Sixty-three percent of American shoppers agree: Toys aren’t just for kids - they can be for adults too. One group of young adults, in particular, may be the next target of LEGO, the building-block game and (increasingly) multimedia powerhouse.
LEGO has been expanding into television shows, movies, apps, and integrations of all three with their physical toys in its effort to reach a wider audience. And yet, most LEGO brand followers are still mothers of young children.
We think they may be missing an important demographic: Post-Millennial males (aka. Generation Z).
This demographic cohort, coming just after the Millennials, is in high school right now. They’re not quite ready for serious “adulting,” and much like their Millennial elders, embrace play as a pan-life-stage priority. Set them up with a screen of any size, and they’ll entertain themselves.
At first glance, LEGO seems an odd fit. Oldsters (ie. anyone over 28) most likely associate LEGO with building multi-colored worlds in their basements, by hand. But LEGO is evolving. As are American consumers’ attitudes towards toys.
Forget blocks - they are merely the hard, plastic foundation for LEGO’s media empire. LEGO has been partnering with movie franchises like Star Wars to build some of their most popular products, but they’ve also been taking media partnerships a step further with “Nexo Knights.”
Nexo Knights is a TV show with a companion digital app - and it’s also a physical LEGO play set. To unlock new Nexo Powers in the “Merlock 2.0” app game, players can scan Nexo Shields they find on TV, webisodes, the LEGO website and Club Magazine, in the app itself, and find physical shields included in LEGO sets.
It’s a bit like Pokemon Go! In its ability to cross digital and physical play experiences.
Toy Buying Today
Although adults buy toys for themselves in high numbers, the demographic purchasing the most toys are, still, parents of young children (under the age of 12). Parents with children under the age of 5 are more likely to buy non-electronic “traditional” toys. Parents with children between the ages of 12 to 17 are more likely to buy electronic toys.
The most interesting statistic however is the changing opinions on which types of toys have more value for brain development and creativity - 53 percent believe playing with traditional toys is more important for child development than electronic toys, and 29 percent say electronic toys are more beneficial.
That is an enormous change in perception from the days of parents not allowing their children to have mobile phones.
LEGO is capitalizing on the desires of parents to prepare their children for the tech-fueled future by creating another interesting hybrid - a basic robotics and programming kit that is as didactic as it is playful. And, of course, it comes with an app that acts as both a building guide and a drag-and-drop programming tool.
Now, these games are aimed at LEGO’s traditional target audience: Kids (or, really, the parents choosing educational toys for their kids).
But LEGO is launching a multi-market media agency review, hinting that they aren’t satisfied with what they already have. They want to grow.
What does this have to do with Generation Z?
LEGO is a front-runner in developing games that bounce from the floor, to the TV screen, to the smartphone screen and back. These games are immersive, and can be played anywhere, at any time, in many ways. They are breaking down the barriers between hands-on, “in real life” play and playing online.
Kids automatically “get it” - they have no trouble switching back and forth because they’ve never known anything different. Generation Z is the first generation for whom this is true, and as they become old enough to get jobs (and/or effectively wheedle their parents), their buying power is quickly expanding. They’re an ideal audience for a multi-media approach, and LEGO is in an excellent position to reach them.
Meet the “Nerdy” Males of Generation Z
Don’t worry, “nerd” isn’t an insult anymore - it’s more of a characteristic, at least for Generation Z. These young men are between the ages of 15 to 17, identify as “gamers,” are completely fluent in technology and navigate the internet effortlessly. They’ve never known a world without it. Interactions happen just as easily via text message as by headset while playing online games. They read gaming magazines, visit gaming and tech websites, love RPGs (role-playing games), strategy games, and more physical ‘beat’em all’ type games.
And, if Minecraft’s popularity among teenagers is any clue, they really love building virtual worlds.
If LEGO plans to continue building multi-media games that combine with apps, shows and web properties, this audience is a natural fit.
Find out more about Generation Z and LEGO’s search for new media representation in our latest Pitch Brief!