Over the years, IKEA has become a favored furniture brand for an impressively wide customer base, from college students acquiring their requisite first futon to long-time homeowners who need a new bookcase or crib.
Quality products, affordable prices and a do-it-yourself assembly attitude are big reasons for IKEA’s success. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the company’s marketing strategy is second to none.
What Makes IKEA’s Marketing So Successful?
IKEA’s brand identity ranks among some of the most iconic logos, campaigns and companies in recent history. Just like Coca-Cola has its signature colors and script, there’s hardly any mistaking IKEA’s bold lettering or its blue and yellow themes. Like Apple, the company’s retail stores offer up exciting customer experiences from the moment you spot their unmistakable facades on the horizon.
Who would have thought we’d get so excited about the prospect of hauling home a few flat boxes and whipping out a hex key to build our own furniture?
IKEA’s marketing strategy — encompassing both more traditional means, as well as a digital marketing strategy — is so successful because it’s original, distinctive and imaginative while also maintaining a clear value proposition.
If I told you I owned a LAIVA bookcase, then chances are, without even being able to picture the item, you’d know:
- It comes from the notably Nordic furniture company IKEA.
- It didn’t break my budget.
- It was easy to transport home.
- After I got it back to my apartment, I put it together myself.
- It probably boasts a chic, modern style.
- I’m going to keep talking about how much I love it to everybody I know.
That’s the power of IKEA’s marketing.
What Marketing Strategies Does IKEA Use?
Each element of IKEA’s outreach strategy is carefully curated to support its brand identity and to create memorable customer experiences:
- The company employs a consistent and easily recognizable theme, from its product names to its color scheme.
- Mixed-and-matched products are available to suit each customer’s unique style and needs.
- Product offerings walk the fine line between mass-market affordability and reusable durability.
- Sponsored content with creative partners expands the brand’s appeal to new demographics.
- All sale items are displayed in a way that’s designed to inspire the customer’s vision.
- The brand is participatory, and people are encouraged to take IKEA ideas and run with them.
- IKEA leverages the latest technology to provide cutting-edge experiences consistent with its ethos.
Let’s explore each of these points in greater detail.
Tactic No. 1: A Creative, Consistent Brand Theme
Imagine a world in which IKEA’s American stores are draped in red, white and blue. They just serve hot dogs and hamburgers in the cafeteria, and every forgettable furniture name fades into all the others.
Don’t blend in. It’s better to wear your roots proudly!
From the Swedish national colors emblazoned on its buildings to the sensational meatballs served in its store cafeterias, IKEA sports its cultural heritage proudly.
— IKEA UK (@IKEAUK) April 20, 2020
Take careful note, though: There’s a dash of humor and humility inherent in this approach. IKEA’s take is lighthearted, through and through.
The Takeaway: Know Thyself
Tongue-in-cheek isn’t the only way to own your brand. It’s just important to figure out what you’re about and to infuse all elements of your identity with a strong sense of self-assuredness.
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Tactic No. 2: Emphasizing the Modular Nature of Furniture Options
Not every market is blessed with the ability to allow for a seemingly endless assortment of customer choices. But a simple tiered strategy doesn’t give your brand many opportunities for encouraging repeat business. If your customers already feel that they’ve invested in the latest and greatest, then they don’t have much incentive to come back for more until their original purchase is broken or depleted.
IKEA encourages flexibility, customization and mix-and-match furniture modules. The combination of affordability and sustainability is key to this success.
After you meander through IKEA’s dazzling showrooms, remember that you’re basically ejected into a warehouse. Outsourcing some of the logistics and assembly to consumers helps the company streamline its supply chain and reduce prices for the end user.
Putting together an IKEA product for yourself helps free the business up to focus on its own sustainability initiatives.
The Takeaway: Give Your Customers a Reason To Explore Their Options
Right now, if you only provide one right answer for your customer, focus on finding out how you can help them create their own original response instead.
Tactic No. 3: Making Reusability Convenient and Affordable
In an era of planned obsolescence, it may seem counterintuitive for a furniture company to emphasize reusability. To be fair, the key points of the IKEA brand value proposition that we mentioned earlier don’t necessarily lead with a guarantee that every product will last a lifetime. But this company is far from disposable.
It’s likely that you’ve seen the iconic FRAKTA bag out in the wild at some point, perhaps even being used in lieu of a leash on mass transit.
This is FRAKTA. Happy to keep subway doggos compliant. 14/10 https://t.co/iACNEBefr1
— IKEA USA (@IKEAUSA) September 26, 2019
While the beds and desks you’ll find at IKEA aren’t handcrafted by experts who pledge a lifelong guarantee tethered to their personal honor, the company still provides its customers with products that are built to last. Even IKEA’s durable, reusable shopping bags stand as a testament to the company’s commitment to sustainability.
The Takeaway: Give Them Something (Reusable) To Talk About
Put your brand’s eco-friendly values on display with long-lasting products that are built with a sustainable purpose in mind.
