Monthly Archives: May 2012

What girls want – no gender bias

LEGO Group has been in the toy business for 80 years. As one of the top toy companies in the world, LEGO has effectively brought games and fun to children of all ages, and both genders, all around the word. Often adding specialty LEGO sets to reflect current trends – such as Star Wars, super heroes, video games, and cartoon characters –the company actively works to stay on top of new ideas and trends.

Keeping in that tradition, in December 2011, the company brought a new LEGO toy line to market – this one aimed solely at girls. The LEGO Friends line was designed specifically for girls, giving them building toys to create new communities of friends. The new line reflects girls preferences for more social types of games, as compared to the smash-‘em-up games seemingly favored by boys. But wait… isn’t the company just perpetuating a gender stereotype of how boys and girls play differently?

Some people think the company is indeed reinforcing old stereotypes and the new product line has generated controversy on a very large scale. Using social activist site, more than 55,000 people have made their opinions known and have signed a petition against the new product line. The result is that LEGO officials were set to meet recently with the two 20-year olds who began the social movement to discuss the issue and concerns.

Social activist sites such as and others are changing the way consumers make their preferences known, and they are helping to build social activism on a very large scale. The site – – is a social action platform designed to empower people anywhere to start campaigns to change the world. The petition was started by several 20-year old members of the “girl-fueled organization, SPARK movement” in response to the company’s girl-oriented LEGO blocks. SPARK – at – is a girl-fueled activist movement fighting against the sexualization of women and girls in media.


Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Have students quickly browse through LEGO’s Web site to familiarize themselves with the company and products:
  2. Ask students what they believe the issue is with the new line of LEGO Friends. Does this product line reflect the company’s brand, mission, and values? Are there other potential problem areas for the company?
  3. Next, bring up the site:
  4. What is the mission of How does it operate? What changes has it helped to facilitate in society around the world?
  5. After discussion about, continue the topic by showing the SPARK movement site:
  6. What are some of the issues that SPARK has addressed? How does it operate?
  7. Are there other social activist sites on the Internet? How are they used?
  8. How do these new social activist sites change marketing? What do companies need to be aware of as they tackle potentially risky topics?


Source:, 4/20/12; Huffington Post, 1/12/12; NPR News



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IKEA’s new TV – streamlining homes and entertainment

The latest design from global furniture company IKEA is a new product that includes TV, sound, and furniture – all in a single unit. This is IKEA’s first foray into the home electronics market, and they have done it with their typical Swedish style. The new unit integrates RCA’s HDTV into a fully customizable piece of furniture that can be tailored and expanded to fit multiple décor and sizes. The unit is classic IKEA; designed to fit into small spaces and hide the ugly cables so prominent in today’s home entertainment systems. The company commissioned a five-country market research product to help it develop the product.

The TV unit – named Uppleva – comes with a five-year warranty and integrates Blu-ray technology, video, Web inputs, wireless speakers, music, and a single remote into a comprehensive entertainment system. The unit will be available first in European markets this summer, followed by a broader launch later in the year. The base price of the unit is expected to be $955 (U.S.). The unit carries IKEA’s clean design and easy assembly features, maintaining the company’s brand value of delivering quality furniture at affordable prices.


Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Ask students to describe their current TV and entertainment system: type, remotes, furniture, cables, and different devices for TV, radio, music, movies.
  2. What are the problems with their current systems? What could be better?
  3. Show the IKEA Uppleva video:
  4. How does this TV change IKEA’s business model?
  5. How does this complete with other HDTV products?
  6. What is the target market for this product?
  7. Is this market the same in the U.S. as well as Europe?
  8. Have students view the IKEA’s Web site:
  9. How does this product reflect IKEA’s brand? Is the company brand consistent throughout the 400 countries in which it operates?
  10. And because everyone likes to make fun of (not so easy) assembly systems, end class with this video from  Conan O’Brien’s  show:



Source:, 4/23/12



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Kickstart for Pebble Watch

Conventional funding wisdom tells businesses that in order for a new company or product to get started, it needs a strong influx of capital from traditional sources such as financial firms, banks, angel investors, or venture capital firms. But working with Kickstarter, the innovative Pebble watch is turning all those rules on their head and into, well, tiny pebbles on a beach.

The Pebble e-paper watch has generated an unexpectedly large following to help get its innovative product into production. Using wireless, Bluetooth technology, the watch communicates with smartphones such as iPhone and Android devices, as well as with iPod music players. The product’s uses range from the mundane, such as telling time, to more exciting interactive applications for running, cycling, golf, emails, text messaging, and more.

After the founders of Pebble failed to get conventional funding, they turned to Kickstarter to get their message directly to consumers. As of the beginning of May 2012, Pebble has received more than $8.8 million in pledges from 58,000+ backers. Pledges range from a low of $99 (sold out) to a high of $10,000.

Kickstarter is a funding platform for innovative and creative products. Using social media to directly interact with users, the site helps link new ideas with people who are interested in funding and buying the products. Launched in 2009, the company has helped connect 1.8 million people with more than 20,000 innovative products, raising pledges of more than $200 million.

Yes, the Internet does indeed change everything, including how businesses build communities to fund and support their vision. Visit to learn more about new products and new ways to generate funding.


Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Start the discussion by showing the video about Pebble:
  2. What makes this product unique?
  3. What are the key messages?
  4. Who is the target market for this product?
  5. What challenges does Pebble have with distribution and channel?
  6. How should the product be promoted?
  7. Next, move to a discussion about Kickstarter and its funding approach:
  8. Have students search the site to learn about the variety of products and groups using the site to raise funds.
  9. What are the products that most interest the students? What other uses can they see for utilizing the site?


Source: New York Time, Forbes, Manufacturing Business Technology, Forbes, and other news services


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