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LEGO turns 80: Brand storytelling at its best

LEGO turns 80 this month and in tribute of the occasion, they have created a 17-minute animated short film sharing the history behind their iconic bricks. At 17 minutes, the film is rather long for the typical brand-inspired film, particularly considering the ever-shrinking attention span of the average person. And yet, the video has been watched by well over 2 million people. I don’t know about them, but I watched the entire video. All 17 minutes worth.

The film is a great example of brand storytelling done exceptional. A few of my thoughts on why:

  1. The founder’s story: tying any brand story back to the company’s origins (which are usually humble and involving personal hardship) tends to be interesting, especially when they are tied to a person who endured and persevered through hardships as those overcome by Ole Kirk Christiansen, the founder of LEGO. A strong founder’s story is inspiring, relatable, and even heart-wrenching. At its best, bringing a founder’s story to life is a powerful tool in strengthening emotional attachment of fans, and establishing a tie with those who are not yet fans. LEGO’s founder is someone that fans can relate to, cheer on and hope does well… even when we know he eventually must, as we know what LEGO is today.
  2. Emotive story themes: Personal difficulty, perseverance, hard work, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to quality – the hallmarks of a brand that every customer can get behind, and ones that not every brand can attest to. LEGO has wrapped layer after layer of their brand story in these elements, making the extra effort to tie their commitment to quality to the craftsman story of the original wooden toys LEGO created. Smart, because carpentry is something a customer can easily relate craftsmanship to. More so than the plastic block.
  3. Personal narration: The film is narrated by Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the grandson of Ole Kirk Christiansen. Initially, the narrator is unnoticed as just a voice, but eventually, it’s subtly and then not too subtly revealed that he’s a member of the family. Strong, because with the close familial ties to not only the founder but also LEGO, the narration, founder, and company suddenly become even more relatable and relevant. We’re listening to a man tell the story of his grandfather’s start and slow establishment of his company. Even though Kjeld is no longer the President and CEO of LEGO, it doesn’t matter. It’s still his family’s company, and as fans, we are more closely tied to his story because it is told through his eyes.
  4. Sincerity and authenticity: the story is told in a matter-of-fact sort of way that is approachable, simple, and authentic without any bells and whistles. Not to say that every story should be told in this way, but stories rooted in authenticity further resonate with fans. They are also more believable.
  5. Alignment to brand values: Alongside the story themes, which are compelling, and also selected in close alignment to LEGO’s brand values, the way LEGO’s story is told – methodically without too much excitement or embellishment – is also closely aligned to LEGO’s brand values. A brand story should always be consistent with the brand values and positioning. It seems obvious, but surprising how often it’s not well executed.
  6. Informative: Even for the biggest LEGO fan, the film offers you something new about the company you may not have known before. Did you know that LEGO comes from the Danish words “leg godt” for “play well”? LEGO also means “I put together” in Latin – a lucky, unplanned aspect of the name.

Apart from these aspects, the film is, of course very well executed in a Pixar-style animation. That level of quality in a video always helps.

In any case, happy 80th birthday, LEGO. I hope there are many more years of playing well to come.

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Recharge at Amich Lake

Several months ago, we were invited to go spend a weekend at a friend’s cottage on Amich Lake. As is often the case, the weekend was planned so far in advance, we had no idea what might be demanding of our time and attention when it finally came. As it turned out, the timing of our cottage get-away landed squarely in the midst of a particularly busy week amongst a slew of colliding deadlines. I found myself struggling. To go or not to go?

The need to pause for a recharge usually goes without saying after a particularly busy spell, but it often goes ignored in the midst of one. The busier the time, the bigger the drive to postpone the break until later… when you can afford it. But sometimes, the less it feels possible to take the time, the more it’s probably needed. It was definitely the case for me. In the end, I went, and I am so glad I did.

We were warned the drive would be long. An estimated 3.5 hours from Toronto. Our friend wasn’t bluffing. Between the usual cottage traffic and a must-stop at the infamous Webers burger joint on the way, we arrived at nearly 1AM after four hours of driving… but was it ever worth it.

The long-time family owned cottage compound awaited us. And yes, I said “compound”. Upon arrival, we quickly saw that this wasn’t your average cottage on a lake. The property housed several cabins of varying arrangements that could sleep anywhere from two to eight, plotted in close proximity of the lake, washrooms, and the main house. A boathouse contained a games room and several more rooms and bunks. All in all, we were told the property could sleep up to twenty-four people comfortably.

