Video - Peter Espersen at TEDx Transmedia 2012 - ‘The New Campfires of Community’


Peter Espersen is the Head of Online Communities for The LEGO Group focusing on the 13+ age group. He spearheads online community and social media to engage teen and adult fans of LEGO, and works closely with a wide range of business units across the company.

At TEDx Transmedia, Peter talked about how brands and businesses must adapt to new technologies and forms of communication to continue to engage fans and customers.

If your business is based on something where a dominant technology has emerged you must push adapt or you’ll implode.

Peter Espersen, TEDx Transmedia 2012, Rome

Three rules for interacting with your community:

1. Understand the people with passion and “fire” - just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they are not there.

2. Release control – it’s scary but necessary! Simply let it go.

3. Drop your tools, and make new ones that work in the reality you’re in..

Peter Espersen, TEDx Transmedia 2012, Rome.

'Brands shouldn't act like the uninvited and egotistical guy at a party when they're online.' Q&A with Online Community Lead at LEGO and TEDx Transmedia 2012 speaker Peter Espersen

Peter Espersen is the Head of Online Community and Community Engagement at LEGO and has incredible insight and experience when it comes to understanding the potential to celebrate brand communities in digital space.

This Q&A is a must read for anyone interested in new angles on how to work in social media and online communities.

To see Peter speak live on the TEDx stage, register here

Hi Peter, what’s it like working for LEGO? What do you do there?

I currently work with LEGO fans and their communities, creating experiences with our 13+ fans. These experiences tend to be co-created with the fans. I’m so fortunate to work with a team of very passionate and talented colleagues and together we make a lot of things, such as:

Did you own LEGO as a kid?

You bet I did – here’s a picture where I’m not very happy, because my little sister is trying to get hold of my LEGO bricks!

I had a lot of different things, my favourite set was 375 – the Yellow Knights Castle. It was not my mom’s favourite; she had to fix the drawbridge with thread quite often. 

What’s the best thing you’ve ever made with LEGO? 

I’ve made many things but I think my castle display featuring a makeshift catapult made with my sisters hairpin was exciting. But I must admit, I’m not nearly as good as the LEGO fans.

The Pixar-like LEGO video celebrating its 80th birthday has gone viral. What’s the secret to a viral success?

I think it’s the honesty and the fact that it’s a wonderful story of the passion and hard work that went into making the toy of the 20th century. 

But normally the LEGO fans make far more viral content. The top 10 videos tagged LEGO on youtube have about 100 million views – and we did not make any of them.  

How did you get involved in building communities online?

I’ve participated in online communities from very early Internet days, and in many different forms: Multi-user-Dungeons (MUDs), Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), chat rooms and other forums around my interests. 

It excited me a lot to connect with people through work who had the same passions as me, and exchange opinions and ideas with people from around the world. 

How do you go about engaging kids, teens and adults in online content?

We only engage kids on This is because we take security very seriously, and we need to be sure that we create a safe environment for the kids.

We engage 13+ users on one of our many platforms You Tube, Facebook, and especially in initiatives such as our social bookmarking service ReBrick, and our Crowdsourcing initiative LEGO CUUSOO. But we have many interesting offerings, like the MINDSTORMS Robotic Communities, and tool like LEGO Digital Designer that allows users to virtually build LEGO creations with any brick they want. 

What are some of the myths of social media and online community management?

I detest the term “Community Management.” About 50 per cent of the LEGO fans have higher than a Bachelors degree and all of them create amazing things with our bricks as a vessel for storytelling and creation. You just don’t manage these people. I prefer to co-create, amplify and celebrate them. We usually say, that we’re fans of the LEGO fans. 

I think there are many who don’t understand that it takes time to create communities – you can speed it up with money and a few other things, but if you want a community like the ones you see surrounding the LEGO Group or Harley Davidson, it takes time, sincere interest and a lot of hard work. 

Finally, there is a tendency from brands to engage in the social space by acting like the guy you went to high school with, who showed up at your parties uninvited, drank your beer, and always talked about himself. Did you want to talk to that guy then? It hasn’t changed has it?

