Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Lego’s 1981 Ad Campaign (joshsummers.co.uk)
275 points by FailMore on Feb 17, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 142 comments

Lego. The toy of my childhood.

My brother, sister and myself are the youngest of our cousins, and ended up inheriting all their Lego.

We had a whole verandah (grew up in Australia in the country) filled with our Lego city.

It became all encompassing. We had no close neighbors(nearest was 6 km away) and no console until the n64 was old so it was Lego or helping Dad on the farm.

We had the most detailed alternate reality you could imagine. Characters, occupations, a little economy (each of us had a primary character . And then all their accessory characters, and we would have a million dollars... Learned a lot about closed economies from that little experiment!) We made cheque books with little bits of carbon paper, and would reconcile the transactions.

We would start a 6 month long session by determining the rules- is space allowed? Western? Only one character? Combine with the train set for transport?) And then play out until our 'dump' of all the remaining pieces was left with nothing but the rejects... Then tear down our civilisation, rub of the chalk Marks from the floorboards that laid out the streets (we only had for pieces of road and they were all corners!)

I dislike that Lego only comes in kits now... The glory of Lego was in getting a massive rub of pieces and doing whatever you dreamt up out of it. We had a Lego police station and helicopter and a restraint, and they were great centerpieces, but the beauty of our playtime was that it was a creative effort of the the of us. Through out we learned/discovered economics, banking, made mini newspapers, the rules of society... I ever created my first computer program in vb so we could do our bank statements on it.

So much love for Lego. Maybe Minecraft fills a similar role in today's kids?

No, Lego still does. Mine just discovered them this past Christmas. They'll build them 5 times in a row and then trade with each other so they can build a new one.

I tell ya, as much as I remember loving Legos when I was a kid, there is absolutely nothing as cool as building them with your own kids. Also, they still sell those big boxes of random pieces. I think it's called the "Classic" line or something like that.

That's awesome to know. Still a while away for me but it's on the 'looking forward to' list!

It's pretty great, my house is occasionally quiet for the first time in years because they're all at the table building something. It's also pretty evident (to me) in this thread that the folks who are moaning about how Legos suck now probably are not the ones with kids.

I have a kid.

Lego Friends sucks. The gendering of Lego sucks. The relentless specialist themed sets sucks. The move towards many small fiddly pieces and some specialist pieces to create a Lego-thing sort of sucks.

Luckily I can ignore all of that and buy Lego Creative or Lego Classic.



Mid '90s, I worked at a toy startup. We studied Lego, PlayMobile, K'NEX, etc. Mfg, mktg, distribution, etc. Play tested everything. Conferences, networking, etc.

My understanding is gendering of Lego in the US sucks. It's cultural. The EU doesn't have a pink stigma.

Also, Lego made bank with the themed sets. First with the western (cowboy) then with Star Wars sets. I think some (not all) of them are awesome. Lego's made plenty of stinker sets. They really had little choice. Their target age market was being squeezed from both ends, "learning toys" on one side, video games on the other.

I don't care what child has which toys (boys with dolls, girls with bulldozers, vice versa) so long as they're playing, learning.

Overall, that experience made me a toy snob. +1 to Lego/Duplo, Lil' Tikes, and misc reading books. Most other toys suck.

Except magnets. Magnets are always cool.

> Overall, that experience made me a toy snob. +1 to Lego/Duplo, Lil' Tikes, and misc reading books. Most other toys suck.

As a parent of a 2 1/2 year old I couldn't agree more. We went to Toys 'r' Us to do some Christmas shopping last year and I was absolutely appalled to see the place. Aisles weren't organized by age, or the general "types" of toys, instead they had entire aisles dedicated to specific brands or media franchises.

An entire two aisles of Frozen toys, another for Cars, then all the Hot Wheels (okay, I might give this one a pass), so on and so forth. And really, all of these things were junk, just generic dolls or little specialized playsets.

Somedays I look into my daughters room and wonder if maybe it's a little sparse, I've got a big bucket of Lego Duplo, some alphabet blocks, a play kitchen with a bunch of Melissa and Doug items in it, some dress up clothes and a couple other age appropriate toys. But every time I realize that she has plenty of things to play with, and she's always doing neat and new things with everything she has.

She had me help her make a train car out of her Lego over the weekend, it was just a basic "box" that was 6x4x4 with an open top, and she started cramming her stuffed animals and Little People into it and going around the room shouting "choo choo".

Meanwhile, every other kid I see that has these toys from big media franchises just plays out or extends the universe they already know from the movies or shows. I think we really need a return to the basics with toys for our children, watching my daughter explore and create is much more enjoyable than watching the other kids act out their favorite scenes from Frozen again.

