“In this digital era, where children are often found playing computer games or gazing at handheld devices, some might say there is little room for old-school toys. But Danish-born Steen Lauge Kokkenborg would dispute that thinking. As representative director and general manager of LEGO Japan, Kokkenborg says children get tremendous value from hands-on play.
“We know from research that kids actually need a spatial understanding,” he says. “And you don’t get a spatial understanding from a two-dimensional TV screen or phone. I think that’s where the active play with LEGO products comes in, as an important way of developing children.”
If you put kids in front of LEGO, they will intuitively start immersing themselves in building,” he says. “It’s suddenly them deciding 100% what they want to do. If you play a computer game, you are always depending on how the game is designed, who are the players, how do I go through the game … With LEGO products, you just build whatever is in your head. To me, that’s the fascinating thing.
The firm’s head office in Tokyo is populated with massive LEGO-shaped stools and chairs, while each meeting room has a bowl of LEGO on the desk. Kokkenborg believes people “think better if they just put a few blocks together”.
With stiff competition from Japanese toy manufacturers, Kokkenborg says Japan has been a tough market to crack. LEGO’s market share here is nowhere near that of its other global markets. However, Kokkenborg is optimistic that LEGO will continue to catch on with parents and children in the world’s second-largest toy market.”
Lesson learned in Japan: “If you can imagine a product, it has already been launched in Japan.”
What is your experience of the Japanese Toy Market?
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