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Why LEGO Is Considered "Gender-Specific"

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Postby RichardAM » Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:10 pm

I don't there's a big list of things boys like/girls like. A new theme to cater entirely to a female audience is maybe a good step in introducing female into Lego in general, but maybe a better question would be 'how can we keep these consumer and fans as they grow-up?'.

Obviously little girls are interested in, well... little girl things, but I think the real problem that Lego should be considering more heavily is what to do with these new fans once they've been roped in, similar questions to those raised in this thread. Once they've played with the Paradisa/Belville/girl theme they'll grow up and more than likely lose interest in Lego- surely the key is ensuring that after they've been attracted to this new gender-specific theme they're enticed further by other themes and ideas of Lego? Lego should be encouraging the female gender as fans across all their sets and themes, rather than merely having them fenced off into their own designated theme, as was the case with Paradisa, and more notoriously, Belville.

Otherwise, the whole attempt to bring in more female Lego youngsters seems both futile and seemingly pointless.
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Postby Munchy » Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:12 pm

RichardAM wrote:'how can we keep these consumer and fans as they grow-up?'


I understand what you're saying here and sympathize with it but let's take a look at the larger picture for a second. How many boys have LEGO's when they are younger and walk away from them in the pursuit of other "boyish" things never to return? LEGO by definition and company statements is a toy intended for young boys. I think this discussion is trying to figure a way to incorporate young girls into that group. If more young girls find LEGO to be fun and entertaining, that in it of itself will produce more female AFOLs or at the very least less of the crowd that is against girls and LEGO's.


That's not to say LEGO couldn't do a better job of incorporating more female influence into the other themes but I think the need is to get them into the toy first so that they can see what else LEGO has to offer. If LEGO just went influenced their current line-up, that wouldn't necessarily bring girls into the toy and it may have the effect of turning boys away.

Just my thoughts.
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Postby Robin Hood » Fri Jun 27, 2008 5:29 am

Munchy wrote:LEGO by definition and company statements is a toy intended for young boys. I think this discussion is trying to figure a way to incorporate young girls into that group. If more young girls find LEGO to be fun and entertaining, that in it of itself will produce more female AFOLs or at the very least less of the crowd that is against girls and LEGO's.


Well, so far as I can think, the main reason that young boys are the main buyers of Lego is that Lego is designed for young boys. Ok, simple enough, fairly straight forward. So, we want to include young girls in this right? And consequentially if they are included, they will stay with Lego as much as the boys. For adult male fans are fans (in most cases) because they were fans as kids. Boys loose interest in Lego as they get older at the same rate as girls who have properly taken to the sport. So get girls at a young age, and the problem of getting them at an older age is solved, more or less.

Which brings back the main point, how to get girls into Lego. As I just said, Lego is designed for young boys, so how do you get young girls in? Simple, you make Lego non-gender specific. Make themes that can be appreciated by both boys and girls. This way, from the company's point of view, should the line fail in attracting girls, it will not be a complete failure. If it appeals equally to boys, they will pick up the slack should the girls show little interest.

That of course brings the problem of how to make a genderless theme. I can't say I know a magic solution, but I know a couple things.

1. Wild West was a brilliant theme in my house. My older brother and me loved the first line of sets, the sheriffs, army dudes, and bandits. My sister (and now, upon rediscovering it, my younger sister) loved the Indians that came out the next year. If my sisters are any sort of barometer, Indians are a girl magnet. So there you are, a theme with girl and guy attractions.

2. Have an equal amount of male and female figs. As has been already brought up, there are way too few girl figs, a turn off for girls. I know, as a guy, that I like to have my heroes guys, so I can imagine it's the same with the girls.

Granted this is a bit rough, but you get my point. If Lego can make some themes that have elements that can somehow appeal to both boys and girls, they have a chance at drawing in more girls, while at the same time lessening the risk of a flop.

Some thoughts.

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Postby Peppermint Pig » Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:36 am

A pet shop would sell. I hope it has a monkey!!!


Robin Hood, I really like your insights.

It's good to remind ourselves that boys tend to like their heroes male, and girls vice versa, and the makeup of a theme can really dictate whether boys, girls, or both sexes can find something to enjoy and build their imaginations off of.

Exo Force suggests a theme that omits any expectation that girls will like it and makes choices that reinforce that: The golden tower, a pricy set in the line with a single female minifig and a robot is exceptional, but it doesn't do anything to attract girls, I believe. :roll:

There's more than one way to portray action, though, and it depends on Lego having a creative and consistently challenging artistic team to bring these sets to life.

For example, you could evoke the spirit of adventurers, which had a great male/female ratio, and rather than emphasize 'adventure', you could instead go with 'mystery/crime/action' theme...