> The relentless specialist themed sets sucks. The move towards many small fiddly pieces and some specialist pieces to create a Lego-thing sort of sucks.

Very much this.

I have a couple of kids, and I try to steer clear of the specialized sets. I've heard stories of friends' kids pointing out set after set in the store and saying "Done that one. Done that one. Done that one. ..."

They have no sense of dumping out that giant bucket, delighting in the rushing chatter of a plastic avalanche, then asking themselves, "What do I want to build today?"

Sort of makes me sad...

Some of the branded kits are better than others. The lego star wars kits give you very reusable pieces. The kits that focus on characters + backgrounds/buildings seem to be the worst in terms of useless pieces

I agree that the gendering sucks, but I'll say that the Lego Friends sets are a great match with the Castle sets. Banquets, anyone?

My kids got a big box of Lego Technic (the kind you make robots with) in their very early years - 2/3. The box has been an absolute joy for them, and now the eldest (7) is using it to build robots. Finally.

Plus the joy of watching them figure out that you can use old Lego with new Lego is fantastic. Principles to live by!

Where did you get the idea that the toy is plural? It's not.

Probably no pedantic asshole corrected me when I was a kid and now it's a habit.

Would it be a pedantic asshole who corrects kids not to say sheeps but sheep?

Or someone who actually cared about children and learning?

Or someone who insists that Lego is correct for either singular or plural, when colloquially they were referred to as Legos by everyone I knew growing up?

Or someone who points out your writing in fragments instead of acknowledging your point in the first place?

LEGO bricks are commonly called legos in the U.S. This is not a new development.

The bricks are available as lego buckets http://shop.lego.com/en-US/LEGO-Creative-Bucket-10662

Ages 4-99.

They have discontinued the pneumatic line which is a shame because it required no batteries and I grokked pneumatics because of it--the pneumatic pump had a one-way valve as I recall it allowing air to push through. I was maybe 8 at the time.

Why do people make these assertions about Lego that are patently untrue? No, lego doesn't 'only come in kits'; and kits have pretty much always been available. Here's a comprehensive takedown of the meme: http://bigsalsbrickblog.blogspot.com/2014/08/it-was-all-basi...

Similarly, where do you get the idea that pneumatics have been dropped? They were on a hiatus, but are now back and still going strong. http://brickset.com/sets/theme-Technic/tag-Pneumatic shows 28 sets, one of which is currently available from Lego direct, and at least two more of which are still available retail. The 2015 Technic flagship model - the Mercedes Arocs truck - will have new pneumatic elements.

I checked in UK and was unable to find it. More recently came across this http://bricks.stackexchange.com/questions/939/which-sets-cur...

Awesome to know I can still get it, ordering one for my son via UK if I can find it.

There's a lot of different kits out there, but you can still buy big buckets of just Lego, such as http://www.amazon.co.uk/LEGO-6177-Basic-Bricks-Deluxe/dp/B00...

So much love for Lego. Maybe Minecraft fills a similar role in today's kids?

Yeah, LEGO is still a big deal. My older boy has participated in LEGO-based robotics competitions, and both of my boys still spend time just about every day building.

My kids do like the kits, but generally those kits stay together for a month or so, and little by little, blocks are scavenged for other projects. My older son has a small handful of built kits that are sacred, but otherwise, the rest of them end up in the bin.

Re: Minecraft - as an adult, Minecraft is the closest thing to lego I've come across.

You can build anything, go on any adventure. Far more immersive than lego, but still crude enough that you need a bit of imagination to really get into it.

I've never played mine craft but my observation came about because when doing paediatrics terms a lot of sick kids will have their parents iPad with mine craft.

I haven't seen the kind of deep social interaction that my brother sister and I had while playing lego though - more the way we all used to stand around while one of us played simcity 2000 (still social, but one driver of activity)

Two kids can share the same Minecraft play area in two different tablets/PCs. One runs a local server, which the other connects to. State is saved between build sessions.

I'm getting reports of a Bacon City and a Cake City being built connected by a railroad ;-)

The fact that it's the toy of your childhood actually makes me wonder how effective the ad was at selling legos in 1981. The author says it would have him out the door and buying legos, but that's because he already knows legos and how they work. Would this sell to someone who didn't know legos, or would it just be weird?

You can still get generic sets of bricks as you have always been able to. It has been rebranded as the "Classic" line: http://www.lego.com/en-gb/classic/products?ignorereferer=tru...

Both the product and the ad are highly representative of '70s Nordic social ethics and aesthetics. A single product line called "Universal Building Sets" is an almost Platonic ideal of democratic creativity.

Today's Lego has 33 product lines: http://www.lego.com/en-us/products

When your Legos are branded as "Chima", "Bionicle", "Ninjago", "Marvel(tm) Super Heroes" or "Disney(r) Star Wars(tm)", it's expected that you play within the existing marketeer-created universe. Less blank canvas, more coloring book with product placement.