What’s the secret to effective online and social media communication?

I think you need to have the right plan, and the right people. 

It’s important that you know what you want, not just get a million likes on Facebook, open a Twitter account and start a community programme because you competitor has it. It’s what you do with your relations in social media that counts. Why not use it to get closer to your consumer and learn more about them, tap into their knowledge or amplify their excitement?

Reaching out to your audience on the web, or in general, is something that requires empathy and insight into who you’re communicating with. Some companies let an intern run their Twitter account unsupervised. But would you let an intern go on CNN? The audience and the stakes are just as high in the digital space. 

How do you spot online trends?

I tend to spend a lot of time online, but I also exchange a lot of opinions with my network offline. Further it’s also good to look at related industries and follow the right people on Twitter. 

The theme of this year’s TEDx Transmedia, WEKids, is about harnessing child-like wonder and courage to make media that has a social impact. What do you see as the potential of that approach? 

There are many terms that describe child-like behavior: Peter Pan Complex, Kidults, etc. I’d like to turn this upside down. Near where I grew up, there was a graffiti piece stating: “Adults, are kids that have gone insane.” That’s probably how I view it. 

The subheading is Dreamers, Geeks, Mindshifters; which do you most identify with and why?

I’ve probably shifted my mind, and admitted being a Geek that dreams :)

On a serious note, I think I fit in the Mindshifter and Geek category. 

What did you want to be as a kid? What were your dreams and aspirations?

I wanted to do something that I liked. I never dreamed of being a LEGO employee or a soldier like boys typically do, even though I’ve become both later in life [Peter was a soldier 15 years ago and is a veteran from the Balkans]. The one thing I was scared of growing up, was that I had to work 8-10 hours a day with something that didn’t interest me. 

LEGO is about play, what do you think is the role of playing in life? 

Playing and tinkering with things is human nature. I think playing is an important way of expanding your mindset and relaxing. You know what they say: All work and no play…

What’s been the most fun you’ve had with LEGO and why?

There are so many fun episodes, I cannot single out one.

What are some of the challenges and also benefits of giving inanimate objects like LEGO a life online?

I think it’s important to acknowledge that the LEGO system of play is a creative medium. That means, that when you go beyond building what is in the building instructions, then you tap onto your creativity, and also your emotions. When this happens, the LEGO fans can create wondrous things.

What attracts you to speaking at TEDxTransmedia in Rome? 

I’ve been a big fan of the TEDx events and as I work outside the traditional constraints of media, speaking at TEDx Transmedia came naturally. 

TEDTalks are renowned for their inspiration, energy and focus on the personal. Can you give us a taster of what you want to bring to Rome?

I’m going to talk about who technology commoditises and the change in communication that gives rise to empowered groups who can have an impact on companies.  I’ll also highlight how companies in general have challenges to face in understanding, perceiving and acting upon these changes. 

What in your life are you most passionate about?

That’s a very difficult question…. I’m passionate about so many things. 

And something a bit more personal, if you don’t mind? What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

I try to build my mind and body by working out, going to the opera and reading philosophy...and breaking it down again eating a lot of food, watching sports and playing computer games. 

Interview by Hannah Wood 


Fun and quirky facts about our TEDx Transmedia 2012 speakers

A collation of fun and quirky facts about our TEDx Transmedia 2012 speakers so you can get to know them a bit better. Enjoy! 


SPEAKER FACT 1: Producer of ideas, Saku Tuominen, won a silver medal in the Old Timers (35+) World Championships in Ice Hockey. But not only is he an elite sportsman, he also has some enviable culinary skills and produces his own Olive Oil.


SPEAKER FACT 2: Peter Espersen, Online Community Lead for LEGO, is a huge heavy metal music fan, which might just account for the long metalhead hair style? He was once at a Rollins Band punk concert when the lead singer dived into the crowd and began biting the leg of the guy he was stood next to. Peter only noticed when the man started screaming.


