Yee, finally got around to writing the intro and first paragraph. Is far from polished (even forgot to source in brackets), so critique is appreciated!
Having recently been titled the leading toy company in the industry, with sales hitting $2.03 billion, narrowly surpassing Mattel's $2 billion in revenue during 2014, the Lego Group proudly proclaim that their interlocking plastic bricks have a long life ahead of them amidst today’s generation of tech-heads. The massive success of The Lego Movie has made the Danish toy company an incredibly popular brand among kids and adults alike, as if it wasn’t iconic enough already. However, what isn’t as iconic is one of Lego’s sub-themes, a rather obscure toy line not consisting of the traditional bricks, but of oddly shaped and textured robot parts, pieces that would make up a BIONICLE constructible action figure. This toy line, targeting 5 to 16 year olds, was launched in 2001 and played a role in rescuing the company from a financial crisis in the late 1990s, and became popular enough to last a whopping 9 years before its discontinuation, longer than the usual lifespan of LEGO’s other themes lasting 3-4 years. The BIONICLE theme later returned in 2015, but this time, had its life prematurely cut short by the end of 2016. The lacking performance of the rebooted BIONICLE line, draws a stark contrast to the booming success of the “first generation” BIONICLE line, and demonstrates how conflicting ideals between the development team and corporate management, specifically how creative, story-driven ideals clash against the rigidity of a product-driven approach, can run any product line into the ground.
Before examining the rebooted line’s shortcomings, we must first examine what made the original line successful in the first place. As mentioned before, LEGO was facing a severe financial crisis at the time, mainly due in part of the company’s target market diminishing, caused by the substantial increase in its substitute competitors in the mid-1990s, such as computer games, TV shows, and movies. The kids within their 7-12 year old age bracket were losing interest in the time-consuming, concentration-heavy building process of the brick building sets. LEGO was in dire need of a new idea that would cater to kids who sought instant gratification; wanting to play more and build less. In 1999, the company tested the waters with two completely new toy lines, Slizer and RoboRiders, which were quick-to-build action figures and also had their own mini-storylines for the backdrop. The original stories proved to play a crucial part in pulling kids in to the products, much like LEGO’s previous success by attaching sets with well-known movie franchises (licensing the rights to Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean). They knew they were on to something, and LEGO quickly got to work on the third generation of buildable action figures, planning to reach a 15% increase in sales compared to the other two lines. Knowing that in order to reach that goal, they would have to cast a much wider net in terms of marketing, the development team joined with an american media brief known as Advance. Together, they developed a long-term launch strategy which played off the idea of moulding an epic lore which would allow new segments of story to be added-on every year, and have the products be the central characters within the story. This story-first hook that the team cast into the sea needed to be compelling, have a strong foundation, and reach a broad target market if it was to create their desired mass-boom. Ensuring the success of the new BIONICLE line wasn’t easy; “neither Advance nor LEGO had ever created this type of storytelling element before...this meant changing [LEGO’s] traditional launch methods…[they needed] to build on an intellectual property to capitalise on a brand” (). They had no budget for a TV-series, nor for books to advertise the story-driven product. Nevertheless, the team developed a non-conventional launch idea which was to sell the toys as if they were selling a movie trilogy. Thus, two distinct marketing routes were paved out, one route, dubbed “single-message media”, which was used to condense the story into “bite-size pieces”, used simply to garner attention and curiosity. That would include a broad hodgepodge of multimedia including television ads akin to a movie trailer, print ads and brochures simulating movie posters. Later on, as the IP attracted attention, partnerships with Nestle, McDonald’s, and others further strengthened the disbursement of the brand. The second route, called the “story-carrying media” would communicate the story with more complexity, utilizing digital assets such as an interactive website (the link being plastered on every ad), CD-ROMs distributed within the toy containers, and flashy comics. Every piece of media was created to be diverse and strong enough on their own, but vague and compelling enough to act as puzzle-pieces which kids would have to assemble into one complete mental map of the rich storyline. The kids were essentially virtual adventurers, discovering the “imaginary lifeworld of their own - the island of Mata Nui, home of the Toa, characterized by a unique cosmology, origin myths, a clan system, tribal alliances and rivalries, ritual practices, and sacred iconography” (Coombe, 563). In fact, the name BIONICLE derives from the word “chronicle”; to record (a related series of events) in a factual and detailed way; everybody wanted every character to recreate the storyline events in their bedrooms. Indeed, the marketing on the imaginary “movie series” style marketing was so successful, that “the media spending budget for 2002 was reduced by approximately 25% with the aim of capitalising on the 2001 investments” in order to develop an actual direct-to-video film! The remainder of its 9 year run was focused on growing the line with the demographic, keeping the marketing tone fresh and new each year (rock band All American Rejects even pitched in during 2006)! Thus, the BIONICLE line’s success proves how much the bold and strategic ideas development team could leverage off the company, whose combination of multimedia partnerships and mass advertising campaigns, created a synergetic relationship, helping the theme to thrive to its fullest potential and revitalized the LEGO brand itself “expanding its appeal, as well as open up unanticipated opportunities in other industries ().
Now the hard part...proving G2's death without academic sources recording its death