Actually, even back in 1981, there were multiple lines, though not nearly as much as now.

Here's a list of the sets released in 1981: http://brickset.com/sets/year-1981 . Out of 58 sets, 16 are designed for generic use. Much of the rest are buildings and vehicles from the modern world, like houses, fire stations, tow trucks, ferries, helicopters, dune buggies, etc. But there are also sets with medieval knights and space themes. Plus, Lego created their own characters for a theme they called "Fabuland". There was even a tie-in series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keJua4D2Ymg

In summary, back in 1981, there were generic sets plus four different themes.

    it's expected that you play within the existing
    marketeer-created universe
Maybe that's how you or your kids play with them, but here we have no problem kitbashing the branded sets. Their parts end up in the color-sorted bins along with all the rest, and the kids build crazy stuff out of whatever. The last round included parts from a city, a dinosaur, and a submarine, and those were just the ones I recognized. We even mix Megabloks and Duplo with our Legos. Now, if I could only get the kids to pick up the parts when they finish...

Kitbashing is _the_ plot driver of the Lego movie, in that it's what Master Builders do.

Notice how the Lego Club magazine highlights people's creative builds.

I want to postulate that Lego's endpoint is not static sculpture, but active imagination. Consider fan fiction. Sometimes we want to create stories inside someone else's universe. Hasn't your imagination been sparked by some favorite movie or book or artwork? Have you ever wanted to tell the rest of the story? I know I did! That's why I flew my Duplo Millenium Falcon around the living room. I don't see how a more realistic version would have been less fun, or less imaginative. And that's the point of the branded sets. They're fun! With any luck someday soon I will be able to build model rockets that look a lot like what explodes on my launchpad in KSP, only my kids and I will be able to fly those around the living room, pretending the sofa is Planet Klystron, home of the savage (but peaceful) race of Mer-mole-men (Lego people with frickin' sharks heads!) Meanwhile, Superman arrives to rescue our stranded Kerbals, whose ship (naturally) blew up upon launch.

And so on.

It's about the stories we can tell ourselves and each other. In-universe. Something wholly new. It doesn't matter. Do whatever it takes to get you or your kids' imaginations jumpstarted.

Or at least that's what I'm after when I buy a Lego set (branded or not). It looks cool, and it sets my imagination racing.

> We even mix Megabloks and Duplo with our Legos.

Is there any way/adapter to connect Duplo (or Lego) on top of Megabloks? I sometimes manage to usefully mix them but always feel it'd be more useful the other way around if Megabloks could provide large-scale structure with Duplo providing fine(r) detail on top... Though I might be biased by having tons of Megabloks and not that much Duplo.

[There is of course the kludge of hanging a protruding duplo under:

but it's flimsy and requires too much overhead.]

> We even mix Megabloks


This does crop up all the time.

You should also mention though that Lego still make and sell a lot of universal building sets.

In Lego stores there are walls of bricks where you can select any bits you want.

Yes, there has been a big rise in themed and licensed sets, and yes, some of them have specialised building parts that you can only really use in the set.

But that's just part of the trend over the last few decades from generic products to branded products. Everything has to be branded... I even saw a "frozen" branded loom band set. I guess the loom bands are just colors associated with the movie? Even buying kids shoes these days they're mostly branded with superheroes, princesses, etc

You can enjoy building predefined models, and creating your own from buckets of bricks though. Both can co-exist nicely. The best thing is that Lego is still going strong.

Sure. I wasn't exactly criticising Lego, just pointing out that the appeal of the ad is inextricably linked to the ideal behind the product.

Lego is a business, of course. Those ABS plastic blocks are practically indestructible, so they're not going to grow by selling replacements for universal blocks...

It's so impressive that I can take out a 30 year old Lego brick, and it "works" exactly the same as it did 30 years ago. Sure, the white ones have faded a little, but they still function just as they should.

Not to put the knife in too hard, but megablocks and other competitors don't even function properly when they're new out of the packet.

If I remember correctly, LEGO was in a bit of a financial crisis not long ago, and as a way to deal with it was more focus on LEGO based on existing and popular franchises. That said, you just take pull the sets apart and children being children will build things, just as they always have.

My stepson is 11 and we've bought many sets for him over the years. We have one of those 5x5 Ikea shelves just packed with sets that never get touched. They're more like models than toys. But some of them are also my old pirate lego sets from when I was his age, which I also never touched after putting them together (hence the fact that they're still intact today, though some have been disassembled and reassembled).

A few years ago, however, we decided to just buy him a few of the big bucket sets. So he's got buckets of bricks that get played with, and shelves full of models that collect dust.

