Paul Holmes 05 Jul 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
Golin/Harris developed and implemented a year-long public relations campaign to introduce LEGO MyBot, the first preschool toy incorporating technology into LEGO’s traditional construction play pattern. Golin/Harris also aimed to establish clear brand positioning for LEGO as the leader in “creative learning.” To accomplish these objectives, Golin/Harris worked with educational experts to define “creative learning,” crafted all press materials, authored strategy and messaging for use by the client and other agencies worldwide and led a eight-month media relations blitz. The centerpiece event was an educational forum featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley that defined the new LEGO term “creative learning” for educators, accented LEGO’s role in early education, and introduced the LEGO MyBot to consumers. Launch placements were secured in Time, Newsweek and the Associated Press, among others; a b-roll highlights package netted over 150 broadcast segments on the day of the event. Launch efforts were followed by intensive holiday outreach, which garnered additional coverage from outlets including the Associated Press, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and CNN.
The LEGO Company, long the leading manufacturer and marketer of building bricks for children, sought to further its position as a leader in preschool toys, one of the most lucrative – and fragmented – retail categories. Its new LEGO MyBot toy was to be the first in a series of toys incorporating technology into LEGO’s traditional play pattern of building. In addition to launching the product, LEGO also sought to take ownership of the term “creative learning” as its platform for all of its forthcoming products.
RESEARCH AND PLANNING:
Golin/Harris conducted extensive research on the term “creative learning” to determine its origin, definition and use by the mainstream general public, as well as in educational circles. The intent was to confirm whether LEGO could, in fact, claim “ownership” of the term. It was determined that use of the term “creative learning” was widespread, and there was no single overriding definition. G/H and LEGO decided to pursue efforts to “own” the term as part of the PR program for MyBot. The main objectives of the U.S. campaign were to introduce the MyBot toy to consumers and media and to associate it and the LEGO Company with the term “creative learning” through positive pre-launch, launch, post-release, and holiday media coverage. In addition, Golin/Harris attempted to establish clear brand positioning for LEGO Preschool as the leader in creative learning and create a halo effect for the overall LEGO brand. In addition to applying this research and planning on a global scale, Golin/Harris participated in face-to-face meetings in Denmark and the United Kingdom in order to establish clear messaging for global efforts and decide strategy/tactics.
Golin/Harris was hired for two roles: to develop and oversee a public relations strategy and program that could be implemented globally, and to implement that campaign in the U.S. The strategy included the following elements:
- Build and utilize third-party endorsements for MyBot to gain media/parent credibility
- Promote the creative learning aspects of the toy and how its use supports deductive reasoning and cause-and-effect lessons in all communications
- Implement aggressive media relations campaigns
- Capitalize on growing interest in technology-based toys begun at Toy Fair 2000
- Promote grass-roots awareness through museum sampling programs in top-tier markets and schools in the Boston area
Target audiences included:
Launch: local short-lead media, national short-lead media, educational media (short/long lead), family publications (short/long lead), and television (national and regional)
Holiday: general consumer media (short/long lead), technology media (short/long lead), children’s media (short/long lead), parenting and family media (short/long lead), daily newspapers and television
Golin/Harris and LEGO worked together to clearly define both the product messaging and the term “creative learning.” Golin/Harris worked with representatives of LEGO Dacta, the company’s educational arm, to write a working definition of “creative learning” for use in all communications. A white paper authored by M.I.T. Professor Mitchel Resnick, Ph.D., on the subject added further clarification for media and colleagues on the association between LEGO, MyBot and learning.
For the product launch on August 31, 2000, Golin/Harris planned and implemented an educational forum at the Boston Children’s Museum -- a media event designed to introduce the term “creative learning,” accent LEGO’s role in early education, and unveil the MyBot product.
