It is certainly useless to waste words to introduce Ikea, the Swedish colossus of low cost furnishing solutions existing in 44 nations and surely known by all. However, for many, the only worldwide marketing tool of this company seems to be its catalogue: 160 million copies printed (2005) and distributed free of charge by post or at its sales points. The catalogue allows to view its approximately 12.000 Ikea products comfortably from one’s own home, then take a trip to its closest location, buy the products and maybe assemble them at home. The catalogue today remains the main promotion tool, able to reach all those people who for distance or snobbery do not usually go to its sales points.
In these past years, Ikea has, however, actuated new advertising strategies, especially focused on the European territory, where its highest turnover is realised. It is not possible to speak of a brand “make-over” operation that already has at its root a young concept and that has always realised creative products as well, but of the development of coherent advertising with its own brand values, that has led the new advertising campaigns to the alternative approach by using classical means.
It is about the application of the Ikea style concepts of easiness, dynamism, carefree attitude and also a bit of irreverence to advertising: a way to reach a differentiated target compared to the catalogue’s target and to turn out to be surely more captivating to the potential younger clients.
In chronological order the last alternative campaign took place a few months ago in Portugal, where hundreds of people were invited to sleep in front of the new sales point the night before its opening, in order to be among the first to get in and therefore receive some products for free. To encourage the flow of people, and to make the wait more comfortable and pleasant Ikea scattered hundreds of mattresses in front of the entrance, thus creating a great event.
Ikea mattresses, precisely 39, were hung on the ceiling of the main train stations in Paris, with a message impressed upon them: “everyone has the right to have a good mattress, without having to lay on straw”, while in Spain, to advertise the Ikea blankets alternative billboards were created in the bus shelters showing a person lying on a bed with creased paper simulating a blanket .
In its motherland Ikea went further beyond, resorting to a guerrilla operation covering urban setting elements and other city objects, usually anonymous and grey, with its fabrics: “a little fabric makes a big difference”, and so, a black bicycle saddle, an ordinary bench and a waste-bin are decorated with colourful flowers and stripes, the same goes for the colourless curtains of a train carriage that change to bright colours.
In Italy, Ikea amazed Napoli in 2004, decorating the city with giant reproductions of the most popular Ikea furnishing solutions so as to remind people of the opening of its new store, the same operation was repeated then in Genova, and again in Milan during the last exhibition of the Salone del Mobile: oversized lamps, chairs, sofas and tables were displayed in the main streets of the centre, arising a lot of curiosity.
Ikea could furthermore increase its presence in the Extra-European markets, for this reason the biggest advertising efforts were realised in these countries.
Some of the most interesting campaigns were seen in the United States: the alternative billboards in 2004 won numerous prizes based on the simple but effective idea to transform the billboard space into a price tag, identical to those used in its stores, and literally hanging from it was the matching piece of furnishing solution in real size. Certainly an immediate way to get attention on the convenient price of the Ikea PS products.
Similar to the other operations seen in Europe, though more articulated, was the “Everyday Fabulous Exhibit”: a few months ago, for a few days, New York was transformed and embellished with bus stops that became small living rooms, hot dog stands that became romantic cafés, benches turned into sofas, beds and hammocks, lawns already set up for pic-nics…all this linked to an Internet site that suggested simple and carefree ways to make everyday a special day.
To inaugurate the store in Tempe, Arizona, “an itinerant bedroom” was created, that is a three-D window that hosted inside an Ikea bedroom set, towed by a truck and made therefore itinerant.
The same idea of window mini-settings was subsequently taken up again and developed in Japan with the “4.5 Museum”, 14 mini-stores, which are 14 big rooms 4.5 metres decorated by Ikea, behind glass and displayed around the city.
Something like a museum, a practical demonstration of how a small setting can change thanks to the IKea furnishing solutions.
Obviously, transversal operations based on Internet are not lacking, like the window-site for the wardrobes or even the viral spots decisively enjoyable and slightly linked to the image of the Ikea family that we are used to seeing in its catalogue, where certainly we will never see a child playing with a vibrator with the purpose of inviting the parents to tidy up, theme on which, on the other hand, various videos are based.
The last subject of discussion and scandal, wished for or not, regards an image present in the last American edition of the catalogue, where a dog lying on the sofa with its owners is accused of being the protagonist of a sexual subliminal campaign. The image has virally crossed the four corners of the Net, forcing Ikea to an official denial.
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