Chatting to the CEO: LEGO successes and missteps

NEXO KNIGHTS, The LEGO Batman Movie and licensed themes… no topic was off the table when LEGO experts from around the world sat down with CEO Bali Padda

There was no better setting than the soon to be completed LEGO House for fan media from around the world to be in conversation with Bali Padda, the LEGO Group’s CEO.

With the opportunity to ask the head of the LEGO Group anything at all, the topic of different product lines came up. NEXO KNIGHTS was the first such theme brought up, which Padda openly admitted had not achieved the same lofty heights as NINJAGO.

NEXO KNIGHTS was a success, the Brit clarified. He did acknowledge, though, that it was not as successful as the LEGO Group had planned it to be. He notably referred to the theme in the past tense, perhaps simply because he is working so far ahead of the release schedule, or perhaps suggesting something else. He blamed the digital side of the product in part for the theme not living up to expectations. ‘We could have executed the digital piece a lot better than we did, so it’s learning from that [in the future].’

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The subject of licensed themes also came up for discussion, specifically whether or not there are too many. ‘We try to keep a balance,’ Padda confirmed. ‘It can be a risk, if you choose the wrong IP as a starting point.’ He listed classic LEGO ranges such as Creator, CITY and Technic, highlighting how important it remains to keep such home-grown themes strong.

International markets are also a focus for the LEGO Group, with the CEO reflecting that the company are looking at potential Asian IPs to partner with, expanding beyond Western licenses such as Star Wars and Harry Potter. The experienced leader also noted that the designers within the company represent 41 nationalities, bringing a broad range of experience and talent.

The Chief Executive was also asked about The LEGO Batman Movie not achieving the same level of box office success as The LEGO Movie. He countered that by saying that The LEGO Batman Movie had met the expectations of Warner Bros. ‘The LEGO Movie far exceeded their plans, that was the difference.’ As for the LEGO Group, he explained, ‘The LEGO Movie had a halo effect on the brand, whereas Batman did not. So we’re looking at the plans for NINJAGO now.’

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The subject of popular retired products came up, including the 9V train system and the monorail, which Padda laughed at, saying it is the question he is asked most often. The second most asked question he receives is about the infamous grey brick colour change, followed by being quizzed about the variation on the red brick.

The CEO was asked about the company’s view of those stockpiling and then reselling retired LEGO sets online. ‘That’s up to the individual,’ he said. ‘If you start making judgements on these sorts of things, it’s very wrong for us.’

A consistent theme that came up during the Padda’s comments about every subject was that the LEGO Group are keen to learn from both successes and missteps. As not every LEGO line is going to be a huge success, it is reassuring to know that such missteps will provide lessons for the future.

Read part one of the conversation between the LEGO Fan Media representatives and Bali Padda here.

Check back tomorrow for the final part of our conversation with LEGO CEO Bali Padda, in which he talks about the future of the LEGO Group and the new initiatives the company is working on.

LEGO SYSTEM A/S

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