Source: Fortune

This week’s episode is about Legos and the ups and downs the company faced. Did you know for many years it was a family owned and run toy company? Or that it started out with wood?

Legos stared in Denmark, in Billund aka Lego World Headquarters, to be exact. It was started by Ole Kirk Kristiansen who was a carpenter who built houses. The Great Depression started making smaller items and toys which became his biggest seller.  They started with wooden toys like rolling ducks and cats. The name Lego came from the two Danish words Leg Godt which means “play well” and used the first two letters from both words, voila Lego! In the 40’s it was harder to come across wood for toys so they moved to plastic. They came up with building bricks and called them automatic binding bricks in 1949. They were not the first to come up with building blocks. Kidd craft in the UK also had them but made them out of drab colors. Lego went to the Dutch artist Mondrian who painted a picture using squares with vivid hues. They dropped the name Automatic Binding Brick in favor of Lego Mursten (Mursten means block in Danish). However they weren’t quite Legos yet. They were hollow bricks so they didn’t stick together. They finally figured out the tube system in the bricks in 1958. Ole’s son Godtfred took over after his father’s death in in 1958. In 1961 Lego decided to find a manufacturer in America. The company they went with was Samsonite Luggage. Unfortunately they didn’t do well.

Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen is Godtfred’s son. Kjeld was after his father to add green to the Legos for six years. When he took over Kjeld introduced the mini figures. It was a hit. In the 1980’s, Lego TC Logo came into being. It was a geared more toward the classroom rather than the average kid. It didn’t very well and profits tanked. What really threatened Lego were video games. Their response was to introduce Lego Mindstorms but it was not being bought by their target market. The people buying them were people with Master’s, PhD’s and computer science guys. They started programming them with their own language.

In 1999, Lego got the licensing to make Star Wars toys. This was great but they didn’t make enough. However in 2000, they made too many. With both they lost money. They tried introducing the Jack Stone line. They made a show, Galidor which was a failure. They tried making Scala which was geared toward girls but it didn’t fit the other Legos. Next was Boneheads which mutated into Bionicle. It was a success. It saved Lego. It had video games, books, toys and animation. In 2001 they gained the Harry Potter toy license. They did find that their most successful lines of toys were ones of their own story lines such as Lego Ninjago. Still they were only reaching half of their target audience, the boys. Girls wanted to play with Legos that were geared towards them. They finally succeeded with Lego Friends.

I enjoyed this episode. It was much more informative and easy to follow than previous episodes. What is your favorite thing to build with Legos? Let me know in the comments below. Till next week…