Over the holidays, Lego released their Lego Friends series – a selection of colorful new building sets geared towards young girls. While some may consider Lego to be gender neutral, the company’s marketing over the last 6 years has been slanted towards boys – from elaborate battle ships and alien conquest scenes to Star Wars cruisers. Many people believe that these toy sets can still easily cross gender boundaries, but studies have shown that boys and girls engage in play in very different ways, and many argue that the toy falls short when it comes to fostering creativity and analytical skills in girls. So pretty and pink aside, is Lego’s move to create a more “girl-friendly” toy a progressive or regressive one?
We’ve always considered Lego blocks a great way to build creativity and foster positive development in children (and even adults), particularly when it comes to math, spatial relationships, fine motor skills, and problem solving. In 2005 Lego deliberately focused on boys, and the short-term effectiveness of this strategy has given way to excellent results. Now Lego has shifted gears, and is designing sets to reach “the other 50 percent of the world’s children.”
The company has created a set that works with the way girls are inclined to play – namely the way they engage during the building process itself. Girls enjoy placing themselves in the scene they are creating, letting things build into a story, as opposed to boys who tend to be more “linear” with their play and only begin to project in third person, once they’ve completed their models to look like the picture on the box.
To fill the gap, Lego’s new girl-oriented kits focus in on the details. This means larger and (slightly) more lifelike mini-figures with a backstory, the addition of quirky/cute details to the interiors, extending the color palette to a softer range, and even providing a carrying bags for the different pieces so that girls can begin to play even before a block touches a flat surface.
Twenty-nine mini-doll figures will be introduced in 2012, all 5 millimeters taller and curvier than the standard Lego man. There are five main characters and each will come with a name and backstory. The figures were also designed to meet cultural differences. “We had nine nationalities on the team to make certain the underlying experience would work in many cultures,” Nanna Ulrich Gudum, senior creative director, told Business Week. Rosario Costa, a Lego design director, added “The girls needed a figure they could identify with, that looks like them.”
This is not the first time that Lego has attempted to grab the other half. The company has also tried necklace-making kits, beach scenes and “Belville” fairy princess series, but unlike the new set, these failed to work with the psychology of how girls play. Painting something pink does not make for a girl’s favorite toy.
So will Lego’s new venture find success? Time will tell, but it appears that their new approach is much more on point than their previous attempts.
Via Business Week