You produced Ikea’s web series Easy to Assemble as well as Fix This Kitchen, which aired on A&E. Since then, you’ve spearheaded a bevy of successful campaigns. What does the content creation process look like?
Everyone does a lot of work! Great ideas can come from anywhere. We’re not very hierarchical.
We’re a very lean organization, we don’t have a branded entertainment team or anything like that, but we put the consumer at the center and engagement at the center. Connecting emotionally with the consumer is really important, and that’s a big part of our branding communications strategy.
We plan out our entire year in a couple of months and then try to stick very closely to our plan. It’s not new, but we take a paid, owned and earned media approach and we map everything against our commercial calendar.
For a multinational brand Ikea doesn’t shy away from humour. Recent examples include Ikea Singapore’s parody of The Shining and its “bookbook” video spoofing the iPad. How do you get buy-in to try these edgier concepts?
You have to build trust by coming up with campaigns that are connected to strong consumer insight, that have a purpose and that have a really great result, and then constantly communicate those results.
We don’t just come up with an idea and it goes to market. We’ll present ideas to our CEO and CMO and make sure they are excited about it and they understand it’s a good investment.
You’re a bit of a champion of branded content at Ikea. Have you seen a shift in the way people value what you do?
Keeping that buzz and excitement within the organization alive is definitely key. I like to have an internal PR campaign running along with our external PR.
You want to make sure the decision makers or influencers are also seeing the content, even if they aren’t seeing it in market, so we are really good about sharing what we’re doing internally.
With Fix This Kitchen, I turned a huge conference room into a movie theatre. We brought in red carpets from the store, we had candy and popcorn makers, we did a red carpet event so that people would come and see the premier in the office.
One of your current projects is Ikea Home Tour. Five employees travelled around the U.S. helping people with home makeovers and filming the process along the way. It’s all very DIY. What drove the idea?
We wanted to find a way to reach people, but we didn’t want to do just another design show. We wanted to build something that would make an emotional connection.
What makes Ikea Home Tour different is that we used real people. We opened up this opportunity to all our coworkers. We were looking for people who had a really strong home furnishing base, but who also were great Ikea ambassadors who had a lot of energy and who wanted to do something like this, because it’s a big commitment.
But this particular program was beyond marketing. We were doing something we had never done before. We started with the marketing group but we had to work with human resources, we had to work with legal, we had to work across the entire Ikea organization.
How do you measure the success of these kinds of campaigns?
The most important measures for us are eyeballs, so impressions. Engagement goals and increases in perception or change in perception are also important. For Fix This Kitchen and Home Tour we had surveys.
Home Tour was a cross-agency initiative. As branded content campaign strategies become increasingly complex, how do you manage agency relationships and expectations?
Teamwork is really important. We set that out before we do our planning period at the beginning of the year. We invite all the agencies and we talk about our values.
I have found that our agencies work extremely well together when you set very clear expectations. Who is the lead agency for that campaign? Who are the supporting agencies?
We do an arc document – accountable, responsible, contributors – we talk about collaboration. We’re very transparent about that.
We’re also clear about the fact that bright ideas can come from anywhere, so we don’t want our agency partners to feel like they can’t share a great idea.
I think we have achieved that in most cases and I think that is a big reason why we’ve also been able to build on our campaigns year over year, because of the way we work together.
Branded entertainment makes up just one part of Ikea’s content strategy. With its Life at Home and First 59 projects, Ikea surveyed thousands of people around the world and turned that data into interactive publications. Why share all of that valuable customer insight?
By sharing them, we’re more relatable. It lets you make a personal, emotional connection. Also, from an earned media perspective, it’s really great content.
The goal at Ikea isn’t just about having people come in and buy furniture, it’s about how Ikea can help you with your solutions and your struggles.
Let’s talk catalogues. In 2013 the IKEA app was downloaded more than 10 million times. Are you seeing changes in the way people interact with the print versus mobile catalogue now that the app is so prevalent?
Yes we are. I think it’s indicative of how we live and how media is consumed now, where content is everywhere and accessibility is key. It’s so important.
Content is everywhere and accessibility is key.
We’ve seen this in our metrics. Digital is a much more efficient means of influencing people to make a purchase decision. Paper costs more but people like the tactile experience. People love the catalogue. So as a combination, it’s even better.
And that’s why you’re seeing the innovation and the technology within the catalogue itself rather than taking the catalogue away all together – it’s about marrying those two worlds.
Ikea’s brick-and-mortar stores are about as central to the brand as the furniture itself. Last year, online sales grew significantly while visits to its stores plateaued. How do you see the role of the store changing as mobile and e-commerce adoption continue to grow?
E-commerce is a big focus for Ikea and it will continue to be. But ultimately what we’re finding is that it’s really the multi-channel experience more than e-commerce.
It is such a big decision to buy home furnishings. Often people want to go to the store and see a product, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to buy it online or even buy it online while they’re in the store. So the goal for IKEA is multichannel.
In her own words
Alia Kemet discusses how Ikea maintains brand consistency across markets while keeping branded entertainment campaigns locally relevant: