I don't know if it's just our family, but we have a lot of Lego sets in our house. That means we have a lot of Lego bricks and Lego people and Lego everything. We even have an entire room devoted to the creations our children have built out of Legos. We call it the Lego room because, well, that's what it is--a room full of Lego creations.
It's hard to say for sure, but there has to be a few thousand dollars worth of Legos in the Lego room. That's what happens when you have four children who ask for Lego sets for every birthday and Christmas for a decade or so.
It wasn't, however, until we took a quick trip to New York City with our 11-year-old daughter and visited the Fifth Avenue Lego Store that we came across the most brilliant thing Lego makes. We'll get to that in a second, but first, if you haven't been to a flagship Lego store, like the one in New York, it's helpful to understand it as the sort of place where you can buy just about anything related to Lego.
You can buy your favorite sets, as well as some that you can't get anywhere else. One of those things you can't buy anywhere else is a custom mini Lego figure that you design yourself.
Forget about sets with 5,000 pieces that take days to build and cost hundreds of dollars. It's pretty simple. You walk up to the counter and pay for a small box. The total amount charged to my credit card was $13.05. Then, you scan the code on the box on a little reader next to a touch display and you can design your character.
You can choose designs or logos for your character's shirt, or add text. I have no idea how many combinations there are, but it seems like there has to be tens of thousands of ways you could customize your mini figure.
You get to pick out your legs, your hair, and an accessory. A giant printer adds your design to a mini-figure torso, and when you're finished, you have a perfect representation of whatever character you wanted to create.
Look, every child has dozens of little Lego characters. In our house, there are mini firefighters and construction workers and pilots. And, let's not forget, characters like Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and R2D2, along with Harry Potter and his friends.
I remember once reading that there were more Lego mini people on earth than the actual breathing human type. That's a lot of mini Lego characters, but none of them are like the one our daughter designed. It's purely a representation of her imagination.
One of the great things about LEGO is that not only can you build incredible scenes with your favorite characters, you can also build just about anything your imagination can come up with. That last part is why this simple $13 purchase is so brilliant: Instead of buying something that someone else dreamed up, it allows people to create something of their own. It allows people to make something personal.
That's actually an incredibly powerful way to create customer loyalty--by letting them be a part of the process of designing something of their own. I don't know how many of these custom mini figures Lego sells, but the printer was running constantly the entire time we were in the store. And every time it finished another mini figure, one of Lego's customers took home something unique--something personal. That's brilliant.