Ikea Puts Purpose First in New Campaign Designed to Tell More of Its Brand Story

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When Ogilvy won the Ikea account in 2010, brands weren’t nearly as open about their commitments to sustainability. Now, the idea of brand purpose is everywhere. While that the concept of responsibility is evolving, Ikea has baked purpose into everything it does since the furniture maker was founded in Sweden in 1943.

Year after year, Ikea’s sustainability report is taken very seriously by the brand and shows a clear direction for the massive retailer. The 2018 report is filled with ambitious plans including becoming “climate positive” by 2030 by investing green energy, reforestation (the brand has planted 2.8 million trees since 1998) and forest protection. Additionally, Ikea is working to lessen the impact of all of its products by using more recycled and renewable materials (60% of the brand’s product ranges use such materials).

Yet, in the U.S., most of the work from the brand and agency has focused primarily on what Shideh Hashemi, Ikea country marketing manager, calls “life improvement,” referring to the more rational benefits of the products offered. With a new national campaign launching this week, Ikea is shifting gears and leaning into its brand purpose commitment.

“Four years ago, we launched our campaign that talked about creating a better everyday life through the American dream and how Ikea can help people achieve that, whatever that version is for them,” Hashemi said. “Now, we’re taking it a step further and talking about who we are as a brand and a company, and how that purpose of creating a better everyday life is in everything that we do.”

Directed by Olivier Gondry, the work hones in specifically on the choices Ikea makes when balancing consumer needs, inclusiveness and global stewardship. The 60-second hero spot covers all of the topics, while 15-second cutdowns focus on issues like reforestation and how Ikea’s practices have helped lower the costs of one of its most popular items, the Billy bookcase.

“I think every step that we’ve done [with the work] has gotten us to this moment,” said Della Mathew, Ogilvy group creative director. “We went from a product-focused, more functional space to more of how are we impacting people’s everyday lives.”

The timing of the campaign, according to Mathew, is in line with the current trend of consumers being much more conscious of how brands impact the world, and this marks the first time that Ikea has been as overt about how it approaches its business.

“Consumers are much more aware,” she said. “They’re much more interested in ethical decisions, how brands treat their employees and the planet. People now have a chance on their own to dive in, compare companies and learn how different brands approach these values.”

The creative came about from several Ikea stakeholders, including its sustainability team, HR and sales, according to Hashemi. Getting a dense message into 60 seconds to make an impact has several challenges, but getting input helped bring the concept to life. Moreover, the message appeared to resonate in testing.

“We saw a greater consumer interest in the work than we expected,” Hashemi said. “This is a sign that they are more interested in understanding more about the companies they choose to engage with on an ongoing basis. We explored several different ways to tell our story, and I was pleasantly surprised that [the work] resonated with consumers.”

“We were also pleasantly surprised that we can talk about the emotional connection and values set,” added Mathew. “The tone of the message is matter-of-fact and to the point. We took out a lot of the fluff, and people responded very well to that.”

In the end, the new campaign is a departure from some of the brand’s more high-profile, quirky and impactful advertising. Yet, with consumers’ changing understanding of brands and their impact on the world, it’s one that the brand and agency are bullish on.

“It’s been quite some time since we’ve done brand work quite like this,” Hashemi said. “In that sense, it does feel like a reintroduction. To many consumers, this is the first time that they’re seeing us in this way.”

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