Ikea’s marketing boss on how it plans to expand its ‘quirky’ image beyond furniture and meatballs

Ikea’s UK marketing boss says the retailer is looking to widen its appeal through more creative marketing and the launch of smaller stores and pop-ups to recreate the “buzz” that surrounded the brand when it first came to this country almost 30 years ago.

Speaking to Marketing Week, UK and Ireland marketing manager Peter Wright admitted that Ikea is still seen as “that quirky Swedish shop that sells furniture and meatballs” but that it is now looking to widen its perception.

This week launched the latest ad in its “Wonderful Everyday” campaign, which features jungle monkeys dismantling an Ikea kitchen. Moving forward, Wright said Ikea is looking to tell the story behind the brand, admitting it has been perceived as “secretive”.

“When we first came to the UK 28 years ago there was a huge buzz – we are looking to rekindle that and creative marketing has to play a big role. There is more to be told about who and what we are as we have a reputation for being secretive. If I was to say Ikea was a bigger contributor to Unicef than Germany then no one would know,” he said.

“All the growing brands, whether that’s Uber or Airbnb, have a unique story tied to their success. We have a great story we must start telling as we’ve never really got into or explained it before – there is a lot of work still to do.”

Whether it’s been floating fabrics, monkeys or bringing “breakfast in bed” pop-up cafes to Shoreditch, Ikea has championed a quirky creativity over recent years through its marketing.

And Wright said that, despite how proud the brand is about its “compelling low prices”, it has consciously avoided price and loyalty-led marketing.

“We want Ikea shoppers to feel real emotions and see real creativity when they watch our ads and not just see us shout about low prices,” he added.

“The pop-ups will continue as people love stories and although we are fortunate to have large retail showrooms and can do things other brands cannot, that shouldn’t stop us from going outside to engage with our consumers. Our ultimate ambition is to make everyone think differently about how they live their life at home and where we sit within that.”

Ikea Staff at Ikea WembleyNovember 2011vc Pic © vicki couchman vicki@vickicouchman.com 07957226911 Ikea Staff at Ikea WembleyNovember 2011vc © Vicki Couchman/ UNP 01274 412222
Peter Wright, Ikea’s head of marketing for UK and Ireland

Smaller stores

One way Ikea is looking to widen its appeal is through the launch of smaller format stores. Ikea currently has 18 large out-of-town warehouses in the UK but will launch smaller high street formats with the first heading to Norwich this Autumn.

Of the move, Wright said: “If you look at the number one reason why people don’t shop with Ikea it is accessibility as many Brits live several hours away.

“There is a logic in making the brand more accessible. If you work in retail, 90% of brand building happens in store and by offering compelling experiences so advertising is relatively unimportant.”

Ikea will also continue to experiment with new in-store technology. It has previously used augmented reality in its mobile app so shoppers can preview sofas in their homes and Wright said it is looking for different ways to use the technology as it aims to “bring the digital and physical experiences closer together.”

Sustainability

When it comes to brand perception, Ikea is one of the UK retail’s success stories.

According to YouGov BrandIndex, its index rating, which includes consumer perceptions of quality, value, satisfaction and reputation, is comfortably number one on a list of the UK’s 45 biggest general retail brands.

That score has grown 4.4 points to 33.8 over the last six months – in comparison, second place Argos has an index score of 22.7.

Ikea previously talked up its sustainability credentials in “The Wonderful Everyday” ad back in 2014 when it pledged to only sell energy efficient LED lightbulbs by 2016 – something Ikea will now achieve by August.

However, Wright said that although being seen as a sustainable brand is important, aligning ethical work with cheaper prices is fundamental to brand perception.

He concluded: “When we ran the energy campaign we saw all our brand metrics improve and sales grow so it is important.

“However consumers say sustainability is less important than saving money so we must aim to make sure something green can also positively impact on the lives of our shoppers.”

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