Lego Letting Go

This article by Daniel Terdiman titled Hacking’s a snap in Legoland from CNET really gives one pause. Can this really be happening? Can a company really be letting go and allowing consumer evangelism to help them?

Personally I find this a) great and b) really surprising. Joseph Jaffe had quite a problem with the Lego brand last September (2005) because Lego didn’t seem able to let go. Jaffe took issue with the fact that Lego had (i.e. posted on their website) insisted that people refer to the wonderful colored put-them-together plastic bricks as Lego bricks, but not as “legos.” As it turned out, Lego was just trying to defend their brand name.

Allen Jenkins sums it up nicely on his site or you read more on this topic at Jaffe’s original post. Either way, check out Jeremy Pepper’s commentary on the Lego brand situation.

That aside, this may seem surprising that Lego – or any company – would hand over so much control to its consumers. Or, should I say, allowed them to hack with such passive pleasure. Read Mr. Terdiman’s article and get back to me. One excerpt from this article that hits the PR nerve is this:

Scherer [senior producer in Lego’s interactive experiences group] explained that Lego has to walk a fine line when it comes to allowing access to its systems but that the company recognized the value of letting users adapt the tools to their needs.

Wow. So, the trend is letting go and sharing control. Will this continue? Will others follow? From a PR perspective, how do you counsel this? How do you keep people from freaking out about control? Better yet, should you? I’m certain the answer, like most others, is “it depends.” But it depends on the situation today. Yesterday it would have always been a resounding “no.”

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