In Denmark it’s no secret that Lego is Danish. But although the producer of toy building bricks is a global brand, its nationality is one of the company's best kept secrets abroad. And Lego wants to keep it that way.
Lego employees are asked to downplay everything that can connect its products with Denmark when marketing abroad. According to Lego’s management, being a Danish brand gives more headaches than benefits on the global stage.
“In principal, we see Lego as a universal concept that is equally relevant for children in Seoul, Munich or New York,” Mads Nipper, Lego’s head of marketing, told Berlingske newspaper. “So promoting ourselves as a Danish company is something we have never done and won’t be doing in future either.”
Germans think it's German
Lego’s strategy not to promote its national background means that many foreigners are surprised to learn that company is indeed Danish. And while the company doesn't hide that fact – its address is clearly listed on its website – Mads Mordhorst, a lecturer at Copenhagen Business School, argues that a company can benefit from hiding its national identity.
“It is a clear advantage that Germans believe that Lego is German, because most parents want to rear their children in line with the nationality and culture that they are a part of,” Mordhorst told Berlingske. “They can even feel pride by giving their kids something that doesn’t come off as foreign, but national and close to heart.”
At the same time the toy producer reduces the risk of being drawn into political issues and possible boycotts, as was the case with dairy giant Arla during the Mohammed Cartoon Crisis.
“The Mohammed Crisis clearly showed the trouble that companies can experience if they promote their brand too close to their national identity. The more of a national identity you have, the greater the risk of ending up in the midst of political conflict and facing a boycott," Mordhorst said.
Some companies can profit from promoting their Danish identity, but if they, like Lego, already enjoy a strong brand then Martin Roll, an international branding consultant, argues that it would be pointless to begin flaunting one’s national roots.
“Lego’s brand is strong enough as it is and it wouldn't improve much by waving the crown or Dannebrog [Danish flag], so it makes sense not to make a big deal out of coming from Denmark,” Roll said.