Thanks to my friends at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood for pointing me to this look at the different way Legos are marketed to boys and girls. I love the way the website lets you make your own mash-up.
I understand that children and teenagers can exaggerate gender differences to establish a margin of safety as they attempt to understand the complexities of gender and culture and advertisers and their clients want to appeal to them. But as shown most vividly in the viral video of the little girl who was furious that Toys R Us seemed to think she would only want toys that were pink, marketing this way reinforces a lot of stereotypes that are not appreciated by today’s children.
I like this commentary by CNN’s Mark Joyella:
The new range of girl-targeted Lego toys (by which I mean figures and accessories in addition to the classic blocks that date back decades) features such forward-thinking concepts of what girls want in a set of plastic blocks as a beautician, a pop star and a “social girl.”
I’ll admit all I know about girls is what I’ve learned from my daughter over the last eighteen months since her birth. But the idea of forking over any amount of money for toys that limit her vision to 1950′s stereotypes? C’mon, Lego. You can do way better than that.
As Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brad Weiners reported this week, “now, after four years of research, design and exhaustive testing, Lego believes it has a breakthrough in its Lego “Friends” … a full line of 23 different products backed by $40 million global marketing push. ‘This is the most significant strategic launch we’ve done in a decade,’ says Lego Group Chief Executive Officer Jorgen Vig Knudstorp.”
Four years of research to create a Lego beautician and a “social girl”? Didn’t Barbie pretty much cover that ground sometime before 1960?
These ads give families a good opportunity to talk about how commercials try to trick us into wanting and even thinking we need things and about the importance of asking ourselves who the messages are coming from and what the messages are.