Earlier this week, LEGO officially launched a new Pilot Program in the UK, giving fans the option of purchase recoloured sets, and 2 different-sized Fire Stations.
Before the launch, I was invited, along with other Recognised LEGO Fan Media (New Elementary, Bricksfanz, Klemmbausteinlyrik, Zusammengebaut, Brickset, Brickfinder) to a roundtable with Lena Dixen, Senior Vice President of Product Development at LEGO, and LEGO Designer Mike Psiaki to ask questions and chat about the Pilot Program, which gave us more insight into the pilot program.
You can read an abridged and slightly edited transcript of the Colour Variant Pilot Q&A below to learn more about why LEGO are doing this and what they hope to learn from consumers.
Personally, I’m really excited by this pilot, and I think it paints a picture of what the LEGO Shopping and Fan Experience could be like in the not-too-distant future.
Colour variations are an interesting spin on LEGO sets, and I think this heralds the next major evolution for shopping for LEGO.
Imagine a launch of a Creator Expert car, where you get to choose from several different colour options at launch, or the prospect of personalisation or small customisations that you could make to LEGO sets when you purchase them.
LEGO would obviously need to tweak their design and productions processes, which is a mammoth task in itself, but I think this represents the next logical step of buying LEGO online, where this could be an online exclusive feature.
I’ll be watching this space very closely as it definitely seems that LEGO are going to be introducing more customisation options online.
COLOUR VARIANT RETAILER AVAILABILITY
|77942 Fiat 500 (Blue)||LEGO.com (UK), LEGO Stores, Zavvi, IWOOT|
|77941 Mighty Dinosaurs (Blue version)||LEGO.com (UK), LEGO Stores, Tesco UK and Ireland|
|77940 Mighty Dinosaurs (Brown version)||LEGO.com (UK), LEGO Stores, Smyths|
|77943 Fire Station Starter Set||LEGO.com (UK) , LEGO Stores, Tesco UK and Ireland|
|77944 Fire Station Headquarters Set||LEGO.com (UK), LEGO Stores, Smyths|
The “why” behind the pilot program
Lena: At The LEGO Group, we want to be transparent on the pilot, what’s going on, so that’s why we’re here. We (The LEGO Group) do a lot of research, we really care about understanding what our fans think about our products so we can deliver unique play and building experiences.
We do play tests. We do all sorts of qualitative and quantitative research. And we also do pilots, which are, you could say, the closest we can get to a real representation of the marketplace.
We do this in order to make sure that the products we take forward are the best possible for play and building.
But also, we want sometimes to learn where and how do our shoppers shop for LEGO products where do they prefer to find them.
in this pilot, which is is quite unique, and maybe there’s a variation of that of existing products so that we can learn the appeal of different colours of models, different price points and also where they prefer to shop for these models.
On the Fire Stations
We’re testing two versions of the iconic LEGO City Fire Station. One’s a starter set that has about half the number of pieces compared to our usual fire station – for kids who are just getting into building with LEGO City.
Then we’ve also developed a Fire Station Headquarters with many more pieces, so over 900 pieces. It’s also for the young designers, but who want to expand their firefighting adventure with more details.
So the smaller version is that at 24.99 pounds and this will be easily available at Tesco and some of these stores where LEGO Stores and they become in the UK. And the bigger headquarters of eighty nine ninety nine pounds will be available to Smith. And both stores and online in the UK and Ireland and also LEGO stores and Lego dot com.
for this we want to learn about how the different sizes are appealing and how they function in the market at the same time with different retailers.
On the Creator 3-in-1 Mighty Dinosaurs
Lena: And another product for kids is the Creator 3-in-1 Mighty Dinosaur, which w want to understand preferences of colour, so we’re launching it in a Brown and in a Blue version.
Otherwise, the set is is identical and it’s also the same price as the original green dinosaur at 12.99 GBP. And this will be available for the Smith, Testo and Lego stores.
So, again, learning of the appeal of colour of sets that are in the market at the same time.
How is the pilot structured?
The way that we will structured the pilot is that we will launch it on the 1st of September and it will run through the end of November.
The sets will be available, LEGO Stores and LEGO.com. It will run in the UK and Ireland only. But we do run research and also pilots in different regions.
This time we chose the U.K. because it’s a very representative market and they have a great retail landscape that is representative.
This is about learning. So we chose a country in a region that would give us the most learnings.
Why were those particular sets chosen for the pilot?
Lena: So they were chosen because they would be two different audiences of both kids and adults, and we felt that they could be giving us the insights we were looking for.
So a representative model of all the sets we have in the assortment with playsets and also character-driven like the dinosaur to help us learn as much as possible.
Mike: If I can just add on that, for the Fiat in particular, but the team that developed the original Fiat, we were approached to say, do you have a product that could be part of this pilot – take an existing model, recolour it and bring it back down.
The Fiat was the number one choice, because when we were developing this model, we had two colour options. It was almost in the very final stages of development, where we had to choose, do we do it in this light blue or do we do it in cool yellow. And we selected the cool yellow.
But there was almost a 50/50 split on which one is the right one to do.
So when this chance came up, for us, it was super obvious because we had the model in this colour sitting on our shelves already completely ready to go.
If this pilot is successful, and we see new models released in several different colours, as a designer, does this give you more or less freedom in the creative process?