We also have a pretty big collection of Duplo blocks, which my 2 1/2 year-old daughter has little interest in, although she loves the Lego.

They had no choice, the "univeral building blocks" patent ended not long ago, facing competition now, they had to find sustainable cash flow.

The competition is terrible though. Have you tried assembling any other "compatible" building set?

The bricks aren't finished properly, some just pop off, and it all falls to bits easily.

I'd say the nearest competition to Lego is probably 60% the quality of Lego.

Lego is expensive. As a former employee, I've heard this complaint many, many times. The thing that people don't realize (because hey, it's just plastic) is that Lego is really really high quality. Getting the right stickiness requires very high precision in those little bricks. Also, if like me you have Legos from your childhood you will probably notice that they last long.

The quality really cannot be understated, they last forever. When I was growing up, my brother and I had a mix of "modern" (early 90s) kits and my dad's legos he had growing up in 1950s and 60s Germany. Now my cousins' kids have inherited both and are mixing them with 2010s kits. The 50 year old blocks fit precisely with the blocks made in the past year, and when you throw them all in a bin together you can hardly tell the difference.

It's rare to think of a toy that you can play with as "heirloom quality," but I have no doubt my kids will inherit a portion of the family set when it becomes time, and their kids just might too.

No I'm just telling what I read from an article a few years back when new brands started to pop in stores. I wonder if parents/kids may see the quality rightaway. LEGOs were an expensive gift in my days. If I was asking for more toys, I'm sure my parents would be tempted to buy a lower priced brand.

I grew up in India during the 90s when Lego had no proper establishment here. There was a very similar kit called 'mechanix' which I fondly remember to date. Would surely recommend still if can't find Lego or on budget.

I never believed this until I experienced it myself with my 4 year old. LEGOs are damn expensive but the competition simply just doesn't work.

Given how long ago it expired and how terrible the competition is I think Lego is the poster company for showing that execution quality is crucial.

That's weird, I read about it really not long ago. Maybe they tried to delay things through legal means. That said yes, the LEGO company put a lot of thinking in their 'toys'. I think it's also the way things were done in those days, now it's all ship often, ship cheap.


Heading 'trademarks and patents', the last patent expired in '89.

Aight, so I heard about the post 2000s lawsuits but didn't understand the grounds on which LEGO was able to sue.

Actually, it expired quite a while ago, in 1989.

Looking at the two boxes on the poster, they don't look that "universal" - it's a truck and the other one a house. Today's boxes I guess are just better categorized, but not that different.

These boxes only have standard pieces, which is why the truck and house look boxy.

Today's boxes include too many specific pieces. Car hood, top, helicopter nose, etc. Pieces that can't be used for anything else that what they're designed for, and can't be replaced if lost.

So you can't take it appart to build something different.

I actually think that the "Lego Movie" set is a perfect example of unbound creativity. Pretty much every set uses parts which do not match with their original use,and yet they are all used to build interesting things. The worst Lego bricks are the ones which have something painted/written on them, that usually does limit the applications.

In any given kit the ratio of custom pieces to generic pieces is still favorable. As a random sample check out the parts inventory of this kit [1] from Lego's Star Wars: Clone Wars system. When you sort by quantity, you see the vast majority of parts are generic wedges, blocks, and plates. Browse around the site, you'll see the same is true for any set over 50 pieces. The idea that you "can't take it apart to build something different," is a little ridiculous, it isn't a model airplane.

I take it you haven't played with any of the modern kits. I encourage you, if you enjoyed lego as a kid, to buy a couple and see for yourself. The model on the box is more polished, but the building blocks are very much the same.

1. http://www.peeron.com/cgi-bin/invcgis/inv/sets/7752-1?PagerS...

Trust me, a kid the age of the one in the ad can take it apart and make something different. Mine do it nonstop.

Universal Building Set is actually the name of a product line: http://lego.wikia.com/wiki/Universal_Building_Set it existed alongside LEGOLAND and Trains and constituted the "basic" lego sets, differentiated because each set usually came with instructions for multiple models, and better demonstrated the role of imagination and the purpose of legos.

Maybe if sales for these things werent so high they wouldnt have done it, whose fault is it really Lego or the consumer? I certainly dont want companies deciding for me.

You don't want companies to decide what products you buy? How does that work? I mean, you can only buy something if they'll sell it...

More to the point people argue these genderised versions of lego are bad, and that lego shouldn't sell them, deciding to not sell a product because of that and not consumer demand is an example of how a company can decide for its consumers.

