Named recently as the “world’s most powerful brand” by Brand Finance, the LEGO company is both a consumer-goods company that produces interlocking bricks, and a media giant with a massive portfolio of films, online videos, books, and games, to name just a few.
Lars Silberbauer, global director of social media and search at LEGO, recently talked to Chief Content Officer magazine about what it’s like to work for such a beloved brand, and how his team stays limber enough to understand and respond to its audience each day.
CCO: You have such a diverse audience at LEGO. How do you manage that complexity in all the channels you operate in?
Silberbauer: Our main strategy is to connect with consumers, shoppers, and fans, and build relationships. To do that, we look at what people like to do in a certain region, and how we can connect LEGO with that activity. There are two very important parts to that: People like to build LEGOs together — parents and kids, or kids and other kids. Second, people take pride in their creations. They want to share what they have built with someone else.
When we engage based on those two social needs (as we call them) then it takes off.
CCO: Creating content for children on channels used by kids and adults must be challenging. Do you ever struggle with that issue?
Silberbauer: A really big part of LEGO’s culture is that we want kids to be safe and not come into harm’s way. That’s why we don’t engage kids on digital platforms that require participants to be at least 13; if we meet kids on our Facebook page, we ask them to go to our secure and moderated communities staffed by professionals who undergo background checks and follow strict rules of engagement. We only engage teenagers and adults on social media.
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CCO: Are some channels exclusive to one segment or the other?
Silberbauer: It’s been tricky because I think all of the different channels need custom-made content for that channel. That’s the ambition. In reality, it is difficult to get to the point where you have content dedicated to each channel. We strive to use content that is suitable for the demographics of each channel, but it’s not always possible.
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CCO: In the past you’ve likened social media to sailing – in that you’re constantly adjusting and learning. Plenty of marketers say that sense of constant change makes them feel insecure, but you seem to relish it. True?
Silberbauer: I find it exciting. I would be stressed out if I was in an environment that didn’t change all the time. It depends on your personality, but I thrive with change.
CCO: At LEGO, you oversee both social media and search. In many organizations those are two different roles. Tell me more about that.
Silberbauer: It works really well for us. I am in charge of all social media, including YouTube and our TV channel called LEGO TV. YouTube is the biggest search engine for kids so it’s necessary for search to be part of the YouTube team; that’s how we learn about how kids are searching. Also, we need to target how kids are actually using their mobile devices.
A lot of people underestimate the power of organic search and focus much more on paid search. If you do that, you are missing out on a lot of digital signals coming from search. When we develop content, it’s based on what a target demographic is searching for. What questions are they asking Google? If we take those signals, combined with analysis of social media conversations, we find the right fit for the brand. Those insights give us an excellent brief for creating content that’s relevant.A lot of people underestimate the power of organic search & focus on paid search says @larssilberbauer #SEO Click To Tweet
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CCO: You wrote: “Paid media is a great support to social media engagement, but it should always be directly controlled by the social media crew.” Can you talk about this more?
Silberbauer: We track everything as much as we can. Everybody is searching for attribution — and how far back in the chain of attribution you can go. We measure on four different levels: direct sales, brand affinity, marketing efficiency, and risk mitigation.
Companies need to be supporting and safeguarding the brand on social media and digital media. And to measure that, we look at what would be the impact if we didn’t handle a situation in the proper way or at the right time. We need to ensure any given case or incident damages the company as little as possible. It’s a very important measurement for us, and I believe it’s very undervalued among marketers and not used as much as it should be — in part because it’s a bit more difficult to measure. Still, for a brand like LEGO it’s really important to put a figure on how much you are protecting the brand.
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CCO: When I look across all your channels, what strikes me most is the complexity of storytelling simply by virtue of the dozens of storylines you have running across so many channels. What key tools help keep your team unified?
Silberbauer: For us it’s all about looking at the trends and reviewing the data, and then having people who are able to analyze it all and convert it from Big Data to insights. From those insights, we create content. Also, we depend on people who have the skills to identify great content and amplify it in the right way. So, we do of course have a lot of technology which supports us, but in the end building social media capabilities in a company is all about creating a culture of understanding the consumer, your brand’s DNA, and then empowering people to jump on great content or consumer engagement when they see it.
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CCO: Do you look for a certain type of hire?
Silberbauer: From my point of view, it’s really about empowerment. We’re looking for people who have the ability to work independently. Of course they need to be insanely digital, and they need to be able to connect with a global audience.
On my team we have 10 or 15 different nationalities. I’m the only original Dane (LEGO was founded in Denmark). We have people from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. We foster an atmosphere where people are sharing goal-oriented ideas. Ultimately, it’s not about just creating great content but also avoiding creating the wrong kind of content that might offend.
CCO: What marketing tools/solutions are in your arsenal? Which do you depend on and what are you experimenting with?
Silberbauer: We use a lot of technology platforms; you really need to work with cutting-edge companies and even start-ups to make sure you have a tech stack that’s both suitable and innovative. The challenge for us is to work with platforms that are scalable, innovative, and have the right organization behind them.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute