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The biggest furniture retailer in the world.
They became renowned for their flatpack.
But that didn’t keep them at the top for 14 years.
So what did?
Valuation: Unknown - Private company
2020 Revenue: €35.2 billion (Source)
IKEA is a Dutch-headquartered multinational conglomerate, founded in Sweden, that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories, among other goods and home services.
The company has 422 stores operating in 50 countries. Although the company hits huge revenue numbers, it remains private - a very unique decision for a company of its size.
The name IKEA is actually an acronym that consists of the founder's initials - Ingvar Kamprad - and those of Elmtaryd, the family farm where he was born, and the nearby village Agunnaryd (his hometown in Småland, southern Sweden). (Source)
Breaking Down The Strategy
Let’s be honest.
Furniture isn’t very exciting.
IKEA furniture - certainly nothing spectacular.
It’s simple and affordable.
Their marketing on the other hand - simply spectacular.
Let me start by saying IKEA’s marketing is not the limiting factor of its success. It’s an incredible business that is unique in so many ways. So great that I couldn’t help but give an honourable mention to their pricing method - before getting into their marketing.
One of the most unique processes IKEA has is its “price tag first” approach to products. They pride themselves on being affordable, not cheap. To ensure this is always the case the design team work backwards from a price tag – determining a price to meet, designing and sourcing materials to make that price possible.
Their marketing, however, is even better.
When it comes to new technology - VR headsets, smart TV’s, etc, creating a marketing campaign that grabs someones attention isn’t rocket science.
When it comes to marketing a plain flat-pack table - it’s a very different story.
So how does IKEA grab people’s attention?
They bring their furniture to where you need it most.
Bus stops, train stations, tube platforms.
All the places where you just wish you were at home.
IKEA brings home to you.
But why do they do it and why is it so effective?
Try before you buy - No one wants to buy a sofa before having a sit down on it and testing it out. This way IKEA was able to allow millions of Metro users to test out IKEA couches when they were desperately in need of a sit-down - it’s like giving a heavy smoker a cigarette when they are experiencing withdrawal. Of course, they are going to think the couch is great!
Virality - When the world became more digital there was a huge push to do all your marketing online. Companies are beginning to realise that bringing “real-life” things online is much more effective than a cleverly written tweet - this is a perfect example. People see a Metro platform lined with IKEA couches and they’re straight to social media. The couches have an immediate (primary) impact on the people who see them. Then the later (secondary) impact comes when the campaign goes viral all over with people wondering why there are IKEA couches all over the platforms.
FUNiture - As I said previously - I’m sorry furniture lovers - but furniture is boring. There is nothing spectacular about a plain wooden table with 4 legs (or a stripey couch in this case). However, IKEA doesn’t go with the crowd and make their marketing as boring as the products. IKEA put’s some fun into furniture. They differentiate themselves from the pack, they stand out and they do things differently - like setting up living spaces in public.
This wasn’t just a sporadic marketing campaign for IKEA, oh no, IKEA’s marketing is heavily focused on crazy OOH (out-of-home) advertising just like this.
Their vertical outdoor apartment billboard which was then turned into a climbing wall is another prime example.
This stand out OOH marketing strategy embodies exactly what IKEA is.
IKEA sells (seemingly) “boring” products, yet entices all ages.
Their marketing takes OOH marketing (seemingly “dead”) and makes it exciting.
You don’t have to invent the wheel in order to be creative.
You can simply take what you have and utilise it in a new and original way.
That’s exactly what IKEA does.
They take bus shelter and train platform ads and make them unique and intriguing for all passes by.
They take something that’s been around forever and inject fresh creativity into it.
It’s a breath of fresh air for the apparently “dated” world of OOH.
IKEA aren’t the only ones taking bus shelter ads to a whole new level. In fact, it would be a sin to not give you a peek at some of the others that have caught my eye…
Pepsi - Here they made waiting for the bus a wait to remember with a crazy AR bus shelter ad.
3M - A classic example of ‘show don’t tell’ - in the least classical way possible. An extremely creative (and expensive) campaign from 3M that definitely had passers by looking twice.
Thrive - You don’t have to go over the top to make print ads effective. A super simple, yet creative ad that definitely got peoples attention whilst also pushing a great message.
Alfa Romeo - Ever wondered why you see so many car ads on bus shelters? If you’re catching a bus the chances are you need a car. Alfa Romeo took this one step further and helped people free up space on their drive by giving them a space to sell their old cars.
Print advertising is far from dead.
OOH is not even close to death.
They’re just killing it!
The biggest thing to learn from this is that there are so many great and creative ways to promote your brand and product.
If you want to market like IKEA:
Stop being boring - The times of businesses advertising with generic corporate tripe is over. Nowadays it’s all about catching your target audiences attention in the most creative ways possible. This is impossible if you’re ads are scattered with boring copy or a boring visual. Make it fun, make it engaging and make it something people will remember.
Get creative - No matter what your product is, there’s a way you can bring it to your target audience in a way that gets them engaged. If people aren’t taking notice of you and your product, think of creative ways that you can bring the product to them.
Remember print is not dead - I hear too many people talk about how print marketing is old fashioned and “won’t be around in a few years”. I completely disagree. Yes, digital marketing is awesome and there is a huge amount of growth happening in that space. That does not mean that you can’t utilise traditional forms of advertising to make them just as effective (if not more) than the emerging ways.
How To Implement It
Utilise what you have and put a twist on it.
It’s all about thinking outside of the box - much easier said than done.
Take the different forms of advertising/marketing you have access to and get creative.
Yes, it’s not as simple as that but that’s exactly where to start.
Things to consider:
What would catch your attention?
How can you bring your product to your target audience?
Where or when do people need your product most?
How can you make your product more fun?
Oh and if you ever come across some awesome OOH marketing, be sure to take a picture and send it my way!
This has been a breakdown of IKEA’s marketing strategy. I hope you learned something and can implement a similar strategy into your business!
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I’ll see you next Sunday!