I don't see why the genderised versions are bad. My daughter is all for pink and princesses, something we have never (knowingly) encouraged. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't build legos at all if it weren't for the pink pieces, and the princesses! Now she builds and has learned that she enjoys the actual building process, not just playing with the creation afterwards. To me this is far more important than the way the minifigures look or whether or not it promotes gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are much more likely picked up from how ones parents behave than from toys. If it weren't for Lego Friends I'm pretty confident she would be playing with Barbies instead and that is worse in regards to all the bad things that can be said about Lego Friends, never mind the fact that Barbies lack the creative outlet that is the very foundation of Lego.

I'm pretty confident if it weren't for the Lego Friends series, there would be a lot of girls never learning that they enjoy the building process. Which would be a great shame. If girls learn building legos can be fun, then they might learn that CS can be fun as well :).

Or you can buy something else and the company can go bust.

Still, you can only buy something else within the range of options on the market.

Ideally companies adjust their product lines based on customer demand. In reality it's mostly determined by other factors like supply chain, internal politics, competitor envy, random advice from consultants, need to meet quarterly growth goals, etc.

For example, high-fructose corn syrup has become a major ingredient of many American food products within the past 20+ years. That didn't happen because of consumer demand, and consumers don't have an easy way to vote against it.

For example, high-fructose corn syrup has become a major ingredient of many American food products within the past 20+ years. That didn't happen because of consumer demand, and consumers don't have an easy way to vote against it.

That's a pretty bad example, since that was in good part a result of the action of elected governments that have kept the price of sugar way above the market price, through tariffs, quotas and subsidies.

I suppose it's true that consumers don't have an easy way to vote against it, but it is a result of the US' "democratic" process.

On a related note, there was a recent Econtalk episode with Daniel Sumner, professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at University of California, on that subject: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2015/02/daniel_sumner_o.htm...

Don't the scare quote you chose to use around democracy make you think that actually HFCS is a good example and that everyday people actually have very little power to change the way sugar and HFCS is regulated?

I think it's a bad example of a result of the type of factors that pavlov listed (supply chain, internal politics, competitor envy, random advice from consultants, need to meet quarterly growth goals, etc).

Legal restrictions in the marketplace are categorically different from internal company policies, and the lack of power that people have changing the former does not imply a lack of power changing or overriding the latter.

Consumers could have demanded products without corn syrup in them. It turns out they don't care.

If people did care, those other factors probably would have had to take a back seat to consumer demand. So I don't think you can say that it was irrelevant to the rise of HFCS.

(You can argue that people are ill informed and blah blah blah, but that's still them not caring enough to demand whatever it is you think they should be more informed about)

People aren't just ill-informed - they live under a perpetual onslaught of advertising.

Try taking away the advertising if you want to give people a free choice.

Or balance it with an equivalent level of glossy but fact-based media persuasion about the true effects of HFCS, smoking, etc.

I don't understand what advertising has to do with HFCS.

Sure, Coke and Pepsi blast ads all the time, but do the arithmetic, they save a couple cents using HFCS over cane sugar. They aren't advertising to get people to accept HFCS, they are advertising to increase consumption of their sugared drinks. If there was reasonably widespread resistance to HFCS they would just switch.

(The arithmetic: there's about 1 pound of sugar in a 12 pack of coke. That's ~$0.50 of cost, max: http://www.sugaralliance.org/us-sugar-prices/. HFCS saves a lot of that cost, ~$0.40 of it: http://www.cornnaturally.com/pdf/hfcs-in-the-us.pdf . So a typical can of soda could use cane sugar for ~$0.03. Note that I've picked a hostile price for cane sugar.)

Sets without any associated storyline or franchise still exist as the "Creator"-series, and seem to be quite popular.

The Creator series are the absolute best bang for buck line they produce. In general they are 3-in-1 kits and they have lots of interesting blocks.

I can only give you an anecdotal counter point but Lego is still fine. Instead of asking for a universal building set like I did, my 5 year old old son now ask for a specific Chima or Star Wars box and then we build the vehicle on the box.

After that things get still get ripped apart and combined into new things. It's still mostly a bunch of colored brick except the modern boxes contain a couple more custom bricks which make his own creations look even more awesome.

Lego is still a good (or even better) for kids nowadays than it was 30 years ago.

The last box I bought for my kids was a "lego classics" box. Just blocks.


I would rather have Lego around with branded lines than no Lego, and indeed the branded marketing is what's keeping Lego afloat.

And it's not like you can't buy non-branded Lego (there's plenty of it available). Even if you do have the branded sets you can still use them with 30 year old Lego bricks.

I don't see how branded sets result in less creativity.

Wasn't the whole Lego Movie about taking the kits apart and mixing them up and not worrying about it?

A subtlety which is not mentioned in the article: Why do we like the ad? Because it it targeted towards grownups! This is due to the understanding in the Lego company at the time, that parents decided what to buy for their children. Therefore ads where aimed towards parents, explaining how Lego help the kids develop and learn and so on.