Mike: I think that would be a bit of a challenge because like sometimes we choose the filler colours on a model because they contrast nicely with the exterior colour. For example, on the Ford Mustang, there’s a lot of red on the inside. But if we then just swap the body colour to red. Now we have these conflicts that we didn’t have before.
In the Fiat, it works because we were not using this light blue anywhere inside to build up the car. But I think it would definitely add a new layer of complexity to designing the model to ensure that we have multiple colours that we could select from for that exterior colour.
Will these sets be available in other regions once the pilot is over?
Lena: They are only available in the UK and from LEGO.com from and in a limited production amount. So when these are no more, there are no more.
Note: The Fiat 500 can be ordered internationally from Zavvi.
What measures will be put in place to combat scalpers and is LEGO prepared for any backlash?
Lena: First of all, we’re putting some limitations on how many products you can you can buy to limit precisely what you’re talking about.
And we hope that the majority of people will be buying for kids. We’re hoping by doing it live like this and also in different retailers that it will be representative.
On the Fiat, can you let us know what the exact shade of blue is it?
Mike: I wrote the name down and then I forgot it. I make up my own silly names. I think it’s Royal Blue is what we call it. It’s not the blue from the Pet Shop. It’s the lighter blue in the Detective’s Office.
We call it number 212 (Light Royal Blue).
How do you plan to measure the results of the pilot? Is it purely on sales numbers or are there other factors at play?
Lena: Yeah, I can’t reveal all of it because we’re working with the different retailers. So it will be on different parameters – definitely sales but we also have NPS and other measures.
If the pilot were to be very, very successful, could you envisage a situation where you might go back to popular retired sets, like certain Modular buildings and do those in new colours?
Mike: I don’t know if I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but we’ve considered that – what would it look like to take the Café Corner, recolour it and bring it back.
In a pilot project like this, we’re looking for something that requires no design changes. For example, if were to make one small change to the Fiat 500, it seems very, very trivial but then we need to start going through all of these review processes again.
In this pilot, we really wanted something where we could just go in the computer, change the colour on this one thing and be 100 percent sure we not messing up the build flow, the volume of bricks. We’re not messing up things like our packing stations in our factories.
So when you talk about something like the Café Corner and recolouring that, there’s issues in that model, like the main door is an element that we don’t make anymore.
So then you need to start to redesign the door. Okay, now you’ve done that. What about the fact that the set doesn’t have any interior? Should we do something about that or not?
It opens up a huge discussion, which is something that we would be very interested in having but I don’t know whether there will be a right time to do something like that or not.
Even looking at something like the Green Grocer, there’s things in there that we would need to change – even just like the name of it from say it from a green building and then now it’s called the green brochure or not.
It’s a really interesting thing to think about and there’s definitely potential for something like that in the future.
Quick question about the paint palette in the Fiat – some people have noticed that a yellow, blue, red and green tile. Was that an intentional reference to colours that were considered or is that just a pure coincidence?
Mike: I think it’s more mysterious if I don’t answer that question. I feel like it’s better to just not answer that. I don’t want to ruin any magic so I can’t say.
Will it change your design process when it comes to upcoming models where you’ll start thinking about models having to work in different shades of colours?
Mike: That’s not anything that we think about currently in design. Sometimes when we’re making a model, we go, okay, in the future, if I introduce this piece in red, for example, then people will be able to build a red Ford Mustang.
But I wouldn’t plan to be designing for that in a future model to say, how can I make this so that it can work in other shades?
Ultimately, when we’re making the model, we’re making the best model that we can and how can we make it as appealing as possible.
To see more of the new sets in LEGO’s Colour Variant Pilot, check out the announcement post which has more photos and availability information.
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Sharon Donohoe says
I’m based in Ireland, where we have no Lego stores. My first preference would be Lego.com for purchases, where I can collect VIP points etc. Currently, Smyths is showing the brown Dino as being available from Sep 6. Lego.com only has the green Dino, and Tesco has no online toy offering. Hypothetically, if I want all three, I’ll have to get in my car, drive an hour to the nearest town with a Tesco and Smyths Toy Store, find parking and walk to buy one brown one here and one blue one there. Then I’ll go online and order the third one. In a market like ours where no Lego stores exist, it doesn’t make sense to split the offerings over different shops. Put it all online and allow each shop to have all options available.
LEGO’s GB site has all 3 dino colors available; I wonder why the IE site doesn’t.
Sharon Donohoe says
It’s the best option in my opinion, to use lego.com. I do buy from Smyths but usually only if there’s a sale, offer, somethings sold out on lego.com or I’m looking for some older stuff. I just checked the site again, and it’s still only offering green. I looked on the GB site and yes, you are correct, I can pick from the three different icons there.
Ah bummer, can you not order from the GB site, or has Brexit messed that all up?
Unfortunately, LEGO seems to be hell-bent on testing and seeing how people shop in-store, hence the retail choices, but at least you have some options on how to get them, unlike us outside the UK!
I really would like the Fire Station, or the Mighty Dinosaurs, but it’ll look like I’ll have to find someone to send it across!
It’s tricky with Brexit. Some companies are shipping, others aren’t currently or at all. We’re such a small market, it probably makes no difference to them to cut us out. I haven’t tried to order on the UK site, but suspect with fx and shipping/customs charges it’d be cost prohibitive. If I want anything, I send it to my brother who lives there and he posts it back lol. Yeah it’ll be interesting to see how this experiment works out, but one would think the most efficient solution for Lego customers is to provide equal choice across platforms, if not nations.