It's a phenomenal success story for the Danish firm, which almost went under less than 10 years ago amid dropping sales and dire predictions that digital-savvy kids would no longer want to play with plastic building bricks – even when they come in 51 colours.
But Lego is seeing a massive resurgence in popularity. There are now 86 Lego bricks for every person on earth, with around seven sets sold every second, while the 400 million tyres that are produced each year for them makes it the world's biggest tyre manufacturer. The Chinese are catching the bug in such numbers that a Lego factory is to be built there this year. Adults are returning to their childhood favourite in droves. They even have a name, "Afols" (adult fans of Lego).
More on Lego here. I saw The Lego Movie last weekend on the recommendation of many people who'd seen it, and it was more fun than I'd expect from ostensibly a kids movie. It both pokes fun at product placement (at times the real life part numbers of individual pieces flash on screen as they're being assembled into something) and yet revels in being a movie-length commercial for Lego toys. It may be the longest and most effective native advertising I've ever seen. The kids in the audience at the showing I attended were practically foaming at the mouth they were so ready to leave the theater right at that moment and snap up any and all of the Lego sets shown on screen. That contradiction at the heart of the movie is so brazen I was both uncomfortable and duly impressed.
Though I'm no expert on the subject, I believe that Lego is the most successful toy of all time. I know many children who have yet to see the Star Wars movies who are rabid fans of the mythology purely through their interaction with Star Wars Lego sets. Lego has become not just a toy but a conduit of mythologies, and that's just one reason it's survived to entertain several generations of kids.
Despite its patents having expired years ago, Lego still dominates in market share and commands a healthy price premium. If you ever wanted to understand the economics of intellectual capital, like the value of licensing franchises like Star Wars or Batman, look no further than the gross margin on your average Lego set:
Thirteen sets themed around the movie are in shops now. Lego is not cheap and prides itself on a reputation for quality, although Robertson points to the fact that the cost of the plastic used is under $1 a kilo, while, once it reaches a Lego set, it is worth around $75 a kilo.
75X value creation! That's before you start counting the boatloads of cash from the movie (and all the inevitable sequels to come).