But better market analysis later showed that it was a mistaken belief. Actually it is kids that decide what they want, and parent oblige. Therefore Lego does not make this kind of ads anymore. They make marketing directly towards the consumers: The kids.

While it may be the case that kids these days demand and get the kind of toys they want, it is also the case (at least in certain cultures) that parents obsess a lot on what kind of toys make their kids 'smarter', 'happier', etc.

So, Lego could look at ads that target parents in some of their markets.

You think? Maybe they would hire you as a marketing consultant, because they probably never got round to thinking about that kind of thing. Not sure if "marketing" is even a thing in socialist countries like Denmark.

Denmark is not a socialist country, and they certainly have marketers, especially in multinational companies like Lego. In fact, their current CMO held the same position at Revlon before joining them.

I think this is the point where someone is supposed to say whoosh. The person above was being sarcastic.

I considered that option, but the comment history pushed me in the other direction. I plead Poe's law.

That's quite an interesting way to put what I always considered to be immoral behaviour of the companies, exploiting lack of experience and short attention span of children combined with the love of their parents.

Original HuffPost article (from over a year ago): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/17/lego-ad-1981_n_4617...

Someone tracked down the little girl in the ad: http://www.womenyoushouldknow.net/little-girl-1981-lego-ad-g...

    recent studies have proven that praising a child’s 
    effort over the childs acheivements is the correct way   
    to raise a little person that will do well
I think this claim is mistaken. The article backs the claim up with a link which discusses something different: whether to praise effort or praise attributes of the person e.g. "you are so smart!". Praising achievement is a third category of praise where consequences are assessed and not personal qualities.

I'm confident that positive and negative feedback about achievement are incredibly important moreso than acknowledging effort. Praising the attributes of a person is clearly just flattery so I don't know why anyone would do it or need a study to point it out.

Were you to praise effort and not assess achievement, you will train people to look like they are working hard rather than actually achieving anything and not give them the feedback that will help them truly excel.

I don't have sources but I'm sure I've read studies against praising achievement. I'm sure if combined well with praising effort it can work well, but it should be a way of helping judge effort, not praised for and of itself. For example if a child constantly gets Bs in a certain subject then getting an A can be an indicator that they've put more effort in - but the A itself shouldn't be the reason for the praise.

Yep, effort\achievement shouldn't be considered as independent. What I do think is important is to kill dead this notion that achievement is not a necessary consideration for how to praise. For example:

I would be cautious about praising:

i) High effort but low performance due to repeating mistakes that have been pointed out before.

ii) Low effort but high performance due to luck or the task being easy for the individual.

I would find it important to praise:

i) Low effort but improved performance due to a change in behaviour e.g. learning from previous experience.

ii) High effort but low performance due to how novel or ambitiously challenging the task is for the individual.

I have no idea why anyone would downvote this.

Very good point Duncan.

The cool thing about legos is you get instant gratification for building stuff. My 2-year-old nephew was building with legos the other day and you know what he said after he finished building: "moma." He was so happy he wanted to go show his mom what he had built. Isn't that beautiful?

Maybe he wanted you to secure space for his creation at http://www.moma.org/ ? At least he's modest.

Probably an oversight on my part not to think of this ;-)

Back when we were kids there was only one type of Lego, the type that was meant for everybody. Now they have their own line for girls, Lego Friends. And Lego Friends is just stupid http://seasonaldepressioncomic.com/2014/12/06/lego-friends/

What comes first, the desire for gendered products or the gendered products?

We know that a lot of social psychology research is weak or wrong, and that a few mainstream researchers hold anti-science viewpoints. http://wjh.harvard.edu/~jmitchel/writing/failed_science.htm

We know that toy manufacturers spend a lot of money on research.

So, it's possible that they have a bunch of gently flawed research, and the flaws are magnified through poor reporting, poor understanding, and then implementation into product.

And now we're here, with toyshops segregrated into pink aisles and blue aisles there's no way back.

> What comes first, the desire for gendered products or the gendered products?

Apparently the desire. Toddlers pick gendered products on their own (for some forms of them). There was some studies about this behavior.

Well, if the toddlers can pick, the gendered products were there first.

But it is true that kids even make gendered toys out of practically nothing. For instance, a local kindergarten here: three-year-old boys were forbidden to have toy guns. So the kids took some flat crispbread at the midday meal and chewed edges off to make it gun-shaped, and then started playing cops and robbers. Bang bang.

A child-made toy gun is not a gendered toy.

A gendered toy would be a toy gun packaged in a blue box with only images of boys on the packaging.