The innocence of the 40s and 50s is a great place to begin, since you can give boys great looking hot-rod car models as well as mobsters. For girls, two words: Nancy Drew. If you have an hour to spare and wouldn't mind a bit of cinema... http://www.archive.org/details/nancy_drew_reporter

Now take a movie like that, reduce it to its components in terms of sets, figs, and vehicles. Put in some short take-it-or-leave-it comic strips as exposition for play possibilities (like they've done for many of the recent lines), while letting the kids fill in details for characters and you really have something! And if you don't think you have enough, go to Archive.org and find a few more movies to get your imagination rolling! There's some possibility with Retro Science fiction. :wink:

Just be sure to balance macho action with non-violent minifig accessories and activities.

My selfish interest is to see new torso designs, hats, etc from the era to give MOC builders more options.

For those who like purist minifig customization and MOC work, I see the following possibilities:

1. More WWII era goodness.
2. "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow", Basically a 'modern-steampunk' avenue that sits between steampunk and post apoc in terms of MOC interest, which is a hybrid of military and space interests.
3. Anything else you can think of in terms of science fiction.
4. Mobsters and elements lending towards James Bond (Agents).

I'm sure you can imagine all the existing themes that would compliment this. In a nutshell, stuff to do that revolves around corner cafe :) . And this concludes my second rant.
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Postby Tower of Iron Will » Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:24 pm

Peppermint Pig wrote:
1. More WWII era goodness.



Can you explain this comment for me? My thought (without a lengthy rant on the horrors of WWII) is that it would be too violent a theme for LEGO, even though as a kid I played "army" with my brother and friends and still have the army men I played with.
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Postby Peppermint Pig » Fri Jun 27, 2008 3:29 pm

Can you explain this comment for me? My thought (without a lengthy rant on the horrors of WWII) is that it would be too violent a theme for LEGO, even though as a kid I played "army" with my brother and friends and still have the army men I played with.
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I said that if Lego created a 'mystery/crime/action' sort of theme as a variant to Adventurers with styles of dress or vehicles from the 40s or 50s (all civilian, mind you), that this would be fodder to improve creations for those who want to do all sorts of WWII era MOCs, which may have military elements or may not. Please note I listed a variety of alternate themes which would be possible by mixing and matching parts between themes and user created movements.

What Lego does and what you do with Lego can be two completely different things. You'll find no disagreement with me on the war issue.
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Postby Bruce N H » Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:11 pm

Munchy wrote:LEGO by definition and company statements is a toy intended for young boys.


I'm not sure where you get this. If you go to the "parents" section of Lego.com, for instance, there are pictures of both boys and girls playing with LEGO, and all of the language is gender-neutral like "building with your child" rather than "building with your son." I think we can agree that LEGO has done a pretty poor job in marketing to girls (hence this thread), but I've never seen any statements from them that they did not want to sell to girls or see building toys as essentially gender-neutral.
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As long as I'm posting in this thread again, one of the things I forgot to say was:
Clickits. Clickits?!???!!!!!????? THIS was supposed to be the thing to get girls into LEGO? I don't know, maybe one of our FFOL members can help on this, but this one seems like a bunch of men sitting around saying - "what do girls like?" "Hey, girls like jewelry, right?" "Yeah, let's make LEGO jewelry!" Didn't they learn from that quickly-failed Scala Jewelry line?

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Postby Munchy » Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:27 pm

Bruce N H wrote:
Munchy wrote:LEGO by definition and company statements is a toy intended for young boys.


I'm not sure where you get this.


Jørgen Vig Knudstorp when he spoke at Brickfest 2006 stated that the focus of the LEGO brand was boys as they were their biggest market. Truth be told I have no idea where the definition part of the above statement came from. I'm sure it was some brilliant epiphany that currently eludes me. :lol:

I should have clarified my statement. Thanks for calling me out! :)
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Postby Robin Hood » Sat Jun 28, 2008 2:58 am

Peppermint Pig wrote:The innocence of the 40s and 50s is a great place to begin, since you can give boys great looking hot-rod car models as well as mobsters. For girls, two words: Nancy Drew. If you have an hour to spare and wouldn't mind a bit of cinema... http://www.archive.org/details/nancy_drew_reporter

Now take a movie like that, reduce it to its components in terms of sets, figs, and vehicles. Put in some short take-it-or-leave-it comic strips as exposition for play possibilities (like they've done for many of the recent lines), while letting the kids fill in details for characters and you really have something! And if you don't think you have enough, go to Archive.org and find a few more movies to get your imagination rolling!


And I quite like your insights. I must say you have sparked something in me, not sure what, but good so long as it was not that spaghetti sauce.

A detectiveish theme would be really cool, as you said, along the lines of Nancy Drew. And if the detective was a female, that might be awesome. And 40's and 50's things would be great, espicially a mobster. Ok, I admit I am a guy and think like one.

