How Lego Became the Largest Toy Company in a Digital Era


The Story of Lego

The little town of Billund, Denmark is known for beer, pigs, and Lego. For it was in this tiny, rural town that the Lego company first came into being. Ole Kirk Christiansen was a carpenter who supplied Billund with all its woodworking needs. Prior to the 1930s, Christiansen was known for building houses and other large projects. But when the Great Depression caused the global economy to tank, demand for large-scale projects diminished.

The fact that a product as simple as the Lego Brick has managed to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world is truly spectacular.

Christiansen knew he needed to adapt in order to continue earning a living and supporting his family. So to save on costs and create products that consumers could actually afford, he began making smaller wooden products. From ironing boards to chairs, he experimented with different types of woodworks until he eventually decided to focus on the creation of children’s toys.

There was something about making toys that brought Christiansen great joy. His wife had recently passed away and being able to craft toys for his four boys was a great coping mechanism. He also happened to be very good at it. After recognizing what his strengths were, he abandoned all other projects and focuses solely on the manufacturing of toys, a perfect example of specialization.

But skills aside, he still needed a good brand name if he was going to appeal to children.

In Danish, Leg Godt means “play well.” And by taking the first two letters of each word, “Lego” was born. And even though the Great Depression had put a damper on the purchase of many consumer goods, the European toy market was thriving. Or at least it was until World War II began.

Since toys were commonly made of metal in those days, and metal was now needed to create tools of war, many traditional European toy companies took a hit. But since Lego toys were made of wood and not metal, it was still able to make children smile even during such a tumultuous time. Over time, as plastic became more widely adopted, the company moved away from wooden toys and instead invented the Lego Brick that we are so familiar with today.

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