Originally Posted by moominmamma
What are their marketing dynamics? I honestly haven't seen a single Lego ad or other piece of marketing that I can think of. I find it really amazing that it feels this way to some of you. I wonder whether part of the solution might be to make family choices which limit exposure to marketing, rather than to the toys themselves.
If your kids aren't into Lego, as you've stated, then it's understandable that you've not been exposed to the marketing. But these days any kid who owns a set (or has a friend who owns a set) will find in the box a glossy instruction booklet which invariably includes ads for other Lego products.
Even some of the Lego boxes themselves have "ads" on them. I'm looking now at one of DS' Lego boxes (containing a one-piece switcher track that cost him around $15), and the back of the box shows an elaborate train-yard scene with what looks like $1000+ worth of trains, tracks, a train station, cranes, maintenance vehicles, etc, along with a list of the individual kit reference numbers and the URL for the Lego website for easy online ordering. The side panel of the box also entices kids to join the Lego Club: FREE! LEGO CLUB MEMBERSHIP! APPLICATION INSIDE!" (DS never cared to join, so I can't say for sure but I can guess it's primarily more exposure to Lego merchandise).
And if you ever order anything at all from the Lego website, you'll start receiving in the mail, several times a year, a glossy ad-magazine filled with all their new products.
Personally I don't think Lego is doing anything much different from lots of other companies that market to kids. In our case with DS12, all of the above has been approached over the years by using the ads as an opportunity for open and ongoing family discussions about what marketing is all about.
The only marketing aspect that has really annoyed us, however, is the one that another poster mentioned above: the very brief availability of some of the themed sets. DS is the kind of kid who will think long and hard about how he wants to spend his money. When he was 8 or 9, he was interested in getting an electrified-track train set. He spent a year looking into all kinds of train-set options (not just Lego) and finally decided on the Lego version because it would be compatible with his existing Lego sets. He initially bought one engine, one car, and a basic figure-8 track kit. He'd figured he could expand the set a little at a time. But within a month or two of his initial purchase, the electrified train was discontinued in favour of the RC non-electrified train.
It was, once again, a good opportunity to discuss marketing, etc, and eventually he and DH had fun buying a non-electrified switcher-track and modifying it to electrify it so it would run with his train. But still, pretty disappointing. In DS' case it made him more cautious about ordering such stuff in the future. But I can easily see how a kid with a different personality from DS' might, instead, want in the future to order everything at once before it got discontinued.
Anyways, to the OP, thanks for initiating an interesting discussion. We, too, live a very happy and satisfying life of voluntary simplicity, smack in the middle of a huge city. However, I think there's a lot more to voluntary simplicity than what you buy or don't buy. I think "why" you buy or don't buy is just as important, and that needs to be evaluated with sensitivity on an individual level, according to each specific family member's needs, age and interests, rather than on a blanket, guilt-inducing "our family doesn't believe in buying X".
As an aside, we've found some of the Calvin and Hobbes comics to be great springboards for honest discussions about marketing. "Hey mom, I saw a bunch of products on TV that I didn't know existed, but I desperately need!" LOL! DS still likes to quote that as he approaches me with a catalog in hand and a big grin on his face.