14 Jan The power of social media in shaping corporate behaviour

As one of the most respected and valuable brands in the world, Lego owes a lot to the way it jealously guards its brand and the steps it takes to protect it.

Enter Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident artist, who has faced off with Lego in what became a social media storm. Public outrage over an initial refusal by Lego to provide Weiwei with a bulk order of bricks has now led to the company changing its policy on bulk orders and political involvement.

Ai Weiwei is the subject of the Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei exhibition, currently on show at at the National Gallery of Victoria. As part of that exhibition, Weiwei planned to create a large scale work on the theme of free speech using Lego.

Weiwei posted a series of comments on Instagram and Twitter lamenting Lego’s decision not to fulfil his order, and fans soon came to his aid, offering to donate their own bricks. The powerful final piece is now on show. It features the portraits of influential Australians including Australian of the Year and anti-domestic violence campaigner Rose Batty, journalist Peter Greste, Aboriginal rights activist Gary Foley and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

While this work was made on the strength of public donations, Lego has now said that it would allow anyone to make a bulk order of bricks – as long as they state that Lego does not endorse the end result.

The U-turn by Lego shows how a backlash of public reaction on social media is heard, and acted on, by the world’s biggest brands. And with a much-loved brand like Lego forced to backtrack on its corporate policy, companies are on notice of the power of social media to determine what’s acceptable corporate behaviour and what isn’t.

Mr Weiwei welcomed the decision, tweeting “nice move” and #freedomofexpression.

Source: ABC News.