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  • Writer's pictureMary Elizabeth Wieder

Defining Marketing Strategy with LEGO® Serious Play®: Buyer Personas, Customer Journeys and more!

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Once of the benefits of being a professor is getting to test out metholodogies and research along with your students. As a professor of International Marketing at USAC Verona in Italy and a Certified Facilitator of LEGO® Serious Play®, I am constantly exploring new ways to apply the technical and creative aspects of LEGO builds to market-driven strategy.

This week I held a LEGO® Serious Play® workshop during one of my regularly scheduled lessons. As it comes towards the end of the semester, the idea was to have them reflect on all of the key marketing principles they learned these last few months - and have a little fun.

Why LEGO® Serious Play®?

LSP is a proven methodology developed to bring the creativity, the exuberance and the inspiration of play to ther serious concerns of adults in the business world. The method focuses on social bonding and cohesion, clarifying abstract concepts, building knowledge and concrete thinking (rationalizing using concrete objects).

How does LEGO® Serious® apply to market-driven solutions?

This concept uses the "Outside-In" principle to develop strategy meaning that organizations and individuals rely on current capabilities and market research to draw conclusions. In turn, this helps to develop:

  • Innovation: in a fast-paced market with shorter product life cycles and consumers more in control, companies need to be on the forefront of market trends

  • Business Strategy: from customer journeys to omnichannel strategies, the game is changing and companies need to envision their place

  • Market Positioning: the competition is fierce and endless, companies need to pinpoint their niche

  • Team Alignment: Marketing teams are diverse today, everyone needs to be aligned on how to get a product to market

How was the workshop designed?

In a two-hour lesson, we started with a basic warmup round and some technical "skills build" exercises.

  1. Just to warm up, I asked each student to use a figure and a max of 5 pieces to build a representation of themselves and share with the class.

The LEGO® Serious Play® methodology is built on 3 basic skills: technical builds and knowing how to connect the pieces, metaphors and storytelling. The best part is that is very inclusive: everyone in the workshop talks.

2. Technical Skills Build

3. Metaphors: learning to imagine the intangible

4. Storytelling: learning how to build a journey. When the students build a model, they then describe every single LEGO brick used and the thought process that got them there. Build sessions are timed, anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes to do a build, so the challenge is real!

Building for Marketing Strategy

Now that we've looked at the skill set we need, we looked at specific marketing challenges. The case studies presented as challenge questions were built to have students reflect on marketing mix adaptations for foreign market entry and expansion.

  • Challenge Question #1: Build a BUYER PERSONA for the Lavazza filter coffee (Keurig K-cup) market in the United States.

In this build, they had to construct a character, background story and surroundings for who could be a potential buyer of Lavazza filter coffee in America, Lavazza being a historic Italian coffee brand looking to expand its market potential.

  • Challenge Question #2: Build the CUSTOMER JOURNEY for an e-Commerce platform in the United States for Giovanni Rana filled pastas.

Imagining the customer journey from awareness to retention, the students had to build each phase and describe decision-making drivers along the way.

  1. Challenge Question #3: Build 4 separate models showing how Nutella must adapt each element of the MARKETING MIX for the U.S. market: 1 model for PRODUCT adaptations, 1 model for PRICE adaptations, 1 model for PLACE adaptations, 1 model for PROMOTION adaptations.

The goal of this exercise is to visualize the marketing mix, which elements drive success for the company and what needs to be adapted for a foreign market.

End Results

The LEGO® Serious Play® methodology is successful in making strategic minds more creative and vice versa. The various exercises forced the students to be impulsive, creative as well as analytical. As a class focused on international marketing, we reflected on how the group assigned meaning to colors, shapes and structures and how that perception might change in other cultures. Most importantly, the students were able to visualize intangible concepts that make up a marketing strategy.

*Final Note: Workshop Playlist!

Music stimulates brain activity and creativity, so LEGO® Serious Play® workshops come with a playlist. Here is what the students listened to for each build:

Build #1: How You Like Me Now by The Heavy Build #2: Figure It Out by Royal Blood

Build #3: Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand

Challenge Build #1: Flashed Junk Mind by Milky Chance

Challenge Build #2: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Challenge Build #3: The Wolf by Mumford & Sons, Young Blood by The Naked and Famous, Paint It, Black by The Rolling Stones and Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin

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