LEGO VP Marketing Answers 4 Questions For Marketing Innovators

Article by Ernan Roman
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Michael MoynihanMichael Moynihan is vice president of marketing for LEGO Systems. His 20-plus years of consumer marketing experience guides his leadership of the U.S. marketing effort for the world's second largest toy company, where he oversees brand management, in-store and shopper marketing, content marketing, and strategic planning, among other responsibilities.
Moynihan also serves on the LEGO Group's Americas Leadership Team. In addition, he holds global roles on the Global Marketing Leadership Team and chairs the Global Competitive Forum.
Moynihan recently participated in our "4 Questions for Marketing Innovators" series.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
The single most important thing to our marketing innovation is our desire to solve people's problems in authentic ways. We learned the hard way many years ago that when you start with the goal of selling more products to more people, the path to that goal is often to create problems that people don't actually have that your brand can then claim a superlative role in solving. We've changed our focus to actually understand the problems that people do have, and then we go the extra step to determine whether people see our brand as a credible solution to those needs.
We are relentlessly focused on solving our consumers' problems, not our own, and it has made all the difference in how we engage our audience. What helps to anchor us in our efforts is that our bonus structure supports a stakeholder-centric mindset. The vast majority of our bonus is based on how we rate with our stakeholders, while only a small percentage is based on our financial performance.
2. Why is this so important?
People want to be understood and recognized. What better way to deliver against that need than to get at the root of what makes them tick in the first place, and then to map if and how your brand can fit into that equation? It's easy these days to generalize about an entire generation with blanket insights. We see the opportunity, however, to break things down even more. Of course, there are universal truths, but there are also huge differences between boys who are 7 years old and boys who are 9 years old, as an example. Not only do they have different developing skills and abilities, their human and emotional needs are drastically different. Why do they play? What human needs does play need to satisfy for them? What do they expect their play materials to empower them to do? Where do they expect this will come to life?
We're evolving our consumer segmentation model in order to get even more surgical about the nuances so that we don't overgeneralize and in order to ensure that we stay focused on those core consumer needs ­at every stage of a person's LEGO journey. Addressing needs is the best way to ensure brand relevance.
3. How will the customer experience be improved by this?

If you think about the people who you are most drawn to in your own circle, they are often the ones with whom you can best relate and who you feel really understand you, your point of view, and your values. They are the people you most often seek to spend time with, the ones you trust the most, and the ones who make you feel good about yourself. As a brand, we try to be that person in someone's circle who really gets them, with whom they can relate and trust, and with whom they want to engage more. By investing as much time and energy as we do in truly understanding people's needs, then connecting the ways in which our brand can authentically solve them, we're establishing rapport and trust that translates to loyalty.
We want to help children have more fun, develop more skills, become better problem-solvers. We want parents to know they can rely on us always to deliver on their expectations for quality, learning, fun, and creativity. We want gift-givers to know that when they choose a LEGO product as a gift, it's one that will be well-received. We earn that by demonstrating that we understand what each of them—children, parents, and shoppers—needs in everything we produce.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
If your brand is authentically solving genuine needs, there is a huge opportunity to develop and nurture a meaningful relationship, based in trust, which, in turn, leads to loyalty and advocacy. Word of mouth is one of the most important and desired results for any marketer today. Any way to accelerate the path to consumer advocacy of your brand will drive incredible marketing efficiency and impact. And let's be honest: If you do the due diligence to understand if your brand can authentically solve for stated consumer needs, you're also ensuring that your marketing dollars are wisely invested.
As an example, we identified through an ideation phase several years ago that there could be a business opportunity with dads. We could have easily done a hallway poll to validate our hunch, but we actually went really deep to understand what problems today's dads have. We identified the problems we thought that LEGO could help them solve. We then did extensive testing to see if dads saw us being a credible solution to the problem. Luckily, dads agreed that LEGO could solve their challenge. The key, though, was that our team was perfectly willing to walk away from a campaign if we had heard that we weren't actually credible to dads as a means of solving their problem.
Rooting the objective in solving the need is the best way to ensure marketing dollars are spent effectively.
Bonus: Favorite activity outside of work?
I'm an avid golfer. I'm not very good at it, but it's a great excuse to be outdoors with people who I enjoy.
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Ernan Roman Direct Marketing