Basic Building Blocks – On Steroids

Jeff SchererJeff Scherer, Associate Partner, Callbutton LLC — My 11-year-old son has grown up in a much different environment than I did. Ever since he could talk, he’s had access to a computer screen and mouse of some sort. He’s a gadget freak (OK, so is his dad), and is constantly indulged in PS3, PSP, MP3, DVD, LCD, HD, and all other acronyms electronic. Something surprising has happened to him in the past couple months, however. He has become very interested and (re)attached to his Legos. Aside from Lincoln Logs and maybe those cardboard bricks that they used to have in kindergarten, Legos might be the simplest toys ever made. I wondered what the sales and marketing discussions were in the Lego camps when the video game and Internet assaults started focusing on our kids a few years ago. I decided to take a look.

I did some cursory research and found that Legos were formally introduced in 1958. Their present workforce numbers approximately 7,000. They produce approximately 36,000 Lego pieces A MINUTE. (Are these being recycled someplace?)

In 2004, they launched a 7-year initiative entitled “Shared Vision.” The primary objectives for this restructuring project are:

– to lead the industry in creating value for our customers and sales channels

– to refocus on the value we offer our consumers

– to increase operational excellence

The result? In 2008, Lego reported almost a 19-percent increase in net sales in a declining (no surprise there) toy market.

As I often find myself doing, I try (mentally) to see how these successful changes might apply to the marine industry. I think that sometimes the word “value” is tossed around by companies as an overused and often misconstrued buzzword. At its core, “value” is the perception of “worth” in the mind of the beholder. A manufacturer might interpret value as having more widgets on their boat than the competitor. A consumer however, might interpret value as the dealer that came down to the dock on a Sunday morning to swap out a dead battery so the family could continue their planned day of respite.

Lego’s strategy in a shrinking market is to “meet this challenge with a determination to bind consumers, fans, and retailers even closer to the organization.” Maybe good advice to adhere to even outside of the toy market.

Cheers to a prosperous 2010!

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