Tactic No. 4: An Expansive, User-Friendly Approach to Branded Content
Today’s average TikTok video boasts production values that would put even some professional-grade web series from the late 2000s to shame. That said, the IKEA-sponsored comedic series “Easy to Assemble” was a bold, odd, irreverent and ambitious undertaking that featured talented celebrities like Illeana Douglas, Jeff Goldblum, Jane Lynch and others.
This innovative content marketing was far from a furniture product demo, but the IKEA branding was everywhere.
Sometimes it pays to give creatives free rein over the project.
After all, when has it ever felt natural to sponsor a series and then casually work the featured product into the storyline for some tight close-ups of the logo? Why not just plaster the brand everywhere and let your target consumers enjoy some quality, original content?
The Takeaway: Be Adventurous
Don’t be afraid to take new steps into the wild, weird and unknown. It’ll get people talking, especially if you partner with Illeana Douglas.
Tactic No. 5: Capturing the Best Angle for Each Item of Furniture
IKEA’s classic catalogs have been a brand fixture for a long time. Carefully staging each product in order to inspire the viewer is something that this business does exceptionally well. Even inside IKEA stores, customers wind through elaborate room-based displays in order to imagine how they could best put each item to use.
There’s an unstated but unmistakable aspirational component to this publication, too. IKEA masterfully connects with its market base to evoke ideal living spaces tastefully facilitated by the company’s products.
The Takeaway: Don’t Skimp on the Staging
It takes more than just perfect lighting or the right angle to make your products stand out. Let them sparkle by putting each object in a larger context for your audience.
Tactic No. 6: Capturing the Attention of Brand Influencers Effortlessly
Furniture companies may not be lifestyle brands, but they still seek a strong sense of loyalty from their customers, new and old. For IKEA, that goes doubly, considering the powerful, unique brand it has developed over the years.
Sponsored digital marketing campaigns have their uses, but organic influencer appeal may just be the way forward for increasingly skeptical millennials, not to mention the socially savvy contingent known as Gen Z. Nothing can replace a genuine social media connection.
The Takeaway: Stay Open to Outside Influencers
If you’re confident in your brand and your product, be ready and welcoming for attention from social media influencers.
Tactic No. 7: A Brand That Blurs the Lines of Reality
IKEA realized that emerging technologies can help encourage customers to become home decor visionaries. No longer do you have to simply imagine whether a certain piece of furniture would match your given aesthetic. Now you can see it.
The IKEA Place app uses augmented reality (AR) to give customers a real view of how items will fit into their living space.
This is a new evolution in an exciting lineage. IKEA has always used digital tools to help customers picture how products will fit, or if they’ll fit, into their lives.
The Takeaway: Think of New and Creative Ways To Use AR and VR
As AR and virtual reality (VR) become more sophisticated and widely available, savvy marketers will explore new options for facilitating exciting new customer experiences.
IKEA Marketing Mix
At the foundation of IKEA’s marketing strategy are four P’s: price, product, place and promotion. Each plays a distinct role in maintaining IKEA’s prevalence.
- Price: Low prices, affordable to the average consumer, are the basis of IKEA’s pricing strategy. Much of IKEA’s ability to sustainably control costs comes down to their efficient manufacturing processes, facilitating affordable furniture/household goods for an expansive market.
- Product: IKEA has a wide range of products, generally spanning furniture, bathroom staging, beds and decorative products, among others. As generalists, IKEA has something on offer for everyone — at an affordable price.
- Place: Spanning 50 countries with 350+ store locations, IKEA products are highly accessible. In the same spirit of accessibility and ease, many IKEA stores are also paired with restaurants and baby-handling areas.
- Promotion: IKEA adopts a host of marketing channels, covering traditional means — such as TV ads and billboards — and more conventional channels — such as adopting SEO, PPC, targeted emails and digital marketing methodologies more generally.
The combination of these four factors contributes to IKEA’s ongoing success, yielding its brand to be a household name across the globe.
IKEA’s Target Audience: Touching All Bases
At the heart of IKEA’s appeal is their positioning as a ‘provider to all.’ From $10 or less holiday goods to household goods that can be purchased with spare change, their tagline of ‘affordable products for everyday life’ is evident throughout the IKEA product line.
While the notion of “a friend to all is a friend to none” more often than none, IKEA has successfully walked the fine line of appealing to budget-conscious university students and elderly consumers alike, and everyone in-between. Or as they put it, “Stretch your imagination, not your budget.” This is to say that the notion of accessibility and affordability is communicated right throughout their marketing funnel, ensuring that people from all walks of life know that IKEA likely has something for them.
IKEA: Swedish for Innovative Furniture Marketing
OK, maybe that’s not a literal translation. That said, this company has pioneered some truly original marketing strategies over the years. And we can’t wait to see how the brand evolves in the future.
Editor’s Note: Updated on November 2023.