Blog: Brand experiences: permission to play

Tim Jones, creative director at RPM, discusses the importance of playful creativity when it comes to brand experiences.

The new Lego store: a playful experience
The new Lego store: a playful experience

I’m already a week into my Lego Star Wars advent calendar (for my fellow geeks, today it delivered a droid snowman that shoots Lego snowballs). My wonderful mother has been sending me (a soon to be 34-year-old creative director), a Lego calendar for a good few years now. This is probably because I am still yet to show the maturity to warrant anything else for Christmas, but I like to think it is because mum understands the importance of play for my professional development and success.

John Cleese posits that creativity is not a talent, but a way of operating. Research by Mackinnon showed that those regarded by peers as more creative did not have a higher IQ, but were good at getting themselves into a certain mood: childlike play. This open-minded, curious and risk-averse way of operating is fundamental to the conception and success of business, brands and specifically, experiences.

The brand name "Lego" is derived from the Danish words ‘leg godt’, meaning ‘play well’, and having just recently visited its newly opened global flagship store in London, it is certainly living up to its name.

In fact, I believe that it is precisely because play is at the heart of the Lego brand purpose that the company has become such a powerhouse, keeping giants like Google, Coca-Cola and PWC below it.

If you’ve not visited the store, it is well worth a trip (though you’ll need to channel your most childlike enthusiasm to handle Leicester Square this close to Christmas). Walk into the hyper-colourful space and you’re greeted by brick specialists (not ‘staff’), brimming with passion and extensive productive knowledge. There’s a Pick and Build wall – a digital box that allows you to scan almost any set in the store and see it realised in 3D on a screen right in front of you. There’s also a play area with regular shows, talks and demonstrations. You can even get a personalised set that lets you build your own face (yes, I have already ordered mine). Some two million bricks were used in the creation of the store, which is solid evidence of a brand which has the conviction and vision to invest in its purpose.

So why is play so important for experiences? Linearly: play engenders open-mindedness and open minds see opportunity and embrace the new. And ‘new’ means distinctive, distinctive means memorable, and memorable experiences mean effective and positive brand behaviour.

Never more is this experimental, fail-fast way of operating more relevant than in digital innovation. Digital concepts and design were well evident in the store. Nothing superfluous to the experience, no tech for tech’s sake, but simple user experience design that taps into people’s brand love and adds to an enhanced retail experience. Lego’s brand vision shows that digital is written into its brand architecture and not just a hurried add on:

‘Inventing the future of play’ - We want to pioneer new ways of playing, play materials and the business models of play - leveraging globalisation and digitalisation...it is not just about products, it is about realising the human possibility.’

Lego is so much more than a toy brand, it is a revolutionary in brand experience which other players should look up to. Whether your brand offers a once in a lifetime holiday or a life insurance package, there should always an element of play.

It is vital to remember that the ‘human possibility’ Lego speaks of is all about a desire for pleasure and experience. A playful way of operating and an open mind are the only ways to unlock the full creative potential in every person, brand, opportunity or event.

Comment below to let us know what you think.

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