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Exploring LEGO’s Decision to Buck the Trend and Stick with Gender-Specific Toys


In the current world we live in, a lot of parents are rejecting gender-limiting toys and I think we all can agree that LEGO company has taken the brunt of a lot of the animosity from modern parenting culture.

It has to do with the fact that while a lot of toy companies were giving up on long-held preconceptions about gender-specific products, LEGO when the other way, shed its gender-neutral past, and started creating toys targeted specifically at either girls or boys. LEGO said it had a good reason for separating the products.

The consumer website Consumerist broke down 5 lessons it learned from observing LEGOs model:

1. An Untapped Market: In 2008, LEGO looked at global data about who was buying their toys. It turns out, that roughly 90% of LEGO sets sold were bought for boys, meaning that nearly half the kid population wasn’t using their products.

“Seeing that the play pattern was really skewing so heavily toward boys, we wanted to understand why,” company spokesperson Michael McNally said. “We embarked on four years of global research with 4,500 girls and their moms. Some of the things we heard were really surprising and challenging in ways that weren’t really comfortable for us as a brand.”

2. Getting To The Bottom Of It: After finding that its toys were mostly sold to boys, the company set out to find out why that was.

Over four years, LEGO conducted global research with 4,500 girls and their moms. The company found some surprising and challenging themes in the way their toys were perceived, McNally tells The Atlantic.

LEGO tells The Atlantic that children in its focus groups consistently had distinct ideas about how to interact with the same toys they encountered, and that expectations seemed to be drawn along gender lines in focus group after focus group, even when those children were very young.

3. Boys & Girls May Use Same Toys, But Play Differently: The most important aspect LEGO says it found was that children play with the same toys very differently.

In one project, the company asked separate groups of boys and girls to build a LEGO castle. While both groups worked together to build the castle, they took different approaches to play afterward.

For example, the boys immediately grabbed the figures, the houses, and the catapults and started having a battle, McNally recalled, noting that the boys used the castle as a backdrop for their play.

On the other hand, the girls were more focused on the castle itself.

“They all looked around inside the castle and they said, ‘Well, there’s nothing inside,’” McNally said. “This idea of interior versus exterior in the orientation of how they would then play with what they built was really interesting. If you think about most of the LEGO models that people consider to be meant for boys, there’s not a whole lot going on in there. But [the girls had] this idea of, ‘There’s nothing inside to do.’”

Overall, the groups of children both expressed interest in the building aspect, but the following interaction showed girls overwhelmingly wanted to build environments and more details in their toys.

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