The main house itself was a beautiful three-storey lodge with roomy ceilings, a spacious family-centric kitchen and dining room, and small hide-away nooks built into different parts of the house. Large windows let in streams of sunlight, and the top floor acted as a natural ventilation system with windows that drew out the warm air from below and pulled in the cooler air from the outside. Decor was a tasteful rustic: everything from the enormous elk antler chandelier in the living room (which was made by collecting shed antlers, by the way – no elk were harmed in the making of the chandelier) to the birch bark lamps and beams.

However, perhaps the best part about the property was the nature and ability to immerse in it. The nights suffered from none of the light pollution of the city, and the sky was deep with millions of stars. The air was crisp, fresh, and rich from the oxygen pumped out by the trees in the area, and the lake pristine. Complete peace. I believe I slept more in the one weekend than I had for weeks. Incredible.

For our puppy, the weekend meant her first encounter with a body of water. Days were filled with new sights, smells and endless exploring through the trees, running in the grass, sniffing the waters edge… rolling in beaver poop. In other words, doggie heaven.

Does life get better than this?

I really don’t think it does. And it really can’t help but bring a certain perspective. Something about pausing to breathe and allowing the body to recharge. And when it seems like you can’t afford to take the time to slow down to recharge – it’s likely the opposite is true. You really can’t afford not to. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you. And if nothing else, your puppy will.

Your Network Visualized

LinkedIn Labs has just recently created a nifty tool that visualizes your network. Each dot represents a person, with the size of the dot varying depending on that person’s influence as a connector in your network. Lines represent relationships between people. Groups of people who know each other are clustered together and colour coded – different colours for different groups. Mine came out looking like a jellyfish.

What’s yours look like?

Thank you to our resident genius, Christopher Berry, for telling me about it.

3D printed “magic arms” makes arm movement possible for 2-year old, Emma

Little Emma Lavelle was born with a genetic disorder, arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), which causes stiff joints and very underdeveloped muscles – meaning Emma would never be strong enough to lift or use her arms.

Enter the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), created by Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. The device was a combination of hinged metal bars and resistance bands that together could prop up the underdeveloped arms of children like Emma. The benefit? The WREX would allow children to finally be able to hold up and move their arms independently. Playtime and feeding were now possible. As luck would have it, Emma’s mom was present at a conference where members of the research and design team were giving a presentation, demonstrating its uses. In the demonstration, a boy with underdeveloped arms was able to use his arms with the support of the WREX.

Could this be the solution they were looking for?

However, after discussing and meeting Emma and her parents, the Nemours team found that their WREX device was far too big and heavy for the small, two year old girl. It was also designed for use with a wheelchair, and Emma could walk on her own.

The solution: their Stratasys 3D printer. They normally used the printer to make prototypes of their designs, this time, the printer would be used to make the real thing. And what a success! Not only could the parts be customized for Emma’s size, but the new WREX was now light enough for Emma to walk around with and to use. Playtime and feeding became possible, and most of all, she could now hug her mom.

A sea of burlap: The rustic country wedding and wholesaler that would

My man and I recently got married and from the beginning of our planning process, we knew we wanted a laid-back country barn wedding. It meant big open space, family-style food, beers all around, and décor and table dressings that oozed rustic comfort. What else to say rustic than burlap?

Somewhere along the line, I got the brilliant idea of sourcing our burlap and cutting it down for our table runners, favours, and other things… myself. So, a few months before the wedding, I started my search. Who knew there were so many different types and weaves of burlap! After getting a pile of samples in, I chose one and did the calculations of how much we’d need, then visited a few fabric stores in our area. Nadda. No one had what I wanted. So, I tried a few online wholesalers. The burlap tended to come from too far away and the shipping costs were quite steep – for the amount I needed, shipping nearly cost more than the burlap.

Then, I did a search for “burlap wholesale Toronto”. And that’s when I found them: Nusso Textiles. Read more

Humans Behaving Badly

I am a host with AirBnB, and have had the misfortune of accepting a bad guest. That said, my experience with this guest is nowhere as terrible as the experience of another far more unfortunate host that had her San Francisco property vandalized, looted, and destroyed.

No, in my case, it is merely a case of a human behaving badly. But still, what I’m astounded by is how disruptive one person is still able to be and how easy it is for communication to break down when one person is not open to anything external to their viewpoint.

As a little context, this particular guest was traveling to Canada from Australia. My error was in accepting her booking directly, without asking for additional information and communication. And because of my error in judgement, my last 24+ hours has become infinitely more challenging… and I have another nine days to go.

Read more

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