Brick Fanatics shares an exclusive chat with Bob Jones, the concerned LEGO fan who led to the Daily Mail promotion being confirmed as over.
Recently, the LEGO Group has done an abrupt volte-face. Father and LEGO fan Bob Jones posted an open letter expressing his disappointment with the company’s promotional activities with UK tabloid the Daily Mail that went viral. After an initial standardised response indicating little would change, the number of people supporting Bob on social media grew, until headlines were made when the LEGO Group announced that the partnership with the Daily Mail is over.
In-between appearing on Danish television and interviews with news outlets worldwide, Bob took the time to speak to Brick Fanatics about how this all happened, and what he feels has been achieved.
What prompted you to start the campaign?
I initially wrote the open letter to the LEGO Group because I’d had to say no to my son a month ago, when he saw the free LEGO set offer on the Daily Mail in the supermarket. Their headlines, in my opinion, had gone beyond just reporting their usual right wing views and had started to push a very biased, unjustified opinion about groups of people in our society, casting them all in a negative light. That’s discrimination and it shouldn’t be tolerated. A week or so ago they printed a couple of headlines that I really felt had gone too far and I remembered my son asking me for the LEGO set, and it just started me thinking, ‘why would a cool, progressive company like LEGO want to be linked to these guys?’
I didn’t set out to start a campaign, I set out to ask a question and see if anyone at LEGO would listen. But it just turned out that a lot of other people agreed with me, and the post I put on their Facebook page caught fire, and went viral very quickly with the hash tag #nolego and #stopfundinghate. Stop Funding Hate are the real campaigners pushing for a break between advertiser and certain publications. I’m just a LEGO fan and dad that wanted to ask a question.
Why do you feel the LEGO Group and Daily Mail should not be linked?
LEGO have an image. One of inclusion, fostering creativity. A product that brings people together. It doesn’t match the image I see the Mail as having. I’m passionate about LEGO and genuinely felt that for the sake of their image they should maybe look a little more into the distribution route they were using. I wasn’t alone in that thought, a lot of people showed disappointment in discovering this link existed.
Did you expect to get the traction you did? Everything the LEGO Group posted on Facebook had people responding mentioning your campaign.
Hell no. At best I thought maybe I’d get 20 or 30 likes. In a hope of getting that number, I posted a link on another Facebook group I’m in. Either everyone loved LEGO enough to like it or didn’t like the Mail enough to do the same. By lunchtime I was buzzing because I’d got a couple of hundred likes, I went to bed seeing nearly a thousand. By Sunday night around 20,000 people were liking, sharing and discussing it. The comments are 99% positive, with very few people giving me any grief, but there were a few.
The one thing that bugged me though was a lot of people calling for a boycott. I never asked for that, and responded to many of them saying not to. I wanted to appeal to the LEGO Group’s conscience. I didn’t want to think about some kids missing out on a toy they’d got their sights set one, simply because I’d asked a question.
How shocked were you when the LEGO Group announced the partnership is over?
I totally expected to get a generic answer and at first that’s what I received. Their initial response on Facebook a few days later was very non-committal in their position. A lot of people following the post thought the same and let them know it. I think that fuelled the fire again. People were disappointed by the company they had always held a torch for.
If at that point it had only been me asking, I’d have shrugged my shoulders and left it at that, but I felt somewhat obligated to pursue a better answer because of the 22,000 people who were routing for me. I wrote back by email, a letter to the CEO, Head of LEGO UK and Head of Marketing.
Friday night, November 11, one week after my initial post, I received an email from the Head of Consumer Services. She told me that they were ending the relationship. I went to bed with a bit of a silly grin on my face, unsure of what would happen next. Thinking about how I should respond and wondering if they were going to make it public. At about 10:30am on the Saturday they did. That was the point my phone started to continuously beep. I was amazed by the response and personally felt very humbled that they saw where I was coming from. What was more impressive though, was how people started cheering again for the company. I responded by once again posting to their wall, only this time I’d change the hashtag to #yeslego, it started trending not long after.
I celebrated my little victory on the Saturday by treating myself to the Beatles Yellow Submarine kit. My son and I spent the weekend making it, and listening to a lot of the Beatles. It was great.
What message do you think this sends out to parents and kids around the world?
I think a lot of people have seen the power of social media and a lot have commented that it’s amazing how a single voice can lead to a positive change. I think it has increased people’s positive perception of the Lego group. They are one of the first companies to take this position that Stop Funding Hate are campaigning for and a lot of people have tweeted and commented on their page how happy they are with the decision.
I’ve received many personal messages from people saying how this sort of thing should happen more. One man told me that he’d been in the UK since he was eight years old, 12 years ago. He moved here with his family from Pakistan. He said knowing that there were people in the UK who spoke up against racism, xenophobia and discrimination made him feel proud to call the UK his home. I can’t describe the feeling I got knowing my simple letter meant so much to another human being. I wrote to a toy company because I was unhappy, and I ended up making a stranger feel happier where he lived. That doesn’t happen very often in a lifetime.
What advice do you have for other people who want to make a change?
I don’t think there’s a formula for this that guarantees results. One thing people have commented about my letter is that it was polite, positive and clearly written. No one is going to listen if you haven’t properly formulated an argument and expressed it in a manner that would make the reader stop after the first sentence. Have evidence for your position. Think critically. And possibly have 24,000 people standing beside you.
Also think about changing the privacy settings on your Facebook page. While the vast majority of comments were supportive and agreed with my position, there were those who misread what I’d written and twisted it into something they have a personal beef about.
What LEGO sets are you and your family most excited for this Christmas?
I have a six year old LEGO nut who is officially ordained into the cult of Minecraft. He mainly just points to those sets. I don’t get it myself. It’s pretty much just normal LEGO right? He’s getting a couple of sets this Christmas. To his impending disappointment though, it won’t be the big Mine Cart set. I’d be most happy with the set that puts itself away once it’s finished being played with, but feel I’ve got a long wait for that one to come out.
What do you think about the LEGO Group’s decision? Share your thoughts in the comments.