Episode #125: May the 4th Be With You

On this most galactic of holidays, we celebrate a company who has fully incorporated the May 4th ethos: LEGO. Look at their site today and you’ll see prominent May 4th branding and special Star Wars deals. The force is strong with them, but it wasn’t always this way. In the early 2000s, LEGO fought back from the verge of bankruptcy. And they did it by embracing their influencer community and tapping into the emotional benefits of their product. Star Wars and LEGO. It’s a geek fest on the CXM Experience.

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Oh, yeah. This is my favorite day of the year, my favorite day of the year. That’s right, it’s May 4th.

Do you know why it’s my favorite day of the year? If you’ve been listening at all, if you’ve been listening at all, I hope this isn’t your very first time. May the Fourth be with you. May the Fourth be with you. It’s actually kind of a cool day because also, I met my fiancée on the 4th of October. And as soon as the pandemic set in, we started a little tradition of celebrating our anniversary on the fourth of every month. You know, we don’t have fireworks every time. But sometimes we do. But we sort of make it a custom to just recognize that as a special day and reserve some time for ourselves. And it just so happens that the fourth is a great day to have as an anniversary, because there’s May 4th, which represents extreme possibilities in terms of all sorts of fun things you can do. And there’s going to be some fun things this year. And then, of course, July 4th, it’s just a great day. It’s a great day.

But let’s talk about May the 4th, I don’t know when this started – May the Fourth be with you. It’s just so funny. And it’s turned into a fairly serious day of the year. Actually, one of my favorite memories is that my oldest daughter took me to Walt Disney World for one of the early May 4ths, probably back in 2014, somewhere in that zone, maybe a bit earlier, maybe 2012. She was pretty young. And she took me in and I got a Han Solo in carbonite 3D rendering. But what they did is, they did a 3D model of your face. So it was my face in carbonite. And that was on my desk at Microsoft for many years. It’s in a box right now. I know exactly where it is. But it’s going to stay in that storage until I get a proper office again but May the 4th is just a great idea.

And no one’s doing it better, I think, than Lego. And it’s interesting how Lego has managed to essentially co-opt the May 4th holiday. I will say that there could be more done by the Star Wars brand and the Disney brand. And I guess they’ve got some stuff on the Disney Plus channel. You know, there’s not much in the stores; I feel like there needs to be a section in all the stores, in the greeting card section. Hallmark stores need to have more. There’s a little bit here and there. It’s still seen as maybe a bit of a geek’s holiday or a bit goofy or a bit like, Speak like a Pirate Day or something like that. But I actually think this is a really super legit holiday, also because it falls in a really interesting time of year. May 4th, there’s not really anything. No one does May Day anymore. May Day is not a thing anymore. That used to be a big deal; not a big deal anymore. But you know, Memorial Day is still a few weeks away, kind of just finished the winter, everyone is ready for something kind of fun, feels like May 4th is a wonderful time to have a bit of a celebration. So, May the Fourth be with you. If you go to Lego site, just take a look at what they’re doing. May the 4th is right in the top bar navigation.

Right in the top bar navigation. And when you buy more than $85 of Lego you get a free Tatooine Homestead with your purchase which is pretty, pretty sharp. And the homepage is all about Star Wars Day. May the fourth be with you all done in the Star Wars font and they got the Star Wars branding and stuff and expand your LEGO Star Wars universe with new sets and iconic favorites and Shop Now takes you right into it. And I love what they’re doing. And they’ve got some really interesting sets in there. I’d say that probably … let’s see what would I say is kind of really cool …. There is actually this $800 Millennium Falcon that I keep hinting that I want but no one seems to buy it for me. I don’t know why. But there’s this Imperial Probe Droid. It’s really cool. I’ve always thought the Imperial Probe Droid, which is from the second real Star Wars movie, which is the Empire Strikes Back has always been one of my coolest robots. I just think it’s just so dreaded-looking and looks like a spider and it’s black and it’s just an evil, evil robot. And you can actually make that, and it sits on a bit of snow. They’ve got an R2D2 which is super-duper fun. And then a whole bunch of ships and there is an in-store promotion, where you can get a free Imperial Shuttle. It’s a small one, though, it’s not the big one. But you can get a free Imperial Shuttle, if you visit the stores between May 1st and 5th. And I have this cool thing, which is double the dark side. So, on any Star Wars purchase VIPs are in double points. And yes, I’m a VIP. And so anyway, there’s just a lot of really cool stuff going on. And I think there’s something about this which is really interesting from an experience management standpoint. Because if you think about how Lego works, you know, there’s a fantastic documentary called the Lego Brickumentary; it’s done in 2014. But it’s worth watching just to understand how business works. And what a lot of people didn’t know is that Lego company was in very big trouble in 2000. And it shows how they leveraged their influencer community to turn the company’s fortunes around. And so let me just kind of get into a bit of a business thing now and I’ll lose my love of Lego here for a second because I’m just looking at this Imperial TIE Fighter right now and wondering if I could maybe pick that up today. But often, we tend to think about selling to the masses for most of our businesses. And that’s really important. But it’s easy to forget about the influencers and the outsized impact that they have on the masses. It’s very easy to miss it, because it’s really hard to see, and it’s nearly impossible to measure. And so, Lego had been selling them in 2000. They’ve been selling tons of stuff for a long time. But they weren’t doing very well. And they sort of felt like they had little bit of an arm’s length from these Lego conferences that had sprung up. And these sort of Lego Brick people that were doing crazy things with Legos, and Lego always kind of had a bit of an eye askance at them. They just like, “Oh, that’s kind of weird, but whatever. I guess they’re really into our toy”.

They ended up saying we’ve got to do something different, and they embraced them. And when they embraced them, they came up with new products. The whole Lego architecture series, which has been a monstrous success came from one of these influencers; they began getting crowdsourcing suggestions for new kits. The Ghostbusters car would be one of those examples; that was all crowdsourced. The DeLorean was crowdsourced. There are a whole bunch of different crowdsourcing and people started competing, and Lego started sponsoring the competitions. There’s one person in this Brickumentary, he talks about spending in excess of six figures a year on Lego bricks as he builds things. And then that led to Lego movies because people were making movies with Legos. And they’re like, “Yeah, well, you should make some movies and all the stuff that’s happened to Lego over the last 20 years came from, and arose from the influencer community, many of them now work for Lego, or are a big part of the Lego family. What was an amazing example of how they embraced the weirdness of the community that had sprung up around them, and then turned that into a great business. And sure, they still sell lots of kits and all this sort of sponsorship they’ve always done, but it’s all the extra stuff that makes Lego into something more. And I think this is where people miss out on what experience really means. Because when people buy things, they buy rational benefits, and they buy emotional benefits. And for the most part, the emotional benefits are more important than the rational benefits. Let me repeat that – for the most part, the emotional benefits are more important than the rational benefits. Let me give you some examples. So, I have about 20 unmade Lego kits in my closet right now behind me. I did a couple things on the go. I just finished a Ghostbusters reboot, Movie Car, which is very fun, pretty quick, just four bags. So that was a really easy kit, but super fun to do. And I’m in maybe the one-third stage of building the roller coaster, which is hideously complex, but so far, so good. I haven’t made any major mistakes so far. But I have a lot of unmade stuff. Why do I have so many unmade Lego kits? Why would I not just buy a Lego kit whenever I needed to make a Lego kit? Well, partly I see something that I would like to make, and they don’t stay in stock for long. So, keeping some rarity in the stock is important, so I’ll grab it. What else is going on though? Let’s dig a little deeper. Come on, Grad, get in there. I’m pretty busy. My schedule is pretty dense. I have a calendar that’s back-to-back all day every day from pretty early, fiveish in the morning till pretty late, seven, eightish at night. And I’m reasonably tired at the end of a fairly long day. I love my job, things are going great, but it’s exhausting. The unmade Lego kits to me, if I were to be super honest, they represent this hope that I’ll have so much just fun time that I can make them all. Now, I may die with those kits unmade which would be a bummer. But it could happen, right? I might die with the kits unmade but they will have still served a valuable emotional purpose. The money I paid to have those kits sit in that closet unmade, and by the way, I have many, many, many other kits sitting in storage containers around the country. I’ve got many made Legos sitting in boxes around the country. But the emotional benefit of the promise of time is probably worth the money I paid for that box. Think about that for a second. So, if you think about a product like Lego, when you just look at it functionally, which is you know, here’s an armored assault tank from Star Wars One – Phantom Menace. That’s cool. That’s a very nice-looking model of the armored assault tank. Very cool.

But what else does it do? It helps you relive the movie; it helps you remember the time when you went to go see the movie and who you were with. And what it felt like and what you ate and what you did and what that relationship was like and how things have changed. There’s a whole bunch of things that happen when you drive recollection. And then when you embrace the influencers, when you embrace all the other things that people are doing with Legos and all the models they’re making and the cityscapes that they’re making and architecture and movies and shot by shot recreations of the Matrix, all done in Lego. When you start to look at things like that, what happens is the product takes on a life of its own. And the product takes on a set of emotional benefits that make it far more interesting and far cooler than just a piece of plastic that clicks together, which, at the end of the day, Lego is just two pieces of plastic that can click together. That’s it. It’s extremely functional, like extremely functional. But when you say, I’m really into Lego, there’s some geek cred there. You know, people start to assume things about you. People think you’re really creative. They want to talk about it. Everyone’s had some experience with Lego, and all these influencers that have been embraced by the Lego community, and all the Lego movies and all the Lego talk and discussion and community boards and everything else that’s out there, it has this halo effect on the brand that makes the brand so much bigger, so much more interesting, and so much more powerful. And now when I buy a Lego kit, I’m not just buying that kit, or that model. I’m buying into whole ethos. I’m buying into whole … I’m saying something about myself. And those big yellow bags with the red logo on them. I walk through the mall. Yeah, look at me, look what I’m doing, look who I am, look at the kind of person I am, how cool I am. Because what the influencers did, they took Lego from being a kid’s toy, to something that was far more interesting, far more engaging, far more elegant, and far more expensive. And so, Lego is able to take a premium on their product, and they are able to add an attribute where they became a badge. And when people can badge themselves with something, they’ll pay a lot for it. My suspicion is that Lego is only scratching the surface of what they are really worth from a badging standpoint. And they probably are not fully exploring the badging opportunities they have, which is, they’ve got another century to do that. So, I’m not worried about Lego. They’re doing an amazing job. And they’ve now become the Number One selling toy in the world. So, coming back to May 4th, it’s our anniversary, so today’s our anniversary. And of course, special day for me, but it’s kind of a little bit funny with my girlfriend, so I think I’ve explained this before, but Rachel doesn’t listen to this show. So, I really should do way more. I should talk about her way more because she never, ever hears anything I say here. But I’m definitely quite lucky to be going out with Rachel and I would say that she’d never dated a geek before. So, it I don’t exactly understand, I don’t exactly know why she decided to go out with me. She has a very long history of going out with some pretty amazing people and mostly very, very successful financial people and team owners and some pretty intimidating people and names and somehow decided to go on a first date with me. And somehow, I guess fell in love with me. But definitely not what she was expecting because, you know, she is not into Star Wars. I mean, she has, I think, seen some of the movies but not a big Star Wars fan and not really a science fiction fan and not really geek at all and very much into clubs and East Coast and Upper East Side, and so I kind of show up, wearing my Star Wars t-shirts. There was one time I came home, and she was sitting on the couch doing something and she looked up and I was standing there like, “Hi, I’m home”. And I’m wearing my Star Wars t-shirt and a pair of jeans and my chucks and she looked at me and she kind of squinted her eyes and she’s like, “Huh”, she says, “it’s so weird. I go out with someone who wears Star Wars t-shirts. And I’m like, “yeah, and you really love him? Where are you going with this one?”

Anyway, she’s going to get a bunch of Star Wars t-shirts today because I think it’s time for her to start embracing her inner geek as well. We’ll see how that goes. And we’ve got some other cool things planned. There might be some music, there might be some other things tonight planned so it should be a fun day but May the Fourth be with you and with your family, and enjoy the day and have a great one. For the CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn and I will see you … next time.