SPEAKER FACT 3: Josh Shore, filmmaker, transmedia producer and founder of the Guerrilla News Network, practises meditation whilst scuba diving (!) and is a big fan of Minimal Techno… 


SPEAKER FACT 4: Games writer Rhianna Pratchett has just launched Narrativia - a new film, TV and digital production company. The company is a partnership with her fantasy author father, Terry Pratchett, and collaborators Rob Wilkins and Rod Brown. First projects are the adaption of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and an adaption of The Watch, also by Terry Pratchett.


SPEAKER FACT 5: Author Alison Norrington left business cards for her character inside shoes in shoe shops to help attract an audience for her chick lit transmedia story Staying Single.


SPEAKER FACT 6: Robert Tercek, one of the world’s most prolific creators of interactive content, has had some really exciting work in his life. We are very enamoured by the fact he got to work on the visual design for the Rolling Stones Steel Wheels tour early on in his career. Wonder if he’ll have any inside gossip on the rock and roll worlds of Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie?


SPEAKER FACT 7: Ana Serrano, founding Director of the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab, has an unusual hobby: she sings in operatic style and often to her son Néo. 


SPEAKER FACT 8: Philosopher for children, Øyvind Olsholt, is a pianist and currently learning Swan Lake to play for his young daughter while she practises her ballet dancing.


SPEAKER FACT 9: Maurice Wheeler, of the Little Big Partnership, gives a funny talk on goal setting and measurement inspired by the fact he lost nearly half his body weight in just over a year, going from a massive XXXL (20st 10lb) to a slight and lithe M (around 11st)! You can check out his talk ‘Using Measurement To Motivate’ here:


SPEAKER FACT 10: Derrick de Kerckhove, world-leading thinker on technology and mass media, has a fascination with the alphabet and once co-edited a book which scientifically assesses the impact of the Western alphabet on the physiology and psychology of human cognition. 


SPEAKER FACT 11: Poonacha Machaiah, CEO at the Qyuki social network for creativity, rides his motorcycles as a means to clear his mind. He regularly braves Bangalore’s crazy traffic, on his classic 1950s-style 500cc Royal Enfield or Yamaha R1, en route to work. He’s explored most of south India on a bike and plans to take a long journey into the Himalayas next year. 


SPEAKER FACT 12: Social Designer Andrew Shea has a wandering spirit and has been on many travelling adventures around the world. Some of his most memorable include: hitchhiking from Mexico to Memphis, and hanging out with a Bushman, in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, who was wearing the same Michael Jordan T-shirt Andrew owned as a kid.


SPEAKER FACT 13: Rosalía Lloret, Chief Digital Officer at PRISA News, worked closely with the Huffington Post to bring the American brand to Spain.

Fun facts sourced and compiled by Hannah Wood. 

TEDx Transmedia 2012: A taste of what the speakers will say…

With a month to go before TEDx Transmedia 2012 opens in Rome we can reveal more detail about our exciting programme of speakers and the ideas and vision they are bringing to the event. 

The theme is WEkids: Dreamers, Geeks, Mindshifters and through it we seek to awaken the free spirit and courage of the inner child. We want to have fun and inspire you to create great media of the future!

The speakers are divided into Dreamer, Geek and Mindshifter session and each bring a unique energy to this special TEDx conference on September 28. 


Alison Norrington: Storyworlds Inventor

Alison, a novelist and transmedia strategist, will open the event and highlight the narrative power of non-linear stories through her personal experiences and those of her colleagues in the industry, from Hollywood to publishing. She’ll demonstrate how you build a robust Transmedia IP.

Poonacha Machaiah: Spiritual Technologist 

Poonacha, CEO of Qyuki, will focus on the need of the hour to have “purposeful technology” that can inspire generations to make positive changes in their communities.

Øyvind Olsholt: Kids’ Philosopher

Øyvind, a Norwegian children’s philosopher, will argue for philosophy as “evocative entertainment” and a focus on, not what “turns him on” in a physical or psychological sense but what challenges his intellect.

