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  • Writer's pictureMary Elizabeth Wieder

LEGO® Serious Play®: the Customer Journey from Awareness to Advocacy Starts with a Single Brick

“Put four LEGO® bricks together at random. You have 30 seconds”.

These were the instructions I gave my marketing students as we dove into our LEGO® Serious Play® workshop that looks to wrap up the spring semester of International Marketing at USAC Verona (Universities Studies Abroad Consortium).

Thirty seconds later, each student with a random 4-piece LEGO® model in hand, I asked them to tell me how their creation represents happiness.

16 confused, somewhat amused, faces looking back at me.

The concept of the metaphor, and the rather improvised metaphor, is one of the critical elements of the LEGO® Serious Play® methodology. It is still one of the critical thinking aspects of human cognition that is difficult to replace by AI and ChatGPT. Connecting this type of thinking to physical construction with our hands (and making that link psycho-motor link) is what can help drive success in strategic reasoning.

As a professor of International Marketing in an American-university system, I have integrated the LEGO® Serious Play® workshop into the curriculum as a way to put into practice the theoretical knowledge gained during the semester.

LEGO® Serious Play® is a proven methodology developed to bring creativity, the exuberance and inspiration of play to the serious concerns of the business world.

So, how do we apply the LEGO® methodology to marketing strategy?

In this specific 2-hour workshop, we looked at three main areas:

  1. Product Positioning

  2. Developing buyer personas

  3. Mapping out a customer journey

Imagine you work in a Product Marketing role: your product (or portfolio of products) typically goes through a lifecycle: launch, development, growth, maturity and decline. Your product’s stage in the lifecycle may depend on factors such as competitive structure or even changes in price elasticity. How do marketers successfully position a product?

In Build Question 1, I asked students to build the three levels of product for a FitBit smartwatch: what is the product at its core, its actual use and the augmented offering to customers.

Using LEGO® bricks, students translated abstract concepts into a visual representation that helped them elaborate a strategy: concepts of “peace of mind when it comes to health” and “subconscious feelings of fitness” come out when one has to start to describe his or her creation.

This moves us from metaphor to storytelling: being able to explain the use of every single brick to create a narrative around the strategy. Stories also come with characters and plots that encompass a sequence of events.

For Build Question 2, the students had to build a Buyer Persona for Lavazza coffee in the United States. This exercise relies heavily on imagination, creativity and creating a story around a consumer’s purchasing habits. From a 40 year old software engineer in California who is frustrated with his job to a 36-year old marketing executive in Chicago who is always on the go but likes indulgence, the group developed some detailed personalities.

Finally, what makes marketing complex is understanding the journey that customers take from awareness to purchase to retention and hopefully advocacy. Marketers need to understand what happens at every step of this journey, and therefore in Build Question 3, the students built an eCommerce journey for an Italian pasta company looking to sell its products in the U.S.

In this most complex build, the students realized which elements of the marketing mix were drivers in each crucial phase, and were able to elaborate in their storytelling of the build.

Logistically, how do the builds work?

Each build has a time limit, usually somewhere between 2-4 minutes, then each built is presented. Participants build to music in order to stimulate energy and creativity.

In the strategic builds, students are given a pile of normal block-shaped bricks, a pile of mixed figurehead bricks, and a small pile of “random” LEGO® objects like trees, steering wheels, etc.

Experimenting with Play

I also decided to experiment a little myself in this workshop. The students worked in 6 groups and three groups were given piles of bricks with all primary colors (reds, yellows, blues and greens) and figureheads with smiling faces. The other group had piles of other colors (whites, blacks, browns, purples, oranges and pinks) and figureheads with angry or sad faces.

In the Buyer Persona exercise, the second group developed characters that tended to be more “pessimistic” such as stressed at work or unhappily married. In the Customer Journey exercise, two out of three groups recommended NOT pursuing eCommerce as a channel for sales.

Workshop Playlist:

  • “How You Like Me Now” by The Heavy (3:37)

  • “Figure It Out” by Royal Blood (3:04)

  • “Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay (4:07)

  • “Flashed Junk Mind” by Milky Chance (4:22)

  • “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen (4:30)

  • “New Error” by Moderat (6:07)

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