The way my dog chews on a bone
Carefully stripping the juiciest meat
Gnawing hungrily leaving nothing behind
But naked bone and then she settles in a quiet spot
Never turning her back to foes
Watchfully nibbling, holding carefully
Sharpening her teeth
She stays there oblivious to the passage of time
Intent and content
Till she has finished for the moment
She then seeks a place to carry it
Where other prying eyes cannot find it
Leaving it hidden for another time

The squirrel scampers looking for food
And finds bird seeds carefully encased
Hanging on the limb of a tree
Swaying in the wind, tempting and teasing
“You can’t have me, I am here for the winged ones”
He climbs up the tree and gets on the limb
Jumps on the feeder
I watch him fall as the first try failed
He climbs up and tries again,
This time balancing on only two legs
It doesn’t work, he falls once more
Undeterred he goes back again
This time he is the Hanged Man,
World upside down, swinging on a trapeze
And something shifts, this new perspective
He reaches the feeder, head first
Balancing precariously, he nibbles victorious
On seeds scattered on the copper plate

My little girl gets the latest Ninjago
Instructions, 256 pieces all from Lego
She sits at the table, working on the construction
Nothing outside can penetrate her concentration
She stays in this world so easily for an hour
Little pieces, little people, weapons and another environment
In her head the story is forming
In her hands another world is created
Possibilities emerge, time forgotten
Now it is completed, she steps back and finally exhales
Breathing out completion

Moments expand
Moments contract
It depends on how much can be added
Or what gets subtracted
On presence
And the degree of intensity

— Shaku Selvakumar March 2013


On Lego and Integrity

My daughter's dream office : Lego scope

I was driving my daughter to school one groggy morning.  I was preoccupied thinking about the work day ahead. Worrying about to do lists that were closer than the objects in the rear view mirror and on auto pilot.  My eight year old is one of those pensive kids who is wont to throw out pearls of wisdom when nobody is looking.  Her delivery is also matter of fact.  Like she has uncovered some nugget that needs to be stated with calm certainty but without much drama or fanfare.

So that morning, she looked up from her Nintendo and said “Lego never disappoints me like other toys.  I always know what I am going to get.” So I said, “Why do you say that, baby?” She sighed and spoke to the back of my head in a tone that was trying to be patient with a slow parent “When I look at the box, there is a picture.  It says how many pieces are there.  There are instructions and when I build it, it looks exactly like the picture on the box.”

Everything she said was true.

Now brand identity, quality, awareness, favorability etc etc is what I do for a living.  I worked in advertising and we were immersed in color, texture, personality, positioning etc.  When I changed jobs and worked for Shell, we had to attend workshops and pore through thick binders that were very specific about the length of the spikes and the white keyline, how logos should be reproduced, why you couldn’t draw horns on the Shell Pecten and so forth.

Corporate or personal, our brand brings forth certain qualities.  Close your eyes and think of Coke or Pepsi, American Express or Citibank, Apple or Samsung, you or me there are distinct images each brand evokes.

Take the classic 4Ps plus one and apply it to Lego through my daughter’s lens.

The Product:

“There are all sorts of things embodied in the Lego brick – geometry and mathematics and truth and proportion and shape and colour,” – James May

While Lego has continuously stayed abreast with the trends, with alliances with Disney, Warner Bros, they have retained their core promise.  To stimulate the inquisitive mind while retaining fun.  The lego blocks whether big, small or micro will not succumb to malfunctions of its competitors.  The whole is more than the sum of its parts. Lego is transferable allowing for creativity.

I grew up with Lego.  Back then, it was much simpler.  You had the green base.  You had roofs, you had color bricks, windows, doors.  Basic stuff.  I remember when I worked at Shell, we ran a Formula 1 promotion and had Lego collectibles and a Ferrari Lego car as the big prize.

Today you have Ninjago figures, Star Wars battle stations, glow in the dark ghosts, Toy Story, Prince of Persia (this one was a dud like the movie) and the company has taken it up a notch with Lego Mindstorms.  If that is not enough, there are the dvds, the digital games, and apps on the go.

The Packaging

Every Lego box will have the picture of the completed model.  It will have an instruction manual that outlines each step.  It will specify an age group.  I like that Montessori aspect there which lets each child decide what works for them.  5 – 12 where ever you find yourself, what ever works for you. Finally it will state how many pieces are in the box.  My youngest devours a box in a matter of 30 minutes.

The Place

You can order it anywhere but watch a child’s face when they walk into the Lego store.  They light up.  There are stations for them to hang out and play.  There are interactive screens that give preview.  There are pre packaged sets and there is a wall of Lego pieces so you can pick up a container and pick and choose what pieces you want to take home that day.

The Price

It is not cheap.  For the amount of money I have spent on Lego over the years, I could have probably added an extra room.  And the many times, I have shrieked in agony when my foot has stepped on those blocks that have invaded my space.  But we spend that money knowing that you are not buying a product that will break down after three tries.  I remember we bought one of those remote controlled airplane toy thingies.  She opened the box, put it together, it flew a few times, hit some wall, crashed and then the tail broke and that was that.  Everyone, no matter the age, hates that hollow feeling of being ripped off.

The Community

With Lego KidsFest, Lego Robotics, Legoland, the genius of the brand is not primarily about marketing push and telling us why we need it.  My daughter checks out the youtube videos, plays the Harry Potter game on her Nintendo, builds a storm trooper and went trick or treating last Halloween in a Ninjago costume.  The community is different from Disney.  Where one is about fantasy, the other is about constructing the dream. It is about equality. It is no longer about age, it is about heritage and continuous learning.

That is what brand integrity is about.  It is never about what you buy.  It is always about what you feel and how you belong.  It is about innovation but it is about repeatability.  Consistent. Constant. Credible.  All delivered while staying one step ahead in a changing environment and pleasing the toughest customer.  Your child.

Who said it was easy.