LEGO Hits Jackpot with ‘Controversial’ Line for Girls

Toy-makers crossing the gender barrier by marketing “boy toys” to girls and vice versa has been all the rage lately (remember the Easy-Bake Oven for boys?). But does this sort of often controversial rebranding pay off? In the case of LEGO‘s girl-geared LEGO Friends, the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Full disclosure: I’m a girl. I also played with LEGOs. But apparently, there weren’t quite enough block-building little girls like me, so LEGO decided to create a line of toys geared exclusively to tots of the female variety. In December 2011, the company launched LEGO Friends, a new line of building sets aimed at girls. The new collection steered away from male-targeted themes like ninjas, Star Wars and superheros, featuring instead a pastel color palate, taller and slimmer female minifigures, and cliche female-friendly scenarios like a suburban home, a beauty parlor and a horse stable.

While LEGO Friends drew ire for being sexist and pandering, and even spawned an oppositional movement and petition promising to #LiberateLEGO, the line has become a huge success. The company reported last week that LEGO Friends proved to be the company’s fourth-bestselling line in its first year, helping the LEGO company increase its revenue by 25 percent and record its best financial returns in its 81 years of existence.

“Our data show that we tripled the number of girls who are building with Lego bricks in the U.S. market since the launch of Friends, and we’ve significantly shifted the gender split among Lego users,” said Michael McNally, Lego’s U.S. spokesman. Yet another win for LEGO.

Still, this girl would take a Star Wars set over a horse stable any day.