Lego Ninjago Spinjitsu training camp: Marketing genius and total scam

A few days ago I got this Email from ToysRUs:

ToysRUs E-mail about Lego Ninjago Spinjitsu Training CampIt was insanely well timed. I got it just as I came home from the second evening in a row of being at work late; henceforth, the motherly guilt was peaking for the week. Lego Ninjago Spinjitsu Training Camp! Holy crap – the absolutely perfect way to divert G’s attention from the fact that he hasn’t seen me in days! Woot! (If you’re marketing to working Moms, evidently e-mailing them at 7PM on Wednesday/Thursday is pretty smart.)

So, after being mutually jacked up about this for the past three days, today we made the journey to the “epic” training camp experience. Which consisted of:

-Two folding tables with red vinyl tablecloths
-A few bowls full of Lego pieces
-One plastic Ninjago training ring
-One human “Ninja Master” with headband
-A stack of small Ninjago Training Camp posters

And…a huge pack of kids and parents waiting in line, with armloads of Ninjago crap to buy. Seriously – this two hour event cost them about $100 all in, with staff cost and printing, and they raked in cash in boatloads. GENIUS.

We loaded up, like the rest, with a couple of Ninjas (um, OK, those are for me and @bootyp), our FREE-with-purchase Ninjago Skeleton Chopper (which retails for $3.99 and is worth about $.12), and a $32.99 Lego Prince of Persia set, because they didn’t have the Ninjago set that G wanted. And we waited in line – thankfully only for a few minutes – at the folding table with the red vinyl tablecloth with the human Ninja master, eagerly awaiting the magical revelation of the “new spinning techniques.” (There’s more than one way to spin a ninja, you know…)

But wait. We watched the kids in front of us battle the “Master” and there were no new spinning techniques offered. Say what? So, of course, when our turn came, I demanded – I mean, asked – for the actual training part of the “Training Camp”. Lo and behold, we did learn, for about 90 seconds, about the “Higher Ground” technique (more pieces on the bottom of your Ninja so he or she – yes, there is a token female Ninja in the group – is taller than the competition) and the Headspin (impressive).


Now, mind you, in all honesty I had pretty much lowered my expectations before we went, knowing that it was a trumped up marketing scam. And I figured Griffin would rate the experience a “10″ given that he walked out with a couple of new spinning tips and, more importantly, a new Lego set. But even he says it was just “OK”.

Seems to me, if they are going to include that many exclamation points in one Email, they should at least be set up to provide some “training” without people having to demand – I mean, ask for it.

Lego is one of the smartest marketers out there. They have a kickass product. They have a kickass website with piles of killer video content and games. They know to Email guilt-ridden Moms on Wednesday evening. But, if you’re going to have an event, it’s still all about the experience. Work with your retailers to make it not suck. I know that’s easier said than done, when you have tons of retailers and little control. But there’s got to be a way to provide standards, and do some sort of QA.

Of course we still love Legos. But we would definitely never go out of our way to go to another so-called “Training Camp.”

What do you think? Marketing genius? Or total scam?


  • tom martin

    Great point Sue. Overhype *may* create a single sale… but what’s the chances you’ll fall for that gimmick again.

    Instead, why not do something you truly find valuable, fun and *want* to do again… how more likely are you to respond to that next email.

    They should take a page out of Home Depot’s book… those folks know how to do simple, cheap, in-store promo that tugs in the kids and leads to Dad/Mom buying stuff… lots of stuff. Their little projects (bird houses, tool box, etc) that they let kids come in an build once a month or so are an excellent example of how to do this kind of event marketing right.


    • Sue Spaight

      Thanks, Tom. Love the Home Depot example…spot on the brand, and offering something of real value for the effort people put in to show up. Bam!