Legoland got its launch strategy just right by allowing the media to
roam freely which ensured the right sort of coverage without the need
for a glitzy opening, says James Bidwell, head of marketing for
I wonder if Walt Disney could have ever imagined what he was starting
when, in 1955, he created the world’s first ever theme park in Anaheim
California. Now, over 40 years later, more than 11 million people in the
UK visit theme parks each year and this basic premise remains - the
theme park experience is designed to transport the visitor away from
their everyday routine.
Legoland, which opened on 28 March, is no exception.
Born from a brand with huge heritage and a unique place in the hearts of
the British public and confident that the park could survive even the
severest scrutiny, Legoland successfully allowed the concept to sell
itself. It resisted the temptation of a glitzy, theatrical opening in
favour of giving the media a free rein to relive their childhood by
discovering the park for themselves.
The fact that ‘the children themselves’ opened Legoland firmly
identifies the core target market, and the reactions of the kids was
well documented. Many of the journalists invited to the opening took
their families and their reactions counted for much of the coverage.
Legoland is an extremely visual theme park with some dramatic photo
opportunities. There were some powerful images picked up by both
broadcast and print media, who were allowed to roam free rather than be
shepherded by eager PR people.
The press day itself was the culmination of many months of marketing
ground work and it is this strategic effort which has produced sustained
and measured coverage of Legoland, building not only awareness but also
an understanding of the product’s essence. Much of the launch coverage
focused on the high demand for tickets which clearly encourages advance
bookings and creates a ‘must see’ buzz about the place.
What is now important is to sustain this positive buzz. In marketing
terms I imagine promotions and a heavier advertising campaign will
follow as required to plug in the gaps during the summer season.
The acid test however will be the public’s assessment of the Legoland
experience, coupled with their perception of its value which will
generate word of mouth. Marketing can encourage this, but the bottom
line is whether the product delivers in the eyes of its public. I hope