Ikea Asia: ‘We haven’t always done the best campaigns’

Despite being at the helm of some of the world’s most witty and eye-catching campaigns in recent years, the retail manager of Ikea South East Asia has admitted that hasn’t always been the case for the Swedish giant.

Mike King, who oversees the retail business in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, told Mumbrella Asia that the furniture brand would previously “blur the lines of responsibility” between themselves and their creative agencies leading to the campaigns’ “dilution”.

Speaking about Ikea’s recent Asia catalogue campaign, which featured World Memory Champion Yanjaa Wintersoul remembering 328 pages of the 2018 edition, King said he now simply tasked the agency, BBH, to “capture people’s imagination”.

“The whole point of having a creative agency is to give them a really good brief and to let them be creative,” he said.

“The process worked well on both the Yanjaa and the ‘Book Book’ campaigns. And we haven’t always done the world’s best campaigns. When we look back at that, it’s because the lines of responsibility became blurred.

“When you put an idea through too many committees, it doesn’t get better with every round; it tends to get diluted. Whereas ‘Book Book’ and ‘Yanjaa’ were quite pure because we trusted each other – and that’s an essential part of the agency relationship.”

Discussing the origins of the ‘Human Catalogue’, King admitted there were some initial concerns about hinging a campaign on Yanjaa in case she herself eclipsed the brand.

We needed to be careful that the campaign didn’t just become about Yanjaa,” he said. “And then we had to focus on the catalogue, the new products and prices, and make sure that was all in balance. But then she was the launchpad of the campaign and so you cannot separate the two: we knew she would get a lot of attention, but in a way we trusted her as a brand ambassador.”

Following the first video release, Ikea then followed up the campaign with a Facebook Live interview, whereby Yanjaa was quizzed by journalists as nearly 50,000 people watched her online.

Asked whether using Facebook Live was a risky strategy for brands, King said: “There is a genuine part to [Facebook Live], but there’s an element of risk with that. For us, Facebook somehow became the neutral moderator: if we go on Facebook, everyone knows we are not in control on them.

“We felt that if we really trusted [Yanjaa’s] capability – and frankly we were quite sold early on – then what better way to crack the cynicism was to put her live in front of journalists. There were a lot of cynical journalists there who were trying to find the cracks, but she passed with flying colours.”

Flying colours – Ikea ambassador Yanjaa Wintersoul

Now that 2018 catalogue campaign has finished, King and the Ikea team will begin planning next year’s catalogue from November. At the same time, the company is planning to open its next Asian retail outlet in the Philippines, although King was unable to reveal its opening date.

Speaking about whether the Ikea catalogue was even still relevant to today’s smartphone-addicted audience, King added: “I would say we are in the middle of a revolution when it comes to marketing and the digitisation of it. But that’s not to say all the old stuff is no good anymore: the catalogue is still super-relevant. Customers tell us they still enjoy getting it, and will keep it for the whole year.

“Our job online is to keep the catalogue fresh and inspire people throughout the year. The world has changed, but the catalogue still has it’s place.”



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