Construction toys versus tablets

Industry consultant Steve Reece argues this era shouldn?t just be remembered for tech toys and tablets, but classic categories and brands like LEGO.
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In these exciting days of tablets, apps and increasingly smart toys, it's very easy to forget that the vast majority of toy sales come from categories and functionalities that have been around for decades.

For sure, ‘tech’ is the overriding trend, disruptive agent and source of really cool new stuff. However, we are also living in the age of construction toys. While we may look back at these times and talk of the impact of the LeapPad and new Furby, it will also be obvious that these were golden days for the building category.

There are several reasons for this. Not least of which is tech backlash on behalf of parents. With so much available to kids via screens, it’s no wonder kids are obsessed with them, but parents are increasingly restricting screen time and encouraging more worthy play patterns.

Also, the construction toy category has made itself 'cool' for kids. When conducting focus groups with children, the most prevalent toy of any is LEGO – both the brand and bricks used by consumers as a general descriptor for building toys – and the most stated play pattern after screen time is construction.

There are a number of different motivations for playing with construction toys: there is the impulse to create, the impulse to build something precisely on plan by way of a challenge, those who seek to destroy, those who like to build big and those who like to create fantasy. The point though is that LEGO (and others) are clearly well aware of what the consumer is looking for, both overall and by consumer motivation segment, and by golly they are supplying to meet demand.

So now we have a real Holy Grail purchase and play dynamic that both parents and kids want.

The other reason for the soaring success of this category is the use of licences and more entertainment-driven sub brands. I see LEGO’s brand and portfolio management as industry-leading. The use of top entertainment licences, creation of new sub brands and own IP character sub-brands is awe-inspiring.

It isn't just LEGO applying such fantastic brand management strategies. In particular, Character Building is my pick of the rest, in terms of innovation and brand building.

So while we revel in all that technology has to offer today and tomorrow, let's not forget that the age of construction toys is upon us.

About the author

Steve Reece has published a white paper 'Construction Toys, Consumer segmentation and motivations to play’.

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