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Postby Bluesecrets » Sat Jun 28, 2008 3:15 am

Clickits. Clickits?!???!!!!!????? THIS was supposed to be the thing to get girls into LEGO? I don't know, maybe one of our FFOL members can help on this, but this one seems like a bunch of men sitting around saying - "what do girls like?" "Hey, girls like jewelry, right?" "Yeah, let's make LEGO jewelry!" Didn't they learn from that quickly-failed Scala Jewelry line?


To be honest, if you looked at the girl's toy section at the time, there were several jewelry making kits. There still are. Girls do indeed enjoy making jewelry. And a lot of big girls really like to wear jewelry.

Was it the best way to try and get girls into LEGO? I don't know. I'm not a business person.

I know why I build. I enjoy it. I had bricks when I was five. My cousins had Lincoln Logs. I built. I liked it. My parents weren't the type to restrict things I did because they were girl activities or not. In fact my sister builds also.

Not all girls like pink. Not all girls like princesses. Not all girls only like dolls. Not all girls like Barbie. Not all girls play house. Not all girls like horses. Not all girls like cats. Not all girls think frogs and bugs are icky. Not all girls are anti-combat.

You want more girls to build then make sure pre-schools let them, the toy stores put LEGO in the middle section, and maybe have a few more girl figs.

Look around, the number of girls at here, at cons, at other message boards, and at bricklink is more than you would expect and seems to be increasing.

Is LEGO gender specific? It doesn't appear that way to me.
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Postby FirebenderDude2 » Sat Jun 28, 2008 5:12 am

I agree with all of this, but I will add something:

Don't make stuff too pink.
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Postby Peppermint Pig » Sat Jun 28, 2008 6:50 pm

FirebenderDude2 wrote:I agree with all of this, but I will add something:

Don't make stuff too pink.


Agree, though I like seeing more pink parts!

One of my favorite Lego builders is DecoJim, and this model of his suggests a style which Lego could employ for non-pink sets to attract girls:

Art Deco Miami Hotel
http://www.mocpages.com/image_zoom.php? ... otel07.jpg
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Postby Karalora » Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:49 pm

I could write whole books about this topic, so I'll try to sum up my thoughts:

I think Lego tends to come across as a "boys' toy" because that's how we are used to thinking of building sets--construction is a very "manly" job...therefore toys that replicate the construction process are for boys. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but there it is.

I don't know how true it is that girls don't enjoy conflict-driven scenarios. Certainly that wasn't the case with me, my sister, or any of our friends, all of whom gravitated to the action-adventure genre from a very young age. What I do observe is that girls also enjoy non-conflict scenarios, while boys are more likely to want all-action, all the time. I also know that most boys are conditioned to have a morbid fear of playing with anything that could be construed as a "girl" toy. So if making more of an effort to appeal to girls is not guaranteed to bring them in, but runs the very real risk of alienating the established market, obviously the decision-makers are going to take the safe route.

Someone earlier in the thread mentioned the possibility of a fairytale-based adjunct to the Castle line. I think that would be terrific on its own merits, not just for the potential appeal to girls. Right now Castle is very heavy on the war theme, and I would like to see it delve into other important medieval fantasy aspects like beauty, romance, and mysterious magic. They wouldn't have to lose the conflict, either--all the best fairytales involve truly nasty villains that must be killed or otherwise defeated by the hero.
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Postby Draykov » Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:49 pm

As the father of a 5 year old girl, I find this conversation fascinating. :)

Although exposed to System scale first, Belville was a pretty big draw to my little girl when she saw it. I find System to be better overall due to Belville’s overuse of groove/peg elements, giant bricks (24x24), trans-pink and ungainly baseplates. Since she showed genuine interest in Belville, I didn’t discourage it, but I did my best to gather as many Paradisa sets as I could to balance things out. She plays with both, sometimes simultaneously, but what seems to hold her interest most is the System scale minifigs and their accessories…particularly those of the feminine gender. When I buy her a City set, the first thing she wants to do is replace male minifig heads with female ones. While she does get enjoyment out of making her own creations (particularly out of dad’s collection while he’s trying to sort…what few purple and pink pieces I have tend to stay towards the top of their respective sort bins), the figures are the most appealing thing to her. I’m hoping that as her motor skills and grasp of spacial concepts improve, she’ll become even more interested in what kinds of things she can build for her LEGO peeps.

My take on Belville is that it’s a product trying to fight in the same class as Polly Pocket and Barbie, and while moderately successful, I’d prefer it if LEGO would stick to what it is: a building toy that facilitates nearly endless play possibilities. This type of toy should appeal to all kids regardless of gender. That said, Belville has little girl market appeal in my house, even though dad tries to steer things in a more System oriented direction.

Lamanda2 wrote:Or perhaps due to possible unsuccess with the earlier "Paradisa" line, they don't want to march forward in thois direction?


