Dream jobs don’t come much better than Ben Campbell’s: content strategist at LEGO.
Ben Campbell is a young man who has sparks flying out of his head. My grandma used to describe people like him as having “ants in their pants” – can’t stay still, full of ideas, maybe a bit restless. Always looking for the next big thing.
Campbell is a digital marketer and content strategist. His career has taken him from Melbourne to China, Sweden and Denmark. He’s looked after clients in his digital consultancy business and worked in big companies and at major universities. Past colleagues and clients on LinkedIn describe him as “charismatic”, “imaginative” and “motivated”.
When LEGO advertised online for a content strategist last year, Campbell jumped and scrambled. “It was a real whirlwind getting brought all the way to Denmark for a job interview,” he says. “It’s not everyday you travel 27 hours to push your case for a new job. Fortunately, the marketing team thought I would be useful and brought me back. I’m only 12 months in, but so far I’m really enjoying the experience.”
For many young marketers, LEGO is the dream job. It’s not just because its iconic little bricks have stoked every child’s imagination – LEGO is one of the world’s great content brands. The LEGO Movie is one of the most lucrative pieces of branded content ever produced, having taken $600 million at the box office. (The LEGO Batman Movie grabbed a further $400 million.) The privately owned Danish company also produces YouTube videos, a TV show, games and apps, as well as various other forms of highly shareable content, much of it user-generated.
“My role is to add a layer of content marketing and digital marketing to the operations of the creative and product development teams,” he says. “Firstly I’m involved in developing and leading the framework for consistent brand storytelling across the organisation, things like the LEGO tone of voice, and identifying future priority channels and methods to reach our audiences. I [also] support and guide the creative development of assets.”
Campbell is based in LEGO’s countryside headquarters in Billund, 265 kilometres from Danish capital Copenhagen, and is part of a creative team of copywriters, art directors, graphic designers, videographers and photographers. He travels a lot, attending photo shoots and overseeing the production of television commercials. “Sometimes I’ll be sitting in focus groups with young kids, seeing how they behave and react to our LEGO experiences,” he says. “And sometimes I’m just sitting at my desk playing with LEGO bricks.”
Campbell says the most enjoyable marketing roles are those in which you believe in the product wholeheartedly. “I could never sell washing machines or televisions – the LEGO product is truly remarkable,” he says. “I take great satisfaction from seeing the enjoyment on kids’ faces when they interact with our products and digital content.
“I loved LEGO tremendously when I was a kid, and as an adult I’ve come to love the brand even more. LEGO epitomises the ultimate play experience for children that we should be striving to achieve – the combination of creative play, building, education and the all-important concept of screen off-time is just as crucial.”
He sees his biggest challenge as the same one facing LEGO: how can a toy brand stay relevant in an increasingly digital world? “The play expectations of children are constantly evolving,” Campbell says. “It’s imperative that the brand stays focused on efforts to bridge the gap between digital and physical play because we’re fully aware that these are the experiences that modern kids demand and expect.
“At the same time, we need to stay true to the LEGO brand – the values we stand for. It’s a challenging compromise to bring a traditional, family-owned product into the 21st century.”
The Australian way
LEGO is not Campbell’s only work priority. For five years, he had been running a Melbourne-based digital architecture business called Quick Brown Pixel, with a designer and developer. He recently decided to go it alone. “Now I’m constantly on the road and living overseas, it’s more practical to service my clients – and new ones – through my own name and entity [bencampbell.co]. I still have eight retainer clients back in Australia who are mainly in the small- to medium-sized business space. It’s great fun, and lots of cool work across web, social and search.”
Before embarking on his entrepreneurial career, Campbell spent a lot of time at university. After receiving his Master of Communication from Deakin University, he became its head of digital, international marketing. He then moved to the Australian Catholic University to become head of digital content. In the meantime, he studied law at Monash University and was one of eight students to spend eight days in New York as part of its first Global Discovery Program.
Campbell says he learned a lot while in the university sector. “You’re working with a lot of people who are genuinely passionate about delivering a better education experience to students, so it’s easy to jump out of bed in the mornings and go to work,” he says. “From a digital perspective, it can be a little frustrating at times if you’re at a junior level because – to be completely honest – universities aren’t necessarily the brands we look to for digital competence and digital best practice. There is a skills shortage and a lot of universities are doing it wrong.”
He says this knowledge vacuum allowed him to take charge and define a digital strategy. “I probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I was working in another environment.”
“We do a good job of sticking to what we do best – bricks, digital content and short-form entertainment.”Ben Campbell
Overall, he says Australia should be proud when it comes to delivering world-class content experiences. “The concept of brand storytelling is alive and well, and deeply embedded into the marketing infrastructure of many leading Australian brands,” he says.
“Having said that, we can always be better. I think Australian organisations are still trailing the US and the UK, particularly in the area of CX [customer experience]. Although content is now the ‘in thing’ – just like social media was five years ago – we’re heading down the dangerous path of delivering siloed experiences that don’t consider every touchpoint and the experience of the end user.”
He says Australian businesses need to think about creating “360-degree marketing experiences”. “That means getting out of the silos, recognising that there is no such thing as a linear user journey any more, and blending cross-channel marketing at a much higher level.”
Campbell says Australian marketers could take a few pointers from LEGO’s experience. “We [LEGO] recognise our limitations,” he says. “We figured out a long time ago that we’re not the best placed to create all forms of content ourselves, so we outsource the parts that are absolutely essential. For example, much of our video production is done by experts in Los Angeles. We do a good job of sticking to what we do best – bricks, digital content and short-form entertainment.”
He says LEGO has built an international workforce and embraced diversity. “In addition to having an incredibly progressive approach to bringing in foreign talent, the company has developed world-class ‘hubs’ around the world so that we can attract a true diversity of talent,” he says. “This absolutely impacts marketing in a positive way – you’re only ever one email away from a quick Romanian translation, or a fast culture-check on how the content might be perceived in Japan.”
All of this sounds like Campbell, the kid with ants in his pants, has no plans to leave LEGO or Denmark any time soon. “It’s a great brand and I’d like to play a large part in bringing the product and its communications to a new generation of kids,” he says. “I’m not entirely sure if I see myself in Europe forever, but I’m not necessarily desperate to return to Australia. Long term – maybe in 10 or 15 years – I see myself opening up a cafe somewhere warm and spending my days chatting with the locals.
“For a long time I thought I was passionate about understanding audiences from a marketing perspective. I think it’s finally dawned on me that maybe I just like people. Marketing just happened to be part of that.”