Rosalía Lloret: Multifaceted Journalist

Rosalía, the Chief Digital Officer for PRISA News, will explore how, when a new media is born and becomes successful, media gurus usually forecast either the deterioration of the human being and society because of the new media, or – if they like the new thing – the immediate death of any previous media industry. She’ll claim they’re wrong.


Maurice Wheeler: Youth Scholar

Maurice, with his 15 years of experience working with industry giants like Disney, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nichelodeon, Universal and Procter & Gamble, will analyze the different stages of child development, focusing in particular on the difficult generation tween (no longer a child and not yet a adolescent) and showing how difficult it is to communicate and create engaging content and success for this specific audience.

Ana Serrano: Experience Mastermind

Ana Serrano, Canadian director of the Media Lab at the Canadian Film Centre, will reveal how being a geek, a dreamer and charismatic futurist may contribute to the development of collaborative environments, useful for the creative transformation of our ecosystem.

Andrew Shea: Social Designer

Andrew, writer, designer and educator, will demonstrate how design and graphics can be used to disrupt our habits and make us more socially responsible.

Rhianna Pratchett: Narrative Paramedic

Rhianna, one of the queens of writing for games, will discuss how the word writer is quickly becoming an archaic term almost detrimental to the writers themselves, who should carve out a new role in the video game industry. 

Peter Espersen: Play Leader

Peter, Online Community Leader 13 + LEGO Group, will present case histories on how Lego failed to attract fans adults, as well as how it’s creating and managing communities online, using all the resources of social media. 


Saku Tuominen: Stargazing Idealist 

Saku, a Finnish TV producer who has won more than 30 awards, will seek to understand the meaning of life through dreams. Despite “hating” the term transmedia, he’ll explore how passion becomes a bold idea and then how to work hard to make a passion happen.

Josh Shore: Catalyst Filmmaker

Josh, a filmmaker, television producer and a catalyst of socially transformative communities, will ask a series of challenging questions about transmedia products and how to make them indispensable.

Derrick de Kerckhove: Digital Visionary

Derrick, who worked closely with Marshall McLuhan and is currently Professor of the Department of French at the University of Toronto and the Department of Sociology at the University Federico II of Naples, will show that technology not only intervenes in our social relations, but also in our nervous systems, creating new connections between body and machine that will result in new responsibilities.

Robert Tercek: Creative Activist

Robert, one of the world’s most prolific creators of interactive content, will argue that we are waking up from a “60-year trance” where we have outsourced our storytelling and become “wasted” by consumption. He’ll show how participatory media has given back the power to tell stories and answer some of the world’s urgent questions. 

Find out more about the speakers and register for the event at

LEGO’s Online Lead Peter Espersen speaking at TEDx Transmedia 2012 Just After LEGO ‘Goes Viral’

The cute video LEGO recently uploaded to YouTube to celebrate it’s 80th birthday is already nearing two million views, which is another great reason to see LEGO’s Online Community Lead, Peter Espersen, speak live at TEDx Transmedia 2012.

A look at this Pixar-style short on how LEGO went from literally nothing to being one of the most loved and perennial toys in the world suggests Peter’s talk will be full of fascinating ideas and insights about how LEGO engages teen and adult audiences.

Register here to see Peter live.  


Latest News: TEDxTransmedia 2012 Speakers with a Difference


TEDxTransmedia 2012 is not your average conference about media. Nor is its focus solely on non-linear storytelling and transmedia.

This is a conference with that TED magic that asks speakers to tell personal stories in creative talks that will inspire you to think about future media - and the road to it - in new and exciting ways. 

That’s why we bring you speakers from a range of different professions, walks of life and countries. Some have no obvious connection to transmedia, but all have ideas and visions worth spreading. 

If you’re wondering what TED and TEDx are then visit the About section of our official website for the lowdown. 

The awesome Dreamers, Geeks and Mindshifters we have selected for TEDxTransmedia 2012 are (you have to click Read More to find out….:)

Read More