Was Paradisa a poor seller? It seems like a pretty popular line now, specifically because of its large civilian minifig population and inclusion of traditional elements in a non-obnoxious shade of pink. Of course, my impression may be a bit self centered…I love the line because even 5+ years after it ended, it was the perfect way to introduce my daughter to System scale LEGO and she loves it (“pool party with ice cream” is a common scenario in our home).

Bruce N H wrote:-I think it is a huge mistake that the (IMO overly) 'girly' theme, Belville, isn't fig scale. This makes it that much harder for those girls who do get into these to transition to other themes. Also, I never see Belville sets on the shelves of Target etc, so it seems that LEGO isn't doing enough to push this to distributors.

Solutions:
-more girl figs
-more non-conflict sets - more homes, businesses, things like a circus or zoo theme
-reinstatement of Paradisa as a fig-scale girl-centric theme
-I'd love to see fairy tales as a castle sub-theme. We could get good castly settings but also perennial favorites of younger girls like Cinderella. This could be a Disney tie-in or not.

Bruce


As I mentioned above, my daughter seems to have no problem shifting between Belville and System and, in fact, will sometimes mix the two in a battle of girly giants vs. well equipped midgets. But, I definitely like the idea of including more female figs in lines like City because that seems to be what most interests young girls (at least in my house). I’d also love to see the return of Paradisa…if not as an entire theme, at least as a single token “girl” set each year.

wobnam wrote:So.. what should they do?

Focus on including, not dividing. I don't mind a "girl theme", but it has to be as compatible with other themes as possible... More than a girl theme though, of course, like everyone else I'd like to see more sets in existing themes (especially City) that doesn't have the conflict/action focus. More gender-neutral themes would also be nice...


That seems like a plausible and marketable "everybody wins" scenario to me. Just to shake things up, I’d like to see a set that was stereotypically “cool to boys” like a race car or jet plane…something with surefire marketability…and then give it a female driver/pilot.

Peppermint Pig wrote:3. Fix the ratio. A 13 to 6 female to male minifig ratio to make up for the situation. They don't have to all be pink either!


I don't know that it even needs to be that drastic…I’m not asking for 50/50 parity, just a little more inclusion of female figs would be welcome.

Peppermint Pig wrote:Think Chevy Chase Vacation


Metallic Pea brick? :)

Baites wrote:Take the paradisa theme. It was minifig scale, but was dominated by pinks and cream colours. While these sets added to my colour palate as an adult builder, as a child it was too girly for me. They could have included more of the standard colours to even out the look.


There was also a whole lotta white and old gray, but I can see where a 10 year old boy wouldn't want to be seen purchasing a Paradisa set.

Munchy wrote:None of their freinds play with LEGO's.

Get around that problem and we'll see an upswing in female participation in our hobby.


I think LEGO sets that have the more traditional style of sets we saw in the 80s/early 90s with gender neutrality or even the occasional bias towards feminine interests (for instance, a Girl Scout river rafting trip or the occasional pink flower delivery van) might be a better solution to that problem compared to things like Belville or Clickits.

There is some hope though. Castle and the forthcoming Pirates themes in particular seem to be heading towards a more balanced ratio of female to male minfigs. We can only hope the trend continues in other themes as well.
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Postby Karalora » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:15 pm

Referencing the off-topic conversation in the thread about the Queen minifig:

I think part of the problem with marketing to girls is not just a dearth of female minifigs, but the way the female minifigs that do exist tend to be handled. The Princess in the current Castle line, though described as brave in her blurb on the LEGO website, is presented in the actual set as a damsel in distress. I haven't picked up any of the Agents sets, but from what I can tell there is one female "good guy" and one female "bad guy," and the "good gal," Agent Trace, is a damsel in distress. Almost all the reversible female minifig heads have a "scared" face as the alternate, while the reversible male heads are more likely to have a "fierce" face as the alternate. We got two new female minifigs with the Castle Advent Calendar, which is great, but of the two, one (the barmaid) has a happy/scared reversible head, and the other (the witch) is a villainous female stereotype. For a toy that's supposed to be about stimulating the imagination, these sets sure don't give kids much to work with when it comes to roles for female characters.

I think it also doesn't help girls get involved in the hobby to have the female minifigs in most lines found only in the $50+ sets. If we assume, not unreasonably, that girls who haven't previously been interested in LEGO will develop their first tentative interest in a set with a female minifig, then it's a problem when such sets are the expensive ones. Kids often pick up and drop hobbies very quickly, trying to figure out what they really like, and most parents are understandably reluctant to drop a large amount of money on something that their kid might not stick with. I think more girls would get into LEGO if they didn't have to blow their parents' entire birthday present budget on a single set just to get a female minifig to identify with.
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