With a tower of LEGO Architecture building block sets at his side, one of the original founders of the Wake Forest University Schools of Business Elevator Competition returned “home” on March 25 to share his journey around the LEGO company and the world.
Colin Gillespie is the senior director of marketing at LEGO direct to consumer. In his role, he serves as the driver for developing LEGO’s global direct to consumer marketing strategy, and is responsible for building innovative consumer experiences.
Professor Stan Mandel, faculty advisor of the Elevator Competition, said while introducing Gillespie, “Nothing makes a professor more proud than seeing one of your students achieve their goals and succeed.” He describes himself as “extremely passionate” about LEGO and joyfully recalls when he got his first LEGO set in 1978. “Love what you sell, sell what you love, and create amazing experiences,” he told the audience of Elevator Competition participants, Wake Forest students, faculty, alumni and guests.
One of those amazing experiences was when LEGO® opened a brand store in Rockefeller Center in New York City. Children of all ages were able to join in on the construction of a giant apple. Gillespie showed a video of the event and explained that like in the Elevator Competition, the idea started with a pitch and grew from there.
Gillespie’s presentation titled “From Turnaround to Transformation” showed how LEGO has gone from an idea born in Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s woodshop in Denmark in 1932 to a multi-national company building toys for children in more than 130 countries. His presentation included details of tough times when LEGO got “away from core competencies” and lost money. Gillespie explained how LEGO became profitable again by setting a clear direction, making a change in leadership, talking to consumers, and “right sizing” by narrowing the company’s focus and outsourcing production.
Today, the world’s children spend 5 billion hours a year playing with LEGO bricks. “Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow and our vision is inventing the future of play,” he said. While handing out LEGO Architecture sets of the Empire State Building to audience members, he said, “I want to make sure that you walk out of here and revitalize that love of building within you. Nurture the child in you. This could inspire something else for you.”