of course, that’s seen through Lego’s product lineup, which includes new learning sets and systems that encourage an interest in STEM. Lego also has launched a digital platform, LegoLife, that offers kids a privacy-friendly way to connect with the brand online.

“This is an opportunity for them to never fail, but to always learn from their to mistakes,” said Goldin. “There’s no black and white. There’s no right or wrong. They build, they code, they learn and through that they’ll be able to learn a whole variety of very important topics.”

Along the way, Lego partnered with other organizations to make a difference in communities worldwide through its Lego Foundation. The company recently announced a $100 million partnership with Sesame Street Workshop to provide Legos to children living in refugee camps in countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Bangladesh.

Goldin said that at Lego it’s also important for those values to be shared companywide. Lego helps to impart those values through an annual “Play Day,” for which Lego employees across the world take the day off for team building and talking about the company’s priorities, getting everyone on the same page.

“What I think is really interesting and unique about Lego is the purposefulness in everyone,” Goldin said. “Whether you go to a factory or into a Lego store or into our offices, you can stop anybody and ask them what’s our mission, what’s our purpose? And you’ll hear the same words that you heard from me.”

Throughout it all, Lego always has to be aware of what’s changing in the toy space, and how they can continue to compete, particularly as children are getting more of their playtime on a computer. But Goldin said it’s important for brands to be adaptable and nimble when it comes to making such changes, because they’re inevitable in business.

“Challenges will always be there,” she said. “Retail landscape changes, new digital games are coming out. Kids get into other things. You can’t avoid not being challenged, but you have a choice. You can either be disrupted or you can embrace the changes and leverage them to continue to develop, delivering on your purpose.”

@dianapearl_ Diana is the brand marketing editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.