The Peril of Pink Bricks: Gender Ideology and LEGO Friends

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Purpose-Using the example of LEGO Friends, we investigate the discourses that develop when second-order consumers attribute moral weight to the production and marketing of toys perceived to sharpen and enforce gender norms. Methodology/approach-We analyze reactions to LEGO Friends through a discourse analysis of online data collected from English-language blogs and news sites. The data is coded iteratively within the two primary categories of gender and the market. Findings-We argue that children's toys have reemerged as a moral battlefield where consumers stake out positions on the feminization and sexualization of young girls, forcing companies to take strong ideological stances while competing for market share. We show that in the debate over LEGO Friends, consumers' discursive constructions of moral play were embedded in a heteronormative middle-class ideal that discourages expressions of stereotypical femininity. Research limitations/implications-Our data is limited to a number of online forums blogs and web sites. We do not claim to have exhaustively catalogued the reactions to LEGO Friends, but merely to have explored discursive positions staked by consumers in the unfolding debate. Practical/social implications-This research shows that companies can benefit from addressing second-order consumers' negotiations of brand meanings in their marketing research and campaigns, and thus avoid becoming the next target of a moral panic. Originality/value-Our paper addresses brand meaning negotiations by second-order consumers, in this case buyers of children's toys.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConsumer Culture Theory
EditorsAnastasia E. Thyroff, Jeff B. Murray, Russell W. Belk
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing
Publication date2015
ISBN (Print)978-1-78560-323-5
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78560-322-8
Publication statusPublished - 2015
SeriesResearch in Consumer Behavior


  • Gender
  • Girls
  • LEGO
  • Meaning making
  • Online discourses


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