LEGO Group's Strategic Growth and Cultural Integration in the Middle East and Africa: An Insightful Journey with General Manager Kristian Imhof

LEGO Group's Strategic Growth and Cultural Integration in the Middle East and Africa: An Insightful Journey with General Manager Kristian Imhof

Kristian Imhof, the General Manager of LEGO® Middle East & Africa, has been instrumental in driving the brand's transformative growth in the region.

Since establishing a local office in Dubai, LEGO Middle East has focused on expanding its distribution network to leverage the GCC region's prevalent shopping mall culture. This strategic expansion ensures that LEGO bricks are widely available, reaching a broader audience. Additionally, the company has enhanced its retail experiences by creating interactive and immersive environments that attract families and foster a love for LEGO play.

By celebrating local occasions such as Ramadan, Emirati Women’s Day, and UAE National Day, LEGO Middle East has demonstrated its respect for and integration into local cultures. The brand's product portfolio has been expanded to cater to diverse passions enjoyed by people in the region, including vehicles and gaming, and it has also made strides in appealing to adults with sets that resonate with their interests.

Innovative Retail Experiences

Image Source: The Moodie Davitt Report

Under Imhof's leadership, several impactful innovations and initiatives have been introduced. Expanding retail experiences in the UAE and Saudi Arabia has resulted in innovative and interactive store environments that enhance customer experiences. These stores serve not only as points of sale but also as community hubs where LEGO fans of all ages can engage with the brand meaningfully.

The introduction of the LEGO Botanicals range, a series of brick sculptures reimagining flowers, succulents, and bonsai trees, has been particularly successful in engaging both low and high-affinity adults, especially women. This initiative showcases LEGO Middle East's commitment to inclusivity and creativity, aligning with the company's mission to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. Major campaigns, such as those reflecting the immense passion for cars in the Middle East, demonstrate LEGO Middle East's responsiveness to regional interests.

Community initiatives like the #BuildWithEverrryone campaign have leveraged the universal appeal of LEGO play to encourage bonding and inclusivity, reinforcing the mission to inspire creativity and learning through play.

Challenges and Solutions in New Markets

Establishing a presence in new markets like Africa had not been without challenges. Collaborating with local partners possessing deep consumer and retail knowledge was crucial. Imhof said,

We faced logistical and operational challenges in establishing physical stores in new regions, ensuring compliance with local regulations and cultural sensitivities. Furthermore, establishing an efficient supply chain and distribution network to meet the diverse market demand was another hurdle, particularly in addressing import/export regulations and transportation logistics.

Enhancing the online shopping experience was essential to cater to the region's digital-savvy consumers, which involved implementing user-friendly interfaces and secure payment options to ensure a seamless customer experience. Overcoming these challenges required a collaborative approach, drawing on the expertise of local teams and leveraging insights from global best practices.

Commitment to Sustainability

The LEGO Group's commitment to sustainability is evident in its operations in the MEA region. The company aims to make all packaging more sustainable by 2025, specifically focusing on paper-based materials. Transitioning from single-use plastic pre-pack bags to paper-based ones in LEGO boxes significantly reduces plastic waste. Imhof affirmed,

“We have set ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 37% by 2032 and to achieve net zero by 2050. This involves investing in renewable energy sources and enhancing energy efficiency in manufacturing processes.”

Additionally, LEGO Group is exploring alternative materials, having tested over 300 different options, including bio-PE and rPET. In the MEA region, these global sustainability goals are integrated into local operations, contributing to a more sustainable future while meeting regional consumers' unique needs and expectations.

Cultural Adaptation and Engagement

Cultural adaptation is key to LEGO Group's success in the Middle East and Africa. While the product portfolio remains consistent across markets, insights gathered through in-depth research guide design teams in set creation, resulting in a wide range of play and build options. Collaborations with regional partners to co-create culturally relevant experiences and events foster inclusivity and diversity. Customer engagement strategies have focused on celebrating local occasions and tailoring marketing efforts to reflect regional values and traditions.

LEGO® Middle East 2022 Ramadan 2024 Campaign
“We are the only toy brand in the Middle East that has created meaningful Ramadan campaigns for the third consecutive year, resonating deeply with local audiences. This approach has helped us build strong connections with our consumers and establish the LEGO brand as a beloved and respected presence in the MEA region.”

Imhof said.

Future Goals and Strategic Initiatives

LEGO Group's major goals for the next five years in the MEA region include building and expanding its customer base, committing to long-term innovation, deepening collaborations with trade partners, driving sustainability, fostering digital transformation, accelerating brand leadership, and sustaining an innovative portfolio. Engaging communities to be creative problem solvers and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset is a key focus. The company is excited about upcoming projects and new product launches that appeal to MEA audiences, further strengthening its regional presence and impact.

Leadership Insights from Global Experiences

Imhof's previous international experiences have shaped his leadership style, which he describes as adaptable, collaborative, and empowering. These experiences have provided valuable insights into diverse markets, cultural nuances, and consumer behaviors. By tailoring strategies and initiatives to the region's unique dynamics, LEGO Middle East has effectively navigated challenges and capitalized on opportunities. Leveraging lessons from international experiences, Imhof ensures alignment with The LEGO Group's global mission and values while addressing regional needs and preferences. This approach has been instrumental in creating a supportive and dynamic environment within the MEA region, contributing to LEGO Middle East's ongoing success.

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