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05 November

Digital Transformation Doesn’t Have to Be an Identity Crisis


With an ever-quickening rate of technological change and new platforms emerging just as fast, it can be tough for businesses to adapt. Rather than reinvent the wheel, legacy businesses should strive to be themselves.

When it comes to digital transformation, legacy businesses are in a uniquely tight spot: they must consider how to provide new, innovative experiences while retaining the character, image and customer relationship that have worked so well thus far. In some cases, rigid brand standards and internal reluctance to change can squander customers’ relationship with even beloved brands. So how does one invest in digital transformation without losing what made them unique and successful? 

Take stock of customers’ needs and how you can meet them.

The first step in adopting a digital strategy is to keep a customer-centric focus. How can digital platforms add value for them on top of your existing IP and products? Which of your customers’ needs are unmet given the channels that are available to you today? In addition to focusing on customer habits and needs, you should keep an eye on competition for inspiration, benchmarks and to see where possibilities lie. Are there any ways you can provide an even better experience than them?

When envisioning the experience that you want to give customers, avoid a common pitfall that befalls some brands: the dubious assumption that digital transformation solely involves a flashy site or app. In fact, digital transformation is a multifaceted process that will require you to restructure the way you do business. So rather than just invest in a new website or app experience, you’ll need a much more integrated approach to how your core message is amplified across several touchpoints, media and other messaging. This also means restructuring your team a bit. One example of changes you might implement includes marrying your marketing and IT teams to ensure a smoother user experience on the web.

Use your stature to your advantage—but don’t be afraid of change.

Old habits die hard, but legacy businesses have one advantage over newer ones: decades of cultural relevance and consumer trust that they can draw upon when asserting themselves in a digital space. Take, for example, one of the most iconic toy brands of all time: LEGO. When children’s attention shifted from physical toys to smartphones and iPads, LEGO wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The big, bad wolf of digital media failed to huff, puff and blow the LEGO-brick house down. Instead, the Danish toymaker chose to follow the wind and invest heavily in apps, videogames and film. The digital transformation effort has proved so successful that it’s today regarded as the “Apple of toys.”

Niels B. Christiansen, LEGO CEO, mentioned in the LEGO Play Well Report 2018 that “today’s children are seamlessly merging what’s real and what’s virtual, reinventing play in ways people of my own generation could never have envisioned.” This inspired the brand to similarly blur the lines between physical and digital experiences. “We at LEGO are embracing that fluidity in play,” added LEGO CMO Julia Goldin, “and we want to have a bigger role in a child’s development” both online and off.

LEGO’s sophistication in digital platforms culminated in Nexo Knights, a toy franchise designed to hold children’s attention across an entire ecosystem of experiences and media including a TV series, a mobile app, retail VR experiences and a web game. The robust campaign introduced children to the world of the toy series—but even with the bells and whistles of a VR game and mobile app, the focus was still on the boxes of brightly colored, plastic bricks that kids could dive their fists into.

"A lot can be lost about the product in a shift to digital."

Sander van der Vegte

Head of MediaMonks Labs

Some things simply aren’t replicated digitally, according to Sander van der Vegte, Head of Labs at MediaMonks Labs. “From the feeling of the bricks to the sound of them clicking together,” there are many physical elements to the beloved brick toy that would make it impossible to replace the physical aspect of play. The big question to consider with digital transformation is how digital can augment the experience or thing that people already love about your brand.


See how we pieced together the Nexo Knights launch brick-by-brick.

Don’t cling to legacy business models, but enhance them in a smart way.

Clinging to a legacy business model can be suicide amidst changing consumer habits. Companies that are early in the digital transformation process can prioritize tools, platforms and features that fit within their existing business model rather than try to reinvent the wheel or deny the changing tide of customer needs.

One aspect of the Nexo Knights campaign that shouldn’t be overlooked is that it invites customers to visit and explore LEGO retail stores in a couple of different ways—despite the fact that most toy sales are happening online rather than off. What sounds like a bad idea has proven fruitful for the brand. A keystone of the campaign is the Nexo Knights VR experience, which lets customers literally step into the IP’s world as soon as they walk through the doors of a LEGO store. After they became acquainted with the product, children were able to find power ups at stores that they could scan into the Nexo Knights app, enhancing their digital experience with in-store visits. With both assets, the brand leveraged digital tech to enhance brick-and-mortar retail and to encourage kids to see the products in-person. Who said retail was dead?

Digital transformation can certainly be intimidating—it forces you to take a long, hard look at the way you form relationships with customers and can even cannibalize your product. But adopting a digital strategy doesn’t have to result in an identity crisis. Sometimes the best strategy is to be yourself.

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