The event involved the following components:
Golin/Harris secured the participation of U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley as an influential spokesperson on the topic of technology & early education. Riley, in the midst of his “Success Express” bus tour, appeared at the event live via satellite and spoke of the importance of technology in a child’s pre-kindergarten development
Golin/Harris recruited and secured speakers from M.I.T, Tufts and the University of Massachusetts to speak at the forum, discussing the influence of creative learning and technology’s role in education
Working closely with Boston-area Head Start programs and local educators, Golin/Harris was able to quickly “get the word out” about the forum. The nearly 100 teachers who attended received gift bags containing LEGO educational materials, a MyBot poster and curriculum for the classroom and special LEGO software
A special visual and “media moment” was created for the event. LEGO Masterbuilders constructed a life-sized MyBot airplane out of LEGO bricks, which was unveiled to the crowd by children from the Head Start program wearing MyBot t-shirts. This visual element gave broadcast media an appealing picture to pair with the key news messages of the MyBot introduction
Aggressive media pitching to national and local education, features and technology reporters netted a full story on the launch event and product from the Associated Press, which sent a reporter and photographer to the event; articles also appeared in Time and Newsweek. Local media representing NBC (WHDH-TV), CBS (WBZ-TV), and the Boston Herald also covered the forum. Additionally, the b-roll package secured over 150 hits that day, including top 20 markets
Focused media relations outreach in support of MyBot occurred in two waves: one during the summer to reach long-lead media, and a second following the product launch to secure holiday-time stories in national and regional broadcast and print media. Product preview tours to media in New York and San Francisco during July included visits to Wendy Israel/Family Life, Heidi Benson/Parents, and Grace Soriano-Smith/TechTV, among others. Golin/Harris also developed extensive holiday editorial calendars for short-lead media in order to track/submit for further holiday opportunities; holiday hits to date include Associated Press, CNN, and others
Hands-on sampling opportunities were pursued through the development of a museum outreach program offering children’s museums in top markets the opportunity to host a LEGO MyBot play and learning area. Nine museums participated in the program, receiving the MyBot curriculum along with 10 MyBots
In addition to providing them with ongoing counsel, Golin/Harris developed and provided a comprehensive CD-ROM to the PR teams implementing the launch program in other countries. Each CD-ROM contained a LEGO corporate backgrounder, product overview release, product fact sheet, creative learning white paper, launch event release, introductory letter for museum programs, artwork, the media kit design ensemble, letterhead design, and recommended local programs.
Evaluation of the LEGO MyBot program in the United States depended on a number of factors: media impressions (and the percentage of such impressions with a focus on “creative learning”), toy test response, and the success of grass-roots programs such as museum sampling and teacher giveaways.
As of December 15, 2000, Golin/Harris has tracked more than 13 million broadcast impressions from the launch event and subsequent public relations efforts. Print readership totaled 67,568,265. Total impressions (not including online hits) totaled more than 80 million -- many of which included the “creative learning” message. Major placements heralding MyBot as a creative learning toy ran in Time (Sept. 11) and in Newsweek (Oct. 16). The Associated Press story serviced key regional publications, such as the Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA) and Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA). Other key media placements tracked to date include the Wall Street Journal, Orlando Sentinel, Seattle Times, Washington Times, Brooklyn Parent, Columbus Dispatch, Boston Herald, Associated Press (holiday), CNN, Reuters, Scripps Howard and Calgary Sun.
Comprehensive media placements and national coverage were achieved in all European regions (North, Central and South), including British outlets The Guardian (national newspaper), Nickelodeon (national television), and top consumer magazine Family Circle; German outlets Mitteldeutsche Zeitung (national newspaper) and Eltern for Family (top family publication); and top French family outlets Famille magazine and Enfants magazine.
Toy testers and affiliated media responded very positively to LEGO MyBot. The toy received awards from publications including Parents, Parenting for High Potential, Nick Jr., Toy Wishes, and Today’s Parent. Response to the U.S. museum was extremely favorable; many of the institutions incorporated the Golin/Harris curriculum and emphasized the “creative learning” aspects of the toy. Global affiliates participated in very successful MyBot test centers and museum programs similar to those in the US.