[Review] IKEA Make Small Spaces Big

I recently visited IKEA website for shopping purposes and accidentally came across this page http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_GB/rooms_ideas/small_spaces/index.html, which features an interactive virtual 3600 tour within a small flat, together with many tips on how to use small spaces efficiently, and a TV commercial aired in the UK. I soon learned that this webpage is dedicated to an IKEA’s UK campaign called “Make Small Spaces Big”, which is part of a world-wide integrated marketing campaign centralizing on “Small Space Living”. I think this is a very clever campaign, and the execution of the TV commercial called “One Room Paradise” in the style of a music video is brilliant.

The first aspect I want to comment on is IKEA’s current market situation, which I think is the rationale behind the campaign and probably included in the creative brief.  While IKEA’s market share has increased in the UK, its penetration has not, and consumers start associating IKEA with “low prices” only, rather than “nice furniture at low prices”. In addition to that, due to the current economic reality, the new mindset among consumers is valuing less disposable goods and wanting to own fewer goods. Hence, I think that previous marketing campaigns of IKEA that encouraged consumers not to feel committed to their furniture has probably become less relevant and compelling in today’s marketplace. In order to keep growing, IKEA cannot sell more goods to the same customer base using its “low prices” value proposition, but must gain more penetration and engage its customers with other emotional appeals. More importantly, IKEA must make consumers associate the brand with other values rather than its cheapness.  Also, like other international brands, IKEA has to adapt its identity to local values, so that the brand can stay culturally relevant.

It is quite obvious that IKEA is going through a rebranding process in the UK, which is reflected in the stark contrast between IKEA’s tone of voice in early ads and that in recent ads. In earlier campaigns, IKEA told British consumers to discard their old furniture and be less English in a dogmatic manner (some of IKEA’s taglines were “Chuck out your Chintz” and “Stop being so English”). Although IKEA’s clever ads with commanding statements may work in favour of the brand in the beginning, naturally people do not want to be bossed around; therefore, such approach may not work well in long term. However, since 2010 IKEA’s campaigns have become more family-oriented and understanding, and less about the product itself but more about how people’s relationship can be enhanced with the use of such product.  Some examples are the “Living Together” and “Playin’ with My Friends” commercials. These commercials all demonstrate how IKEA can help people organize their lives better and foster a happy atmosphere at home. With such changes, IKEA is probably trying to reposition itself to be an expert in enhancing the quality of people’s relationships through home furnishing solutions.

Regarding consistency, the new campaign “Make small spaces big”, launched in 2013, is consistent with recent campaigns in terms of emotional appeal because the commercial of this campaign draws on a very happy relationship between a single mom and her son. This campaign is also consistent in terms of establishing IKEA’s expert image as the commercial shows how the small flat is smartly organized.  The new campaign seems to be a continuation of previous campaigns with a heavier focus on increasing the brand’s penetration and strengthening its new position.

Traditionally IKEA’s core target market is defined as young professional adults who are educated and married, have a modest income and 0 – 2 children, and care about fashion but want to live on a budget. These people value low priced products and have the tendency to move, which make them the ideal market for IKEA. However, for this campaign specifically, the primary target audience is probably single moms in the UK.  They form a large market because a quarter of the children in the UK are living with only one parent, and single-parent household is most likely led by a female and is a growing social trend in the UK. Also, most single-parent families rent house, which explains the small living area and the needs for smart furnishing solutions. In the commercial, the single mom is characterized to be very independent, considerate, and caring for her son. I believe that these qualities can resonate well with most single moms in the UK, inspire them, and invite them to think about furnishing solutions that can make their lives more fulfilling. In addition to that, IKEA can also appeal to a larger target audience – people who want to live more comfortably in small homes. They are probably secondary target audience for this campaign. This initiative is based on the insight that homes in Britain are 15% smaller than those in other Western European countries, with newly-built houses in the UK decreasing in size by as much as 11% over the past ten years. Since small house is the norm in the UK, IKEA can become more relevant not only to its target consumers but also to a larger population who face the same situation.  In terms of cultural relevance, I think IKEA did an excellent job with this ad.

IKEA has also made an effort to encourage consumer participation in this campaign through an interactive banner on a microsite. Upon clicking the “Start” button, users can watch a video footage with a personable host showing them around a small flat, highlighting how the family has made the best use of their limited living space. Users can control the process by choosing the section of the house they want to watch, and clicking on any item in the house to see relevant product suggestions in IKEA store and design tips. I think that is a smart and creative way to drive sales because when people are interested in something and click on it, if IKEA can offer the right product at that moment, people can make their purchase decision faster and would be less affected by negative environmental factors. Also, by showing IKEA products in this way, consumers would not feel bored scanning through the goods on the website. IKEA website also provides space-saving solutions for different living purposes, which makes the site highly engaging with rich content. The brand also has a Twitter account for “Mandy” – the doll character in the commercial – so that her fans can actually follow and chat with her. Although I think this is a witty way for the brand to connect with its customers, unfortunately the Twitter account for Mandy is not promoted anywhere on IKEA’s website, which results in a lack of interaction.

In terms of the creative idea, I like how they use doll house to convey the idea of small places. The doll house is probably something most women adored when they were children, and by reminding the target audience of childhood memories, the commercial creates a fun, light-hearted and warm atmosphere, which is consistent with the feeling in some of IKEA’s previous commercials such as “Happy Inside” or “Living Together.”  I also like that the characters in the commercial are filmed as dolls and not human because that creates a sense of wackiness, which is what IKEA is known for. I think IKEA has maintained and nailed the tone of voice for this campaign.

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