LEGO, THE MULTINATIONAL FIRM WHICH
BUILDS CHILDHOOD WITH ITS LITTLE BRICKS
Kirsten STADELHOFER - Manager of the Idea House,
Legoland, Billund, Denmark
For informations upon Lego products and Legoland Park, please contact :
Lego France sa, Service Consommateurs. Tél. 0800.600.412.
Legoland A/S, 7190 Billund - Denmark. Mark. Dep./ST 2.
Or see the web sites : www.lego.com ou www.legoland.dk.
Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, son of our founder and inventor of the "LEGO System in play" which we launced in 1955, said:
"We will have to bring up the new generation with complete new train of thoughts - train of thoughts, which will have an enormous importance in the future - with the same material you can both simplify and multiply the possibilities through a special construction".
The canadien author Douglas Coupland, who wrote the book "Gegeneration X" (1995) and latest "Microslaves", declares:
"The universal language isn’t English or Microsoft Windows, it’s LEGO. It is naive to think that a little plastic brick can’t change the world?. It already has, in the same way that the 26 letters of the alphabet have".
Play is a serious matter
"Playing is a child’s most important work," according to the 16th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. It is an opinion the LEGO Group adopted many years ago.
Taking children’s play seriously is the basis for our business - a group of companies which now sells
products in more than 130 countries, has manufacturing facilities and/or sales companies on every continent and is the world’s leading producer of construction toys.
We believe the "secret" lies in finding out what stimulates and interests children. In designing, manufacturing, marketing and distributing products for which the possibilities are only limited by the imagination.
It was the need to look for new ways of using his talents as a carpenter that more than 60 years ago prompted our founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, to start making wooden toys. His goal was to produce high-quality toys: smooth, fine wood; carefully sanded edges and bright, clear colours. A rather remarkable approach at a time when there was little interest in toys, they were only for children.. "Only the best is good enough," This statement was carved in wood and put up on the wall of the first LEGO workshop in the mid-1930s. It remains our philosophy to this day.
He established the company in 1932 and two years later he called it and its products LEGO, taking the first two letters of the two words "LEg GOdt" - the Danish for "play well". Right from the start, the cornerstones of the business were quality in production and responsibility in its commercial dealings. In the mid-1950s, his son, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, decided that the LEGO product of the future should add system to play and give children everywhere a wealth of play opportunities. It had to stimulate their imagination and creative skills throughout their childhood. It had to be a product that would provide both girls and boys with absorbing and entertaining play.
Our products are based on children’s play and development. Our basic premise is that our products should stimulate children’s creativity and inventiveness. They should help to keep children’s curiosity for their surroundings alive and act as tools in support of their urge to create new things and discover new paths and new solutions. We know that both children and adults can play perfectly well without aids or with only very simple ones. But we also know that the joy and benefit can be greatly enhanced with the right toys.
Success brings responsibilities
To understand our basic attitude - our business philosophy - it is necessary to start where it all begins. Eye to eye with our consumers. If we neglected them, both as playmates and customers, we would have no business.
This means the key for any LEGO product is its play value. This can, for example, be measured as the time a child spends playing with a particular toy.
Play value is the result of the creative opportunities a child gains from a product, as well as that product’s technical quality and durability. And only by continually developing attractive new products, can we secure steady growth in a very, still stronger and competitive, marked.
Developing toys and offering interesting experiences that keep children busy hour after hour, day after day, demand great insight and effort. Above all, they demand knowledge of children and our researchers’ conversations with children, parents and teachers. We try to learn as much as possible
about what children find stimulating and challenging.
From this point, when a product or an entire product line is first conceived, to the point at which the finished, thoroughly tested LEGO product can be purchased in the shops, the route is usually long and always carefully prepared.
To be approved for sale, every LEGO product has to live up to certain requirements. It must give unlimited play opportunities and inspire enthusiasm in people of all ages. It must appeal to and stimulate children’s sense of shape and colour; be suited to and develop their motor skills; allow them to exploit their creativity; offer fun and experience that strengthen their intellect and thereby contribute to their development.
Our aim is for the LEGO range to provide limitless opportunities. And, with more than 500 different sets and 1.900 elements, we think we probably achieve that aim. Especially when you consider that just six of the original eight-studded bricks of the same colour can be put together in 102.981.500 different ways.
The range must also give pleasure to children of all ages - both boys and girls. That’s why there are
both simple basic elements and specialised composite elements.
The various LEGO components are divided into five independent product programmes: LEGO Primo, LEGO DUPLO, LEGO SCALA, LEGO SYSTEM and LEGO TECHNIC, which appeal to different age groups and interests.
The large majority of elements in every product line can be used in combination with the elements in the other lines. This satisfies the requirement that the variety of opportunity should be greater than the sum of the individual elements.
Known all over the world
The LEGO Group has been "on the map" - albeit initially only the Danish map - for more than 60 years and our products have gradually become so popular that the large space they occupy in the minds and imaginations of all age groups sometimes surprises even us. Over the years, children and adults, individually and in organisations, have taken part in any number of events such as modelling competitions and record attempts, for which we provide LEGO products and other support. A name that carries responsibilities
Product development, manufacturing, marketing and distributing toys are of course our core business. But we are also active in a number of related areas in which LEGO products and the concept behind them naturally belong.
For instance, through LEGO Licensing, we cooperate on in the manufacture of certain categories of high-quality products for children. We do so if we think that such collaboration will create synergy. That is, that the different LEGO business areas will support and reinforce each other and that such cooperation will promote our trademarks to a wider public
The LEGO Group will only consider involvement in another product area on condition that the area appeals to children, that the products have durable value, that they live up to the LEGO Groups’s quality and safety standards and that they help to underline or reinforce the LEGO Group’s identity.
