Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying that Ikea is a juggernaut in the furniture world. In fact, they span beyond furniture with their wildly popular Swedish meatballs and other food offerings, bringing in close to $2 billion in annual revenue for the food division. That is enough revenue to rival Panera and Arby’s financials.
Ikea was founded in Sweden in 1943, and has grown to over 350 stores (40 of which are in the U.S.) in 45 countries. The furniture company reported selling over $28 billion in furniture last year, making it the largest furniture company in the world. Ikea’s cool, contemporary, and inexpensive designs make the furniture nearly irresistible for college students and families on a budget. The caveat, you have to spend hour upon frustrating hour assembling your furniture from hundreds of random pieces.
Traditionally, a company would try to sweep under the rug the fact that massive amounts of assembly are required to put together the brand’s product. But not Ikea, in fact, the company has built a brand around making it cool to “do-it-yourself.” When a customer purchases furniture from Ikea, they plan an entire day around putting the pieces together, and make it an event. To the consumer, they are trading their time in exchange for a less-expensive product that requires assembly.
Ikea has managed to make their cost-saving tactic of hard-core DIY into a value proposition for the company. If Ikea just sold cheap furniture that came already assembled, consumers would ask, “What’s the catch?” They would assume that the furniture was of very poor quality and would be turned off from buying it, despite the low price. However, in the case of Ikea, because there is so much assembly required, the customer can rationalize the low price and still keep the thought that they are getting a quality product.
Ikea has developed a marketing message that fits an off-kilter niche, and they fit quite nicely into it. The brand manages to take an idea that would typically be corny and kooky, and makes it work with the brand to be memorable. And the proof is in the pudding, or rather, their social media profiles. Ikea North America has close to 4.2 million Facebook likes, and is growing. Ikea’s social popularity is perpetuated by social campaigns featuring possible projects, and stunning before and after side by sides. Ikea understands that there is a huge demand for do-it-yourself tips in social media, and they are successfully giving the people what they want.
The chief marketing officer of Ikea North America, Leontyne Green Sykes, claims that her team is comprised of anthropological marketers. Sykes says that her team listens to its customers and provides solutions for their problems, which should be the goal for any brand, regardless of product.
To take it down to the nuts and bolts of Ikea’s marketing tactic, they understand their customer and how to present value to them through their products. Ikea does not try to be something they are not, they know that their furniture requires significant assembly, and they do not try to hide that fact. Lesson to be learned from Ikea: transparency and knowing your brand is the right combination for success.