Why Is LEGO Offering Beauty Tips To Little Girls?

legosalonTwo years ago, a LEGO Friends salon playset took one of the top dishonors in the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s annual “worst products” list. The organization called the set “so jam-packed with condescending stereotypes it would even make Barbie blush.” That spirit lives on in a LEGO Friends magazine spread that made parents angry and–if we’re to believe company representatives–is making LEGO rethink their marketing of the Friends sets. Sort of.

While that specific playset is no longer sold, there’s a new salon playset that has a cream-colored floor instead of a pink one, but is still a hair salon for plastic figurines that have plastic molded hair that can’t be styled. That set is part of a storyline featured in a recent insert in LEGO Club magazine (not every club member receives that insert: more on this later) where a character offers advice to full-size human girls about the best hairstyles for their faces. Some parents were offended at the idea of beauty tips in magazines aimed at girls as young as 5.

“My little girl, the shape of her face, and whether her haircut is flattering are none of Lego’s concern,” Sharon Holbrook wrote in the New York Times’ parenting blog. “It wasn’t even her concern until a toy magazine told her to start worrying about it.” Here are the offending beauty tips:

tips

Maybe this page wouldn’t bother anyone if the mere existence of the LEGO Friends hadn’t been so controversial among some parents and observers since it launched. Most people were under the impression that LEGO was for everyone, and the company also used to emphasize this in its marketing materials. Why do girls need pre-written storylines and figurines shaped more like dolls for them to be interested in building things out of plastic bricks?

LEGO plans to take customer complaints into consideration when putting together future Friends inserts. In a statement sent to Mashable, a company representative said:

We appreciate the reader comments on the latest LEGO Club Magazine. Our Club team is always striving for new ways to engage with LEGO fans based on insights we gather from our Club audience. One particular thing that readers asked us to include was an ‘Advice Column.’ In the most recent magazine, we attempted to deliver against this request by elaborating on a current LEGO Friends story line. We sincerely regret any disappointment it may have caused. We value this feedback and have already shared with the LEGO Club team in order to positively impact future stories.

Maybe they could try an advice column about building stuff with LEGO bricks.

The company’s marketing when it comes to Friends content has actually improved in recent years: they used to offer standard and “for girls” versions of the club magazine, which later changed to occasional inserts with LEGO Friends content based on whether the child was identified as a boy or girl when they subscribed. After one parent with a son who likes pink bricks complained, parents can now choose whether to receive the Friends inserts or not, instead of lying about their kid’s gender to receive the insert.