“Judging a book by its cover” may not be the best advice when it comes to making friends but it’s one of the most basic principals behind advertising any product or service. Obviously this method of discernment does not always work out in favour of quality, (Mental note: cool cover art aside, “Nerds Like It Hot” is not a book I would recommend to anyone that is able to spell their own name correctly) but in our fast paced consumer world it’s often all we have time for.

And when it comes to buying toys, most adults know little to nothing about the product being purchased beyond the receiving child’s demand for it or how the silly thing looks on the shelf at the local Toys R Us.

Case in point: Lego versus Mega Bloks..

Lego has been around since 1932. They invented the whole idea of the inter-locking brick construction set. They have been named “Toy of the Century” twice. Twice! Heck, they even created the word Lego by inter-locking two Danish words meaning “play and well.” These dudes take the toy construction business very seriously.

So how is Mega Bloks able to repeatedly smack Lego upside the head in sales?

First off, instead of wasting money inventing something totally unique, Mega Bloks identified a proven formula and then ripped it off, modeling their construction bricks on Lego’s construction bricks. Not exactly an example of new millennium genius but certainly effective. Then Mega Bloks spent tons of cash defending itself against Lego’s lawsuits in courthouses around the world. You see, Lego’s patent ran out and Mega Bloks ducked in the side door. Right place. Right time.

Next, Mego Bloks managed to sell their sets cheaper than Lego’s. This is not hard to do when you can avoid the basic R&D costs associated with first creating a product (see generic drugs). Even by standing on Lego’s shoulders technology-wise Mega Blok pieces still don’t fit together as well as Lego’s bricks do. The scale and overall measurements of the various pieces in most Mega Blok sets don’t always match each other, making construction often difficult and usually curse inducing. Even with their sneaky advantages Mega Bloks should be losing this fight on their poor quality alone. But they aren’t. They are beating Goliath and I think it has a lot to do with the packaging.

Mega Bloks’ packaging is brighter, more colorful and much more creatively engineered than anything I’ve ever seen Lego come up with. I can only guess Lego is spending too much time building models instead of figuring out how to sell them.

For example, Lego sells a set that builds a pirate ship and displays it in a square box with a fun, but rather pedestrian action picture of the toy inside. Mega Bloks, on the other hand, sells a similar pirate ship, but they put it into a box shaped and painted up like the very ship contained inside. Which one would you be more excited to receive as a kid? When it looks like fun before you even open the box you know you’ve got a winner on your hands.

For many years Lego had no competition and I think that made them fat and lazy. Also, having the fawning adoration of model builders worldwide might have made Lego feel special but it left their heads swelled and any new ideas homeless. They think they don’t need to prove themselves. Witness Lego’s sad attempt at a packaging spruce-up. They added a sort of 3-D raised letting and picture effect to their boxes. Are they kidding? It’s like bringing a soup ladle to a gun fight. Mega Bloks has pirate sets shipping in human skull-shaped collectable packaging while Lego appears to be reusing old Kleenex boxes.

I feel Lego’s pain. They spent the bucks and the time making their toy the best, just so some new guy could stumble into their house party, snake booze from the fridge, and then proceed to get a date with the hottest girl using some other dude’s best pickup lines. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is.


Lego can keep chanting “quality” and “history” until its blue in the face, but it won’t make a lick of difference if nobody buys their sets. Remember Beta and VHS? The best man certainly never won that one. When it comes to toys, people see the package first and until Lego decides to truly make a game of it Mega Bloks is going to keep smacking them down, and hard.

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