Playing is learning
Because LEGO products have a natural developmental and learning value, there is a special focus within our group on the field of education. Since 1980, we have produced a special product programme for kindergartens and schools.
The LEGO DACTA products for kindergartens and schools include both basic elements and figures and theme sets that encourage learning by playing, individually and in groups.
For the youngest age groups, the mephasis is on developing motor ability and cognitive, social and language skills. For example, through finding out how a wheel moves, learning the names of animals and distinguishing colours and shapes.
There are alphabet sets and printing equipment for early teaching games with sound, letters and words. For older children, the sets dealing with the natural sciences and technology provide instructive, interesting first-hand experience of the world of physics and mechanics.
The principles used in levers, pulleys, and kinetic and mechanical energy may not sound like box-office hits, but they are fascinating when you can make and test them yourself using LEGO DACTA products. Especially when you can build computerised control panels for your models.
A world of play
The best known of what we call "related business areas" are without doubt our parks, in which the accent is on play and excitement. The oldest is LEGOLAND Billund, which opened its doors in 1968 and has since welcomed almost 25 million visitors. LEGOLAND Windsor, near London, opened in the spring of 1996 and work continues on plans for LEGOLAND Carlsbad, in southern California, which will open in 1999.
From the outset, the LEGOLAND Parks were conceived as mixtures of miniature "real-world" models and models and universes based on sheer fantasy. They must also be inspirational, entertaining and set in pleasant surroundings. They are for children and adults, but intended mainly for families with children of "LEGO age" - from about three to about 12 years old.
Visitors can wander through a wealth of miniature versions of famous building or entire districts from almost every corner of the globe. Or sail through a fairy-tale Pirateland (built from 3.5 million LEGO elements).
Everything is built from the LEGO and LEGO DUPLO elements in our range - and enormous number of them (almost 45 million in LEGOLAND Billund alone). And of course a lot of time goes into building the models.
As well as showing what you can make from LEGO bricks, LEGOLAND Parks are designed to be entertaining destinations for family excursions.
Visitors can also learn fascinating facts on many subjects, including the history of toys, or try their hand at building computerised LEGO TECHNIC models.
Children are our vital concern
Our fundamental mission is to stimulate children’s imagination and creativity. "To encourage them to discover, experience and express their own world". These words come from Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, our president and chief executive officer, and grandson of the company’s founder.
In 1996 almost 600.000 children form 22 countries took part in the preliminary rounds for the title of the best LEGO builder in the world - the "LEGO World Cup".
Their prize was a dream trip to LEGOLAND Billund and the chance to take part in the LEGO World Cup final.
53 children aged between four and 16 specially skilled at building and designing with LEGO bricks qualified themselves for the 4th LEGO World Cup. All the children were already "LEGO champions" in their own homelands. On the last Friday in August the children and their families came to Billund. The guests were officially welcomed on Saturday morning at 9. a.m. in the LEGO Center’s large auditorium, which was full of expectant, rather nervous children and their parents. They were ready, but had little idea what to expect but were reassured everyone that the building competition was not an examination.
The competitors then found their own places in one of the four building rooms. Concentration levels rose, the buckets were opened and the hosts explained the simple rules for building: build anything you like; it doesn’s have to be anything in particular and the number of bricks you use is of no importance. The children were given between 1 1/2 and 2 1/4 hours - the youngest had least time and the eldest had most.
And the results were well worth the children’s efforts: 53 excellent LEGO models - vehicles, animals,
creatures and scenes. Incredible dexterity, creativity and inspiration.
The jury greatly enjoyed their work of carefully assessing the models in the afternoon and there was lots of feedback for the children when the prizes were presented. Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen was head of the jury and after a fanfare he nominated their - first, second and third choices in each age group. The remaining 41 contestants, who were joint winners of the fourth prize, received small trophies, handshakes and his congratulations.
TV crews and sound technicians crowded on to the small stage, and immediately afterwards, a press release listing the winners’ names was distributed to Danish and international news agencies.
LEGOLAND Billund is a great experience for every child who comes. But for LEGO champions from all four corners of the earth, spending three days there as citizens of honour must be a magnificent
experiens - it was a very special weekend for all 53 children, their families and close to 100 media people.
Now we have another tree years, before we welcome children from all over the world again to the championships. Luckily there is plenty of time for the preparations.
The LEGO Group late 1990s
We produce over 100 million LEGO and LEGO DUPLO sets a year and sell our products via 60,000 outlets in 133 countries. We are the only European company among the world’s "Top Ten" toy manufacturers. Up to now, between 200 and 300 million children and adults have enjoyed playing with our products, or as the danish queen said:
"The LEGO bricks are unique. They are more than just a toy. Surely it must be a great joy to know that more than 100 million small and big children not just play with LEGO, but also develop their imagination and creative abilities".
The LEGO Group has approx. 9,000 employees in 50 companies in 29 countries all over the world. The company was founded in 1932 and is family-owned. It has its headquarters in Denmark. Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, wrote in 1955 to our agents:
"It has been our intention to create a toy, which has a value for life - a toy, which appeal to the child’s
imagination and develop that need to create and creative zest, which is the motive power in any human being".
Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen - grandson of the company’s founder and the LEGO Group’s President and CEO - expresses our mission in these words:
"Children are our vital concern. As a dependable partner for parents, it is our mission to stimulate children’s imagination and creativity, and to encourage them to explore, experience and express their own world - a world without limits".
The LEGO universe of the future promises countless opportunities for play and development. For children all over the world. A world without limits.