“What do I care?”

This nihilistic refrain is one that’s become all too common in our postmodern media saturated culture.While it’s ubiquity may be depressing, its validity cannot be denied.

With the innumerable private interests all jockeying for our precious attention, what leads us to break down and actually offer it to any single one of them? One answer may lie in some unexpected places. In your couch cushions, under your floor mats, or maybe a gigantic bin under your kid’s bed. LEGOS.

A recent article from NRP’s Planet Money raised a very interesting question. How have simple plastic bricks with no intrinsic value enjoyed such long and unchallenged success? The answer in short, storytelling.

Legos allow us to take generic, otherwise indistinguishable hunks of plastic and create something unique and distinctly personal. Okay, big deal. Anyone can make an appeal to imagination. It’s ambiguous, and decidedly out of the creator’s hands.

“What is it?

“It’s whatever you want it to be!”

That’s great for modern art, but it doesn’t make the strongest brand platform. If that’s all it came down to, any competitor could come along with some stackable blocks at a quarter of Lego’s markup and clean house, Right? Somehow in 60 years that hasn’t happened. So the answer must be a bit deeper.

The secret to Lego’s continued success in the digital age hasn’t been in peddling imagination. Unsurprisingly, their competitive prowess lies in something slightly less whimsical. Licensing.

Today Lego builds exclusive sets around the most popular franchises in history, and allows users to play their own part in a much larger story. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, DC, Harry Potter… Lego offers a unique way for kids to interact within all of these familiar worlds. This strategy, while being wildly profitable and competitively savvy, has completely shifted their product’s emphasis. Lego, and in fact, the entire persuasive landscape is shifting focus from individual indulgence, to collective participation.

Every brand has their building blocks. They are the foundational features and benefits that comprise any given product or service. Today it’s no longer enough to present your blocks to the consumer and hope they pick them up.

You must set the scene around what you’ve built. Own your story and create a unique individual experience within a familiar shared context. Offer your audience their own part to play, make it significant, and they just might play with you.

If you’ve got toys, share them! Your momma would be proud.

Tyler is Cazarin's master copywriter, but beyond the limericks and powerful headlines lies a marketing strategist to be reckoned with. His passions include branding, the impending doom of old-school SEO, and fine leather shoes.