What makes blue more boy-specific than guns are, objectively? For whatever reasons, whether through child instincts or society, both are generally preferred by boys over girls.

The pictures of only boys on the blue boxes and the pictures of only girls on the pink boxes is something that needs to be considered.

I don't care if more boys buy guns and more girls buy toy horses. I do care if those toys are packaged in rigidly gendered packaging and stocked in gendered sections of the toy store.

I recently saw Nerf guns for girls in the store. While my children are not yet of Nerf gun age, I think the Nerf gun for girls might significantly increase the odds that one day I'll be able to have Nerf battles with her. So yay for that.

I would probably first try with a "normal" Nerf gun, but if that doesn't stick, why not try the girl variant.

Nerf guns, or Nerf bows? I've seen a lot of girl-gendered bows lately, thanks to The Hunger Games, I guess.

I wonder how did they pick that "cops and robbers" game in the first place...

The kids desire for gendered products or the parents desire for gendered products?

The former is a generalisation, a trend that every right-minded thinker accepts. Deriving the latter from that, unfortunately, leads to a restriction. Witness the beauty of the free market which caters to the mass-appeal middle of the road, ignoring the beautiful anomalies at the edges.

There are plenty of niche products on the market, from microbrews to eco-friendly dog accessories, whole specialty stores. Even more so now that you can order online.

And you can have things custom made. For items like suits or furniture it's not that much more expensive than quality pre-made lines.

And yet now there are more Lego kits than 40 years ago. Maybe there is something among them for the anomal clients as well?

Do you reckon socialism does a better job with providing individualistic toys? Or what alternative to free markets would you propose?

A gendered society

gendered products.

Just because somebody drew a cartoon doesn't make it true. What exactly is supposedly stupid about Lego friends? That it's not about robots and cars and Star Trek? But then Sarkeezian was really condescending about Lego ads that advertised building cars. So I guess we are limited to building gender neutral houses and random heaps of colored blocks to express our individuality?

As for the truth of the cartoon: there are more "neutral" Lego kits than any average kid could possibly afford to buy. Presumably girls weren't buying, that's why Lego made "friends".

I'd prefer my daughter to play with "friends" than no playing with Lego at all, although to be honest I am not really worried.

>Back when we were kids there was only one type of Lego

A web search tells me that whether this is actually true depends on your age in a somewhat odd, nonlinear way. Lego has tried having a product range specifically for girls on and off since the late '70s. Their first attempt didn't last very long but the followups did better. Apparently Lego Friends is the most successful one yet.

Maybe classic Lego was meant for everyone, but actually it has always been far more popular among boys. While the old sets may seem gender neutral on the surface, the appealed much more to boys than girls. Lego have made many misguided attempts to sell to girls, but the recent "Friends"-line is the first time Lego have succeed in capturing a significant market of girls.

I didn't do statistics, but at least I was fighting with my sister on who gets more Lego bricks to play with.

I'm not suggesting no girl ever liked Lego, I thought that would go without saying. But the discrepancy was very significant. Consistently something like 80% of Lego sets were purchased for boys, if I remember correctly.

Of course that meant that there was a large untapped market of girls, and Lego have tried various approaches (mostly failures) to get at better hold in that market.

> Back when we were kids there was only one type of Lego, the type that was meant for everybody.

Lego homemaker predates Lego City. Since there have been Lego themes there were some that were some who were preferred by one gender over another.

Congratulations for making such a great effort in writing that article!

(Whenever I see the praise effort, not achievement meme I make it a point to praise the effort, not the achievement).

Well, the effort here is not that great. He took an existing ad and gave his opinion on it. Not much research or else.

Why are you comparing the effort of an opinion article to that of a research article? That's not how this concept works.

For a historical perspective, LEGO's gender policy in advertising and product development seemed to swing around every 5 Years or so in the 70s.


Compare this to the still great and gender encompassingly written, but still clearly gendered approch from '74 to introduce the homemaker line:



funnily enough the now internet famous introductory text was always cited out of it's context:


There was another version other of the same year clearly aimed at boys (sorry only dutch version here). [1] Correction, its actually quite generic and very inclusive/neutral compared to the 1976 UK version [2]

[1a] http://www.bricklink.com/catalogList.asp?q=97875

[1b] http://worldbricks.com/fr/my-instructions/download/file.html... [pdf]

[2]http://worldbricks.com/en/my-instructions/download/file.html... [pdf]

Sorry don't read Dutch but the pictures aren't 'aimed at boys' in any way at all. Unless you're projecting your own prejudices - trains and trucks are only for boys? Explain!

