In the early 2000s, as video games were exploding in popularity, the executives at Lego convinced themselves that their customer base was evolving away from time-intensive hobbies and that a desire for instant gratification required that they rethink and redesign their iconic blocks. The conclusion, reached via data analytics and without directly engaging customers, resulted in simpler designs with larger pieces that required less thought to complete. Sales plummeted further in response, and bankruptcy became a concern.
Desperate for a solution, the company reengaged its customer base. Per an article in the WSJ, a conversation between Lego researchers and an 11-year-old-boy in Germany provided a lightbulb moment. The boy, an avid skateboarder, told researchers that the sneakers he wore to learn to skateboard were his “trophy.” The worn down shoes were proof of the hours he had committed to learn a new skill set. The conclusion reached, maybe customers weren’t exclusively concerned with instant gratification.
Lego pivoted once again, this time making smaller bricks and more intricate sets. As of the writing of the article, Lego is now the largest toymaker in the world by total sales.
Observing the competition is important, but customer feedback is invaluable.