Sorry messed that up, you're right that the '74 builder catalog was very inclusive/generic but somehow the '76 one overshadowed this already in my memory (similiar models, strictly for lads).


http://worldbricks.com/en/my-instructions/download/file.html... [PDF]

Yet the '74 homemaker one is clearly aimed at girls, and only mentions boys in the foreword. http://helpemptymyattic.co.uk/vintage-lego-little-girls-thin...

My point is LEGO had quite the on/off approach with gender in their advertising for decades already, and yes I like the 1981 one.

I used to enjoy looking at the Lego brochures simply for the scenes they'd planned out and the things that were happening in them, like accidents, cars swerving etc.

I really wanted a Lego trainset but never had one; I did however have the house, a hospital, a racing track, a police station, the docks/port, a mid 1980s spaceship (with "Benny" out of the Lego film), Robin Hood's hideaway, a Napoleonic era series of figures with a rowing boat (can't remember if we had the actual giant boat), a castle of some sort (got the cannons). My brother and I had many many days of happiness building and playing with Lego.

I also had some horses. I have my characters somewhere but I think my mum gave away all of it to my nephew, who can only build from instructions, not from imagination. Hopefully he'll learn to do that.

Comments and picture of the girl as a grownup http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/girl-famous-1981-lego-ad-has-f...

"What happened with Legos, they used to be simple. Oh come on, I know you know what I'm talking about, Legos were simple. Something happened out here while I was inside. Harry Potter Legos, Star Wars Legos, complicated kits, tiny little blocks. I mean I'm not saying its bad I just wanna know what happened."


I'm glad that there are complicated kits to choose from. Sadly my kids don't stay two years old forever.

What I find interesting in old magazine ads like this, is how much text they have, today probably no one would read all that text on an ad

Read Ogilvy on Advertising - makes you think all the (non copy filled) adverts of today are crazy. Copy works.

Anita Sarkeesian has a great couple of videos on Lego's transition from advertising like this, to advertising in a heavily gendered way.



Yeah she has hit a very simple scheme to create her videos: pick some selection that has an arbitrary bias of her choice. Claim on video that "all of x" has said bias. (Another way to describe it would be "anecdotal evidence").

So in a video she would show only gendered Lego, omitting all the non-gendered Lego. Or she shows only video games with scantily clad women, omitting the context (might be portrayed as despicable to mistreat a woman in the video game, but taken out of context you may only see that a women is mistreated in the game), and omitting the zillions of video games that have nothing to do with women or gender at all. That way she "proves" that Lego is sexist and video games are sexist, and I don't know what else (haven't watched all her drivel).

People apparently believe anything that is presented on film.

That person is irrelevant to the matter discussed here.

Lego is now only a 3D jigsaw puzzle, sadly.

Lego Classic has just arrived in the UK but it seems a half-hearted piece of mummery to me.

I hear this a lot. Was I the only kid who would build what ever was on the box first, play with that for a day - break it and then have it all go into a big box?

And all the funny bits people moan about make excellent space lasers.

As a kid, I always found the big box of bricks boring. The sets had all the cool pieces (and still do) and, like you, I'd build what's on the box initially but not long after those pieces just went into the pile to build other cool things.

As a kid I used to have tons of Lego. My dad would always bring a set or two back after being abroad for a few weeks, so I had boxes full of Lego. And they were all specific(jigsaw-like) sets - bulldozers, cars, castles, Indian forts, spaceships, that kind of thing. And you know what? Just because the instructions say you have to build a spaceship,doesn't mean you can't disassemble it afterwards. I remember that I would build something,and next day it was back in pieces, contributing to my huge Lego city or whatever it was that I was working on at the moment. For me, sets were just a fun thing to assemble for a day,and then a source of parts after day one.

My later custom designs benefited from having read instructions and putting together the set as intended several times. They gave me ideas about how pieces _could_ fit together.

I don't mean this as a slight, but to a kid there's absolutely nothing lacking from the modern kits. I'd say that the "half-hearted" part is solely in your perspective now as an adult.

"Lego sets are so uncreative nowadays, I buy a set and then only build what was intended. I'm obviously not the problem." Seriously, those sets and the cool pieces just add many more dimensions to what you can creatively build.

There have been Lego Creative sets available for ages in UK.

I agree that other kits are just a bunch on non-general blocks and tiny pieces.

Reminds me of that article saw on HN https://medium.com/matter/the-man-who-destroyed-americas-ego...

That "discover how you're special" mindset seemed to be a socio-academic theory of the times.

The copy is a play on the first thing an adult would say to the girl: "What is it?"

"What it is, is beautiful."

FWIW, Lego still does sell generic sets today. I just got one for my kids. Stop crying about the good old times already. I can't wait for my kids to grow up so I can buy them Mindstorm :)

Awesome, I recently handed down that 744 set to my son and build the truck on the cover with him.

This is a brilliant kind of emotional branding! Chapeau!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact