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ikea wonderful everyday case study

The Story of The Wonderful Everyday

In 2013, after 25 years of almost continuous growth, IKEA was facing some tough challenges. The businesses’ rate of growth was starting to decline, and rivals were hot on IKEA’s tail, making it their mission to overtake IKEA’s market leadership as Britain’s biggest homeware retailer. We set out to reverse the decline, re-establish IKEA as the category leader and future proof the business for years to come. 

A big challenge required a big step change in our approach to communications. We needed a bold, future-facing point of view on modern life at home; one that could reimagine IKEA’s role and capture hearts and homes in the UK - attracting new shoppers, and encouraging more people to spend across more ranges, more often. We went back to the origins of IKEA itself, to the founding purpose of the business; ‘To better the lives of the many people’.

Full of Swedish Wisdom, The Wonderful Everyday Was Born

The everyday is often seen as boring, and we tend to overlook it in favour of far-off, fleeting celebrations in our calendars. But why? For IKEA, the everyday is the important bit - whether that’s giving you a better night's sleep, clever storage solutions that make more of your home, less arguments and less daily irritations. With this in mind, we rejected seasonal and event-driven marketing in favour of a more continuous, always-on approach. 

The Wonderful Everyday platform delivers across a range of products and a depth of channels. It’s an organising idea that influences the entire IKEA business - from brand, to products, store openings and colleagues. It stretches across home themes like sleeping, cooking, playing, storage and celebrates them all in equal measure.

ikea wonderful everyday case study

The Wonderful Everyday Seven Years On: Tomorrow Starts Tonight

Our recent IKEA campaign is anchored in the most universally everyday theme of all. Sleep was fast becoming the hottest topic in wellness - and with our home furnishing competitors. IKEA wanted to inspire its customers to sleep better and for longer. 

Our challenge: we all claim to love sleep; yet we neglect it nightly, in favour of waking life. Which is ironic, considering the myriad benefits good sleep brings to the waking day - enhancing creativity, athletic performance and health to name just a few. So if we were to change the many’s attitudes and behaviours towards sleep, we needed to show that the more you sleep, the more you get out of life. Enter our campaign: Tomorrow Starts Tonight. 

To launch this platform at scale, we created a TVC prequel to Aesop’s classic fable, the Hare & the Tortoise. In this modern reimagining, a great night's sleep is revealed as the secret to Tortoise’s success the next day – while the Hare wastes the night before the big race on (rather relatable) distractions. We also created a suite of provocative OOH to run alongside the TV. This work takes on the life-enhancing promises of industries that we spend time and money chasing –energy drinks, vitamin supplements and anti-ageing- highlighting how the benefits of sleep are proven to deliver the same results (with a whole lot less faff and nonsense).

ikea wonderful everyday case study

Creating a Wonderful Tomorrow Together: Fortune Favours the Frugal

In our most recent international campaign for IKEA, we tackle the F-word. Frugal often has negative connotations, but who said it has to mean miserly or unglamorous?! Our new TVC and OOH encourages us to think differently of the benefits of a frugal life and celebrates the small, everyday things we can do to be more environmentally friendly, with the help of IKEA. 

The campaign launches against the backdrop of IKEA’s commitment to sustainability, having recently pledged that all products will be made from recycled or regenerative materials by 2030. Last year alone, IKEA introduced a new, plant-based alternative to their iconic meatball, which has just 4% of the classic meatball’s carbon footprint and announced the move to non-alkaline batteries. In January 2021, IKEA launched Buy Back – an initiative that will see stores buy back unwanted IKEA furniture from customers in return for a voucher to spend when they really need something. 

Some (wonderful) Results

The Wonderful Everyday has delivered unprecedented growth for IKEA, and is consistently recognised as one of the most effective, creatively awarded and enduring campaigns in the UK.

In the words of IKEA's founder...

Most things remain to be done. A glorious future! ,

If you’d like to find out more press the ‘message’ button to get in touch’.

IKEA 'The Wonderful Everyday'

From flat-pack falling flat to a Wonderful Everyday

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ikea wonderful everyday case study

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IKEA: The Wonderful Everyday

How a Return to 'Creating a Better Everyday Life for the Many' Turned Out Wonderful

Executive Summary

At face value IKEA is a household name, popular within culture, and with a long record of creative marketing. But in 2013 a different story was emerging....

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ikea wonderful everyday case study

The Wonderful Everyday


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When it comes to eye-catching, memorable ads, IKEA’s are some of our favourites.

The key elements that mark out the Swedish retailer’s campaigns are a combination of humour, playfulness and emotion, often – but not always – focusing in on families having fun together, and how your home is a big part of that (especially relevant after the last couple of years).

They’ve been running their delightful ‘The Wonderful Everyday’ spots since early 2014 and to celebrate the series, we’re taking a look at the best IKEA ads.

Who Makes The Wonderful Everyday Ads?

Who do they trust to keep coming up with the goods?

In an age where brands often chop and change agencies to get a fresh take, IKEA have forged a long-standing relationship with creative agency Mother London.

UK marketing boss Laurent Tiersen told Marketing Week that, ‘We prefer to invest in a long-term partnership and not keep hopping around. Therefore, we make sure all our agencies, from creative to media, develop things together. We work with Mother London like we would work with a designer on a new piece of furniture; there’s collaboration every step of the way.

‘If we work with a designer, we also work with the supplier to find the right set up to make sure their product is ethical, functional, beautiful and sustainable. It’s the same process with our creative and media agency partners. We regularly ask Mother London’s advice on wider business decisions such as how we can position ourselves in the UK market or how we approach prices. This level of collaboration is key to our success.’

IKEA The Wonderful Everyday

IKEA made its UK debut in 1987; however, by 2013, sales growth had declined and they challenged Mother London to develop a communications strategy to revitalise the brand.

Mother’s Strategy Director, Kieran Bradshaw, said that they faced two core challenges, ‘change the fortunes of the business (turn around declining sales growth/revenue/penetration) and give the brand a renewed sense of meaning – not just for consumers, but also for co-workers and stakeholders.’

The team hit on the idea that life isn’t about fleeting events, like a summer holiday, but the little, everyday things.

Hence creating, ‘a brand new world of hyperbolic, surreal and cinematic renditions of life at home that demonstrated insight, yet brought more to people’s lives than simply holding up a mirror to everyday life.’

IKEA Ads 2021

‘every home is a haven’.

Aka the ‘brawn bears’ ad, Mother London’s spot was voted by creative peers in the Thinkbox Academy as the best TV ad to debut in September/October 2021, and it was definitely one of our favourite ads of last year .  

Mother said that the brief was to set out IKEA’s, ‘democratic mission: to make every home a haven’. That is, home should be a place where you feel safe, happy and protected, free from everyday life’s distractions.

What makes you feel safe and secure when you’re a kid? Cuddling a teddy bear. Hence the buff bear bouncers defending the family home.

The Mother team then, ‘spent a lot of time crafting the moments of protection in the film and figuring out how to do them in a way that landed the idea but also felt really playful and charming. For instance, why just hang up on an unwanted work call when the bear could crush the phone to smithereens? That’s much more fun.’

The team told Campaign , ‘TV is where IKEA set out its strong point of view on everyday life at home and the importance it plays in everyday life.  It’s where we inspire people to think differently about the home, not just for different’s sake, but because of the big emotional benefits it can bring to their lives. It’s also an opportunity to really revel in the wonder and magic that endears people to the brand.’ Which of course exactly chimes with the retailer’s tagline, ‘The wonderful everyday’.

The soulful hip hop track used on the ad is Sampa the Great’s ‘Final Form’, from the Zambian rapper’s debut album, The Return .

‘Change a Bit for Good’

Are you suffering ‘consumer fatigue’ when it comes to sustainable living? IKEA’s eco and sustainability-themed ad from May 2021 will strike a chord with anyone who loved Pixar’s Wall-E .

A determined droid, inspired by a billboard that says, ‘Defender Droids Save the Planet’, tries his best to make a difference in cleaning up the environment, travelling from a clogged-up canal to taking on a truck and then trying to tackle a huge oil slick on a beach. His efforts are constantly thwarted and he returns home, looking defeated and utterly dejected.

However, his little droid family home is kitted out with IKEA products, from a string bag for their veg to glass bowls that enable them to batch-cook, minimising food waste, and they’re even using a Flisat wooden toy storage box on wheels to grow veg in.

Our cute robot ends his day with a smile. The ad expertly taps into how so many of us feel: we can’t have an impact when it comes to saving the planet. However, IKEA’s idea is that if we all make a few easy changes to live more sustainably, the power of change is in everybody’s hands.

The music used on the ad is ‘Keep Movin’ by Crosby St Models, which features a mix of strings and determined beats with a slightly robotic, processed vocal , ideal for personifying our hero and his mission.

IKEA Ads 2020

The ‘Fortune Favours the Frugal’ ad from December 2020 also demonstrates the brand’s ‘waving goodbye to waste and embracing living in moderation’ ethos.

IKEA’s Marketing Communications Manager, Kemi Anthony, said, ‘We’ve set the ambitious goal of becoming fully circular and climate positive by 2030,’ and that their aim is, ‘To democratise sustainability, demonstrating how easy it actually is to make very simple, affordable and meaningful changes.’

An asteroid made of plastic toys, bottles and bags is shown rocketing towards Earth, contrasted with shots of a family who are living sustainably.

A little girl listens to a tape on a Walkman (which is when the ad’s soundtrack, the suitably titled ‘Makin’ it Better’ by The Barons, kicks in), pickled food is put into glass jars with wooden tops, while there are herbs growing in the Bittergurka herb pot, and a woman replaces a lightbulb with one that’s more energy-efficient.

As the asteroid gradually breaks up on entry, there’s a final plastic drinks bottle that lands in the family’s backyard. The little girl sprints out, picks it up and pops it into their recycling bin in the kitchen.

IKEA’s latest recruitment ad, ‘Taste the Future’ , further develops their sustainability theme:  

‘The Hare’

‘The Hare’ is a fantastic IKEA bedroom advertisement from September 2020, which provides a hilarious ‘prequel’ to the fable of The Tortoise and The Hare.

Our long-eared hero sets off, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for a BIG night out with the lads, incorporating everything from the pub to a kebab, a lengthy walk home when he misses the night bus, and then compounds the effect by staying up in the wee small hours when he’s home, phone-scrolling and watching TV, before eventually nodding off on the sofa.

Meanwhile, in an apartment across town, Tortoise has had a lovely restful night’s sleep – the unsung hero of a great day (check out his huge stack of pillows and fluffy duvet!).

He’s up and at ’em and ready to take on the race. Another bang-on song title – ‘Witness the Fitness’ by Roots Manuva – speaks to the dedication the Mother London team have for finding exactly the right fit for their ads .

‘Conquer the Great Indoors/Lion Man’

‘Did you know that a lion spends more than 18 hours a day relaxing?’ asks the soothing Wonderful Everyday voiceover man.

The camera pans over a lion (well, a person in a massive lion suit), luxuriating on his lovely sofa (amusingly accompanied by his pet tabby cat). He watches some lion-based documentaries, reads a book with his feet up and does a few yoga stretches.

However, the lion’s approach isn’t laziness, it’s preparation for taking on the energy required to entertain a bunch of energetic kids who then burst into the sitting room; our hero entertains them with everything from balloons to rides.

‘Relax into greatness’ is the advice we’re given, to relax and recharge both our bodies and minds.  

IKEA Ads 2019

‘The Nightclub’, IKEA’s ad from January 2019, celebrated its belief that ‘the greatest nights are the ones spent in bed’. Crowds of people are shown rocking up to a club and joining the queue.

However, instead of sporting club gear, they’re wearing onesies, PJs and slippers; as they enter the club, they’re greeted by an array of beds under the mood lighting.

They do their pre-sleep prep (face masks, teeth brushing, luxury hot chocolate – plus some bedtime reading and bouncing around), before snuggling down for a delicious night of sleep.

And the soundtrack? What could be better than Roy Orbison’s epic ‘In Dreams’? Cleverly, this is an IKEA bedroom ad that’s not an IKEA bedroom ad.

IKEA Ads 2018

‘Ghosts’ showcases IKEA’s stunning fabric selection, as a bunch of bright, bold spooks gatecrash a dull party hosted by white sheet-clad ghosts in a plain, largely beige, rather uninspiring suburban house, whose owners have gone out for the evening (special shout-out to the detail of the ghost dog!)

Our colourful, patterned gang quickly take over the decks, putting on K7’s 90s hip hop anthem, ‘Come Baby Come’, start break-dancing and body-popping and everyone’s having a great time.

When they spot the car headlights of the owners returning, however, all the ‘ghosts’ chuck themselves around the sitting room: a rug on the floor, a throw on the sofa, even the curtains. ‘Be a maverick with fabric’ is the tagline, as the homeowners look a bit perplexed by their brand new, style-and-personality-filled sitting room.

For some extra fun, check out the VFX shots behind the scenes:

IKEA Kitchen Advertisement

IKEA’s ‘Cooks’ ad from July 2016 shows that when it comes to spending time in the kitchen, it’s about much more than food. ‘Don’t forget to feed Jo’, a mum says to her dad, as she heads off out, leaving the little girl and her granddad together, both parties looking slightly alarmed.

The pair then proceed to have huge amounts of fun, messing about with food, tastes and utensils and making each other laugh uproariously.

The resulting food (soup made in a wok, drunk from glasses) and sandwiches, may be disgusting (judging by granddad’s expression at the end), but the two have had a brilliant time together and are still merrily drumming away on a stack of pans by the time mum gets back home.

The ad was directed by A-list French film director, producer and screenwriter Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who’s perhaps most famous for black comedy Delicatessen , The City of Lost Children and his biggest success, Amelie .

The track used is ‘Caravan’ by Stephane Grappelli, which has bags of jazzy swing, and, of course, plenty of drumming and cymbals to tie in with the ad’s final frames.

It’s perfect for this creative, as jazz is famous for bringing together freeform elements and making them work together.

IKEA Christmas Ads

‘Waste’ was made by BBDO Russia in 2020, highlighting the issue of food waste during the holiday season.

A small boy dodges huge pieces of food as they come crashing down from the sky onto the snowy streets where he’s playing.

A giant cheese-and-olive toothpick! A turkey leg! He dives through a hole in a piece of cheese and has to outrun a tangerine (much like Indiana Jones’s escape in Raiders of the Lost Ark ) before making it back to his tower block (complete with a draping of grapes), where he finds his mum scraping leftovers into the bin after a meal.

‘What if nature returns everything we throw away during the holidays?’ questions the voiceover as mother and son look in horror at the food raining down past their window. ‘Don’t let your celebrations go to waste’ is the tagline, as the two pack up the leftovers in IKEA’s Tupperware-style ‘lock and lock’ containers.

The ad is soundtracked by the classic Christmas carol, ‘Here Come the Bells’ , which, with its roundel structure, and layering of the voices, mimics the food cascading down from the heavens.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a festive Canadian IKEA ad from 2021, which uses an iconic Bollywood track . The Canadian family of South Asian heritage come together for the holidays, helped by IKEA’s little touches. The ‘Assemble Together’ campaign was created by a team that included members from a diverse set of cultural backgrounds and perspectives.

From Indian and Persian to Filipino and Italian, and of course Canadian and Swedish too, the diverse personal experiences, unique holiday traditions and celebrations from across the group helped to inform the campaign insight, creative execution, and production decisions.

The track used is ‘Chaiyya Chaiyaa’, an Indian pop-folk song, used in the Bollywood film Dil Se, composed by Oscar and Grammy-winner A.R. Rahman ( Slumdog Millionaire ).

As for the best IKEA Christmas ad, it’s still got to be ‘Silence the Critics’ from 2019. A wonderfully ludicrous take on the state of our homes over the holidays, and the pressure people feel when it comes to entertaining and hosting, a crew of household objects unite to perform a scathing diss track, taking down nearly everything in the house.

Legendary grime emcee D Double E did the duties and it won industry awards including two Yellow Pencils at the D&AD Awards.

Holly Fraser, Director of Content at WePresent, revealed why she thought the ad deserved the award: ‘Work that should be celebrated is work that feels new, that breaks the mould and ignites conversation. That’s exactly what IKEA’s ‘Silence the Critics’ does. Subverting the tired, ‘pull at the heartstring’ formula usually rolled out for holiday season advertising, it instead uses grime music to create their own diss track, targeting the house in the ad. The result is a clever, catchy, conversation-starting piece of work that lived far beyond its original purpose, and instead turned into a cultural moment.’

Clever, catchy and conversation-starting seems to sum up IKEA’s whole #TheWonderfulEveryday campaign – and long may it continue. As we’ve shown, IKEA are great at telling a brand story . For more deep-dives into ads, read our blogs on the best advertisements from Burger King and McDonalds , Coca-Cola and Adidas . Looking for music for advertising or TV programmes ? Explore our playlists , which have original, high-quality music from every era and genre .

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IKEA UK: Working together to bring the wonderful everyday to life

Advertiser: IKEA UK Agency: Mother London Country: United Kingdom


Swedish retailer IKEA launched its first UK store in 1987. Its distinctive style, keen pricing and flat-pack self-assembly furniture...

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A Design Showcase

Ikea: the wonderful everyday.

ikea wonderful everyday case study

When the company’s rate of growth was starting to decline, IKEA decided to make a change to continue growing the company. As they recalled their mission to “better the lives of the many people”, they came up with The Wonderful Everyday. The new campaign encapsulated the ordinary, sometimes boring, everyday life to promote products the company offers to people everywhere.


ikea wonderful everyday case study

The two main principles of design applied in this ad is repetition and alignment.

The typography (boxed) are in the same typeface and have the same color. This use of repetition creates a unifying experience to the viewer.

The alignment of the typography is in a central alignment, which draws attention right at the center of the composition. The viewer first notices what the ad says, and then is able to see what the image contains. You see that IKEA is campaigning The Wonderful Everyday, which makes you wonder what they mean. Then you see a grandmother and what can be assumed as her grandchild reading a book together in a cozy living room. The viewer is then able to understand that the simple things in life make it wonderful. The sense of nostalgia makes the viewer want to learn more about the products from IKEA, thus fulfilling the purpose of the ad.


ikea wonderful everyday case study

The original ad’s color scheme is a neutral palette with a shade of blue. The use of analogous shades of brown and tan create unity and a sense of warmth. The blue adds contrast to the warmth and creates visual interest.

The typography is the original ad is a sans serif font that is presented in bold. This design decision creates a simple feeling to the composition. Because of the typeface, the viewer is not distracted from the purpose of the ad. It is clear and concise.


ikea wonderful everyday case study

Similar to the original ad, the new ad design utilizes the principles of repetition, alignment, and proximity. As boxed in the image, the typography is in the same typeface, bolded, and white. The IKEA logo is placed in a central alignment with the typography and is in equidistant proximity with each other, creating a well thought-out design and simplicity.


ikea wonderful everyday case study

The new ad incorporates a very similar color scheme as the original ad. It contains two analogous color themes of brown and blue. The brown colors offer a warmth to the composition, and the blues offer a cool feeling. This is in unity with the original ad because it contains both warm and cool colors: brown and blue.

The typography is also similar to the original ad’s: It is a sans serif font and bolded. Because it is almost the exact same as the original ad, the effect is the same. The typography gets the viewer’s attention, and then draws the viewer’s eye to the image. The viewer is then able to connect with the message and purpose of the advertisement.

In the new ad, a new image is used. The new image is meant to relate to a similar theme as the original, which is the encapsulation of the everyday life. The original image is taken inside a home with a grandmother and grandchild. In the new ad, the image is also taken within a home and its subject is a mother and her unborn child. The mother seems to daydream about the day her child is born, where she is able to put the baby in the crib and rock the baby in the rocking chair. This is a tender scene, similar to the original ad image’s scene. Both images contribute to the purpose of the ad.

Both the original and new advertisements promote IKEA’s new idea of glorifying the plainness of everyday life. The design in both ads contain principles of design that contribute to the simplicity of the overall design. Both designs have an analogous and warm color scheme that creates a sense of nostalgia and comfort that a home should bring. From viewing each of the ads, one would be able to understand that being an IKEA consumer enhances the everyday life.

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IKEA - The Wonderful Everyday

The Wonderful Everyday

IPA Effectiveness Awards Case Study 2018

After 25 years of growth, IKEA’s UK sales, penetration and footfall were all declining. It needed to gain more customers and get people to buy a broader range of its products. ‘The Wonderful Everyday’ strategy rejected seasonal or event-driven marketing for an always-on approach with more personalised copy. Media were chosen to reach consumers when they were most likely to be thinking of their homes. Penetration rose 10% and all IKEA product categories reported growth. It is estimated that £755m of incremental revenue was generated and the ROMI was calculated at £2.31 for every £1 invested.

Ingvar said “The feeling of having finished something is an effective sleeping pill.” At IKEA, we are never finished, always on the way, always doing and learning. So although The Wonderful Everyday has been running for more than four years now, no two campaigns within it have ever been the same; each time we build on what we have learnt from the campaign before, and this is something we continue to do. This doesn’t mean getting it right every time—we’ve pursued different routes that haven’t always succeeded, but that doesn’t mean they are dead-ends, we are learning every step along the way. But performance is only half the story, for our teams process is equally important; we have spent a lot of time working with Mother and our agencies to develop a process that is able to help us make the everyday marketing reality smoother and more effective. After all, shouldn’t how we work together be as wonderful as the work we create together?

Laurent Tiersen, Marketing Manager IKEA UK

ikea wonderful everyday case study

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Cold Call podcast series

IKEA Navigates the Future While Staying True to Its Culture

How should IKEA adapt to big internal and external changes, while staying true to its core values?

After years of success in providing quality furniture at affordable prices, Swedish furniture maker IKEA is challenged by the rise of online shopping and changing consumer behavior, plus the arrival of a new leader. The company’s top executives know they had to step out of their comfort zones and embrace new strategic initiatives to stay relevant. But which initiatives will best enable IKEA to evolve while staying true to the company’s core values?

Harvard Business School professors Juan Alcacer and Cynthia Montgomery discuss navigating a new future while preserving the company’s culture and identity in their case, “ What IKEA Do We Want? ”

HBR Presents is a network of podcasts curated by HBR editors, bringing you the best business ideas from the leading minds in management. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Harvard Business Review or its affiliates.

BRIAN KENNY: For some of the world’s most celebrated founders, the entrepreneurial drive kicks off at an early age. Mark Zuckerberg developed Facebook in his Harvard dorm room at the age of 18. Michael Dell made $200,000 upgrading computers in his first year of business, he was 19. Before Jack Dorsey founded Twitter, he created a dispatch routing platform for taxis in his hometown of St. Louis, while he was in middle school. But then there’s Ingvar Kamprad who began selling matches at the age of five to neighbors in his rural Swedish homestead. By the age of seven, he was buying matches in bulk in Stockholm and selling them at a profit back home. Ingvar learned early on that you can sell things at a low price and still make a good profit. A philosophy that fueled the success of his next business venture, IKEA. Today on Cold Call , we welcome professors, Juan Alcacer, and Cynthia Montgomery to discuss their case entitled, “What IKEA Do We Want?” I’m your host, Brian Kenny, and you’re listening to Cold Call on the HBR Presents network.

Juan Alcacer’s research focuses on the international strategies of firms in the telecommunications industry and Cynthia Montgomery studies the unique roles leaders play in developing and implementing strategy. They are both members of the Strategy unit at Harvard Business School. And thank you both for joining me today. It’s great to have you on the show.


JUAN ALCACER: Thank you for having us.

BRIAN KENNY: You’re both here for the first time, so we’ll try and make it painless so we can get you to come back on. I think people are going to love hearing about IKEA and getting an inside view. Most of us have had that experience of being like mice in a maze. When you go into an IKEA store, you are compelled to walk through the whole place. It’s really brilliant, so many of the touches and things that they’ve done. And this case helps to shine a light, I think, on some of those decisions and how they were made. I had no idea how old the company was. So just starting with its history, it’s going to be good to hear about that. Juan, I want you to start, if you could, by telling us what would your cold call be to start this case in the classroom?

JUAN ALCACER: I like to start the case, bringing in the emotions of the students and their relationship with IKEA. So most of our students have had some experience with IKEA. So I’d just start asking how many of you have been in IKEA, and then I’d start asking why? Why did you go to IKEA? And this time telling you all the things that you just mentioned, for instance, walking through the maze, going to eat the meatballs. So they started bringing all these small, decisions that were made through the years, that made IKEA, IKEA.

BRIAN KENNY: Who doesn’t love the meatballs? Cynthia, let me ask you, you’re both in the Strategy unit at Harvard Business School, there’s a lot of strategy underlying this whole case. I’m curious as to what made you decide to look at IKEA and sort of, how does it relate to your scholarship and the things that you think about; the questions you try to answer?

CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: I’m really interested in the choices firms make about who they will be and why they will matter? The core questions at the identity of a company. In 1976 Kamprad laid out very, very carefully. What IKEA would do, who it would be. He identified its product range. The customers it would serve, the company’s pricing policy, all in a document called, The Testament of a Furniture Dealer. And he described it as, “the essence of our work.” And 45 years later, it was still required reading for all of the IKEA’s employees. It’s probably the most compelling statement of corporate purpose I’ve ever seen.

BRIAN KENNY: Remarkable in a company that’s based on furniture. It was a very, sort of powerful thing. There’s an exhibit in the case that shows the whole Testament. Maybe we can dig a little bit into the history here. I alluded to the fact that it’s been around for a long time. Cynthia, just tell us a little bit about how the company came to be and how it evolved over time.

CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: IKEA started actually as a mail-order business in Sweden and in the late 1940s Kamprad noticed that despite a lot of demand for furniture, agreements between the furniture manufacturers and retailers were keeping furniture prices real high. He was interested in a different set of customers. And he decided that to attract farmers and working class customers, he needed to be able to offer quality furniture at lower prices.

BRIAN KENNY: What were some of the early challenges that they faced. I’m also curious a little bit about the Swedish culture and how that sort of factors in here. Because there was definitely undertones of that factoring into the way they set this up.

CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: It’s a virtue to be frugal and to be very careful about how you spend your money. And that made a huge impression, particularly given his background, growing up on a farm for Kamprad, he decided he really wanted to lower the prices of furniture and began to do so. And it turned out that there was a very, very strong response from other furniture manufacturers who basically said that they were going to boycott him. They wouldn’t allow him into their furniture fairs, him personally, as well as his company. And so in turn, what happened was that they also pressured local suppliers not to sell to a IKEA anymore, basically trying to force him out of the market. And what happened was that that actually drove Kamprad to Poland as a source of supply because local firms wouldn’t supply him anymore. And in the process, he discovered that Polish manufacturers could actually make furniture at far, far lower costs than Swedish manufacturers. And that essentially gave IKEA a cost structure that was more like a difference in kind, than a difference in degree. And that proved enormously important to building almost insurmountable competitive advantage for IKEA.

BRIAN KENNY: He was also really keen with innovations early on that things like the restaurant area and the childcare space, what were some of the insights that drove him to make those kinds of decisions?

CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: One of the things that he decided quite early on is that he wanted to have the stores located out of town. And the reason is because land there was much, much cheaper. So he built these ,as you described earlier, Brian, these gigantic stores on the outskirts of town and they had lots and lots of square footage and lots and lots of merchandise, but you know, it took time to get there. It took time to shop there and what he wanted to do was make it worth it for the customers to make the trip, worth it for them to spend a lot of time in the stores. So he decided to add restaurants and the now famous meatballs, which come in several flavors, actually around the world, and to add childcare centers that would care for young children while the parents shopped. On the low cost front, he was innovative in other ways, he actually borrowed the idea of flat pack from another innovator, but he’s the one that actually brought it to life in such a big way. Then he discovered that if you let the clients go in and pick off the furniture packs themselves, they could even save more money and lower the costs in the store.

BRIAN KENNY: So they have a pretty complicated org structure, when we start to dig into some of the nuance of the case. Juan, could you describe for us, how they’re set up from an org structure standpoint?

JUAN ALCACER: You have to realize that coming from Sweden, which is one of the countries with the highest taxation for corporations in the world. So early on, they decided to find some organization structure and legal structure that would allow them to lower taxes. And that created basically an ownership based on foundations, based in the Netherlands. And they decided, early on, to separate the company into pieces. One is the franchise store, which is basically running the brand and running the management image of the brand. And then the operational part of the company, which is a franchisee. And for many years, those two things were separated. The franchisee was also in charge of manufacturing and so forth. So it was a very strange structure, that was put in place in part by the charisma and the leadership style of Ingvar Kamprad. If I can go back to your question about the Swedish culture. One of the things that, at least for me, is very striking is that when you look at multinationals, there’s a thing called the liability of being a foreigner, which means that when you go to another country, you have some disadvantages. And you try to mitigate that liability of being a foreigner, by pretending to be of that particular country. IKEA went with a totally different approach, they’re totally Swedish. Names of their products are impossible to pronounce. The fact that they have meatballs, they have their Swedish flags all over the place. They embrace the Swedish spirit as a part of the brand. You don’t see many multinationals with that. That makes IKEA what it is today.

BRIAN KENNY: I definitely think that’s part of the appeal here in the US, for sure, is people being exposed to the Swedish culture in a way they never had before. What is the culture of the company like, what’s it like to work there?

JUAN ALCACER: We went to both the Netherlands and to Sweden and we had a great time. It’s a very egalitarian culture. All the VP’s, high-level managers, none of them have an assistant. Only the CEO has an assistant. They don’t have offices, so everybody shares an open space. The whole place is decorated with IKEA furniture, everybody talks to each other by their first name. It’s very collegial, very friendly.

CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: I would add to that. I think IKEA was incredibly generous to us, in the sense that they shared all kinds of confidential, internal documents and were really willing to talk in a very open and forthright way, about both their strengths and their challenges, which was incredibly refreshing. And as Juan said, that it was very egalitarian, and not surprisingly IKEA was one of the first companies to embrace democratic design. And that spirit was everywhere in the company.

BRIAN KENNY: Cynthia, what would you say are some of the keys to their success over the years?

CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: I’d say that IKEA basically picked a lane and stuck with it. They had clarified, as I said at the top of the show, very, very carefully about what they wanted to do, who they wanted to be. And what they said is, look, this is what we’re going to be about. We’re going to offer an extensive range of practical, well-designed furnishings at low prices. And we’re going to serve the many, not the few. And the many are those with limited financial resources. When you have such clarity about what you want to do, then you can set out and try to maximize how you approach that. Essentially IKEA built a system, to do exactly that, extremely well and their distinctiveness made them truly an iconic firm. And it’s great when you talk with students about, what’s the purpose of your business?, What are you doing? What’s interesting is that oftentimes they can describe much more carefully what IKEA is doing, than what their own businesses doing. The last thing I would add, is that as Juan one said, they’re really synonymous with Sweden and they put that right out there. It’s almost like the way that Coca-Cola is synonymous with the US. And that has been a big part of their advantage.

BRIAN KENNY: Okay. So we’ve painted a very rosy picture for IKEA, but it’s an HBS case. So there’s tension, inevitably. So let’s dig in a little bit to where the case brings us. I’m going to mispronounce his name. I hope I don’t, but Torbjörn Lööf is that close?


BRIAN KENNY: He is the protagonist in the case. And he is stepping into a leadership role here really after an iconic leader has stepped back and that’s a challenge. Any time that happens, and a leader has to step in. And as he starts to sort of peek underneath the hood a little bit, he starts to see some of the challenges that IKEA is facing in this now seventh decade, I guess, of their existence. So Juan, maybe you can set that up for us a little bit.

JUAN ALCACER: It’s not only that he is stepping in the shadow of a leader that created the company. It’s that the company is still controlled by the family. So this is not a public firm, this is a private firm. So, he had to basically walk a very, very thin line, trying to take IKEA towards the future, but still preserving the past. And he had basically two main tasks, one is short term, that organization restructure that we were talking about, that was very complicated was created products. As I said before, the franchisee, which is basically the one that was running all the operations, was also the manufacturer. But there were other franchises. So for instance, the operations in Middle East are run by another company. So they wanted to create a system of transparency, that all the franchises are run the same way. When you have a franchisee that has basically represented 80% of your sales, and the ones that are representing 2% or 3%, there is an imbalance of power. So they tried to create a structure that is more managerial, that is more modern, that will allow to create incentives for new franchisees to come into the system. So that transaction was basically transferring production and transferring the functions that were in the franchisee back to the franchisor. There were 25,000 people that have to move from one place to another.


JUAN ALCACER: They didn’t move physically, but in terms of the legal status they shift around. And the second is to bring IKEA to the world. What they observed is that there were some changes in demographics, they were targeting the low-income, what they call the thin wallets of the world, but it turned out that people that would go to IKEA are not thin wallets anymore. These people have already moved towards the middle-class and they also have this whole, to increase the number of consumers to three billion, and that meant that they have to basically grow globally, at a rate that they have never done, before they had two or three markets, like China and India. They also have the issue of eCommerce, to pick up and every retailer in the world is dealing with that. So, it’s two steps. One, getting the house in order, and second one, creating a path for the future for IKEA to become an icon for the next 75 years.

BRIAN KENNY: Yeah. And I also think at some level it’s hard to sustain that original mission that they set out with, when you’re trying to expand so rapidly and bring in a much larger audience. Cynthia, I don’t know if you have other observations about these changes they were facing.

CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: Absolutely. Because one thing is that you can look at the challenges that came from expanding into new geographies. But the other thing that they found in a large study that they did, is that there were challenges in their core business as well, that the countries they’d been in for a number of years, and what I’ll call the big blue box stores, mostly in developed countries. What they found is that increasingly many of their customers in those markets wanted new conveniences. They wanted stores that were located closer to city centers because a number of people say in their late twenties, early thirties are not driving and don’t have cars. And they found that there was an increasing demand for delivery and assembly services for shopping online. These trends are worrying to a huge number of retailers, but particularly a challenge to IKEA because low price, low, low price, so low that that people can recognize the difference. That being at the heart of their strategy. And customers’ willingness to spend time getting to the store, hauling furniture about, ultimately assembling it. Those are at the very, very heart of their low-cost strategy and their very distinctive value proposition. It was a big challenge within the developed markets as well.

BRIAN KENNY: And depending on where they went in the world, a different set of challenges pops up almost everywhere. Juan, you mentioned earlier that they pushed back against localization, but is that a sustainable strategy? When you’re trying to go into entirely new markets like China and India.

JUAN ALCACER: The beauty of IKEA is that they found a segment across different cultures that was very similar. College students the United States, that needed to have furniture for a few years only, it could be young couples that are opening a new house, in some places it’s immigrants that are moving from one country to another country that need to buy furniture, but they don’t have the money to do so. So there was this very common segment across the world that they were able to then define, that allows them to have basically 80% of their line, of their range, is common across countries. And they have around 10% to 20% that varies by country. Now, when they go to China, and they go to India, they find that the changes have to be of a higher scale for three reasons. One, the tastes are different, also the materials, when you are going to India and you are going to houses that are in a high humidity environment, the type of wood that you can use is different. Now you start, not only changing the look of the product but you also have to change how you made it. And the third big challenge is when you look at what is defined as thin wallet, in these markets, is really thin. It’s not thin wallet in Sweden, it’s not thin wallet in the United States. So, you have to go to prices that are really, really low. And that means that you are already a low cost producer but you have to go even lower. That means that you have to change your supplier, so it starts changing the fundamental parts of the business model that they created through the years.

BRIAN KENNY: And it could probably, pretty easily, get away from you. So this does call for a strategy. Cynthia, can you describe for us what the three roads forward are? This was sort of underpinned their strategy going forward and how they were going to deal with some of these challenges.

CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: Basically, the three roads, the first was affordability, as Juan said, this isn’t affordability in the way that they, at the level at which they’ve traditionally thought about it. This is affordability for wallets that are either very thin or actually where the willingness to pay just isn’t as high, because they’re accustomed to having goods that are at very low prices. So they wanted to attack affordability for people who could not afford IKEA today. They cared a lot about accessibility. They’ve got to reach and interact with people where they are. And the last is sustainability, and they felt really, really strongly about this. And I think much in line with what you see with a number of other countries in Europe, that they cared a lot about the sustainability of the products and wanted to make a positive impact for people, society and the planet. And they’re taking on all three of these aspirations at once.

BRIAN KENNY: You have written many cases, I’m sure that parallel this, what are some other firms that have faced similar challenges and maybe figured out a way to deal with the same sets of challenges?

JUAN ALCACER: The challenge of going overseas, we didn’t write cases about multinationals for many years. They always have this tension between coordination in headquarters and adaptability in each one of the subsidiaries. So IKEA was very good at playing that game for many, many years. In a way they were going to countries that were somehow similar to Sweden. Now that they are venturing to countries that are farther away in many dimensions, not only physically, but also in terms of economic distribution, in terms of taste. They are seeing this tension to be amplified. We have seen that in many companies, Procter and Gamble has been doing that for years and years, Unilever has been doing that for years and years. IKEA has done it for 75 years. They went overseas very early on. But now the challenge is a little bit higher. The other challenge is that Cynthia also mentioned, which is basically adapting to new technologies and new demographics. Every retailer is facing that. Any supermarket, any chain that has been selling in brick and mortar is facing those challenges. So, what is interesting about IKEA is that they are facing these all at the same time and they’re facing this during the process of transition from the leader that created the company to a new set of managers that are more professional and are not part of the family.

BRIAN KENNY: You mentioned technology. I’m just curious, the role that the internet plays in this, because now everybody can see, you know, through YouTube and other things, what the experience is like from one place to the other, and how important is consistency across all those geographies, versus a little bit of localization to make it feel a little bit more like this is the China version of IKEA versus the European version of IKEA. Cynthia, do you have thoughts on that?

CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: That’s the real challenge here in the sense that, how do you take this whole model that has been developed over so many years? And it’s very, very hard to imitate, which has given them a lot of strength over the years, but when the environment changes, instead of responding in a piecemeal way to all kinds of external stimuli, it’s how do you take this whole model and evolve it in some coherent way that stays true to the iconic sense of who IKEA is? I really see it fundamentally, as an existential question for IKEA.

BRIAN KENNY: Such a great point. Look, I want to thank both of you. This has been a really interesting discussion about a brand that we all know and have experienced many times firsthand. I have one more question for each of you before we part ways. And that would be if there’s one thing you want people to take away from this case, what would it be? Juan, let’s start with you.

JUAN ALCACER: What I would like listeners to take from this, is we have this mentality of growth, growth, growth, and expanding and doing different things, and when you look at IKEA, you have to wonder, is it better that IKEA stays doing what they do well, or do they have to keep growing and entering all these markets and adapt to overseas. We have this basic assumption that growth at any cost should be the goal. I would like the listeners, when they look at the case and think about the cases, to question that very basic assumption.


CYNTHIA MONTGOMERY: One of the things about IKEA that I think it’s really, really important to know is that they really brought something different to the world and they did it in a very compelling way. So at the heart, to do something that’s distinctive, that adds value. It comes through really strong in the IKEA story. At the same time, when the environment changes, how do you evolve, is really challenging. And so the fact that they’re being so open in how they’re confronting this, I think there’s a lot to learn there. It’s a challenge. I think it’s really important to remember what’s at the heart of this company, is that they’re really bringing something that’s very unique and they need to continue to do that.

BRIAN KENNY: Juan Alcacer, Cynthia Montgomery, thank you so much for joining me. The case is called, “What IKEA do we want?” Thanks again.

JUAN ALCACER: Thank you.

BRIAN KENNY: If you enjoy Cold Call , you should check out our other podcast from Harvard Business School, including After Hours , Skydeck , and Managing the Future of Work . Find them on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Thanks again for joining us. I’m your host, Brian Kenny, and you’ve been listening to Cold Call , an official podcast of Harvard Business School, brought to you by the HBR Presents network.

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How IKEA Streamlined their Marketing Process to Bring ‘The Wonderful Everyday’ to Life

We had the pleasure of catching up recently with Opal customer Jason Black, an exceptional marketing performance leader at IKEA. Jason and the team, which oversees all layers of marketing communication, have seen wonderful success streamlining their marketing process and increasing performance since adopting Opal as their marketing calendar. We want to share the valuable insight into how marketing and communications teams like Jason’s are navigating the challenges presented from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

With 11 years at IKEA under his belt, Jason has worked across the business in Europe and across various functions from human resources to e-commerce, CRM, digital marketing, and web communications, to now leading marketing performance for his U.K.-based team. In his new role, Jason needs to be able to keep his team organized in order to achieve the efficiency needed for success.  “The scope is broad so it’s important that we look for the things that will drive the biggest impact, and optimise those areas,” says Jason.

So how do marketing and communications pros like Jason keep it all together during this challenging time? Jason offers some much-needed insight: keep an eye on the bigger picture and make sure you’re driving results toward bigger strategic business objectives.

Recently, IKEA has been able to pivot from the stories they were originally planning to tell at the beginning of the year to creating compelling content that keeps IKEA present in the mind of their customers and supports the overall brand positioning.

“Luckily for us, themes we were planning to bring into production like celebrating the home and using your space to relax are still relevant and we were able to adapt based on current circumstances,” says Jason. Opportunities created by the pandemic included people spending more time at home, which means more opportunities to co-create with their customers. Like our customer  Leah Randall at Minted , Ikea has seen a spike in user-generated content as customers work, learn and live from home with IKEA products.

Consistency is everything 

With a widely defined target audience (which Jason defines as “the many people”), the brand platform and point-of-view must be top-of-mind when developing content for web, social and other channels like paid search, email and retail. The tagline  Wonderful Everyday  serves as somewhat of a brand platform across all layers of the brand’s communication, and it’s critical that Jason and the wider team have consistency when orchestrating content that brings this statement to life across multiple channels.

“This statement means a lot,” says Jason. “We don’t see the special occasions as the things you should spend the most time planning for because they’re over quickly. But if you make every day wonderful by making the everyday special, we want you to think of IKEA. Like purchasing a coat hook at a child’s level, that’s the perfect example of making something ordinary special.”

Having alignment as a team to this overarching brand sentiment is critical to success as it ensures all of the content published by IKEA is consistent and ladders up to those strategic business objectives. Then the creative teams have the ability to bring a strong point-of-view to a campaign that’s communicated across channels.

For a global brand like IKEA, Jason says they take a regional approach to campaign alignment. Central brand messaging is established at a high level, then regional teams are empowered to make it their own and adapt to their regional insights.

Simplifying the process

The process for bringing campaigns and marketing initiatives to market is undergoing significant changes for nearly every team working in the Opal platform, so it’s no surprise that Jason says the IKEA activation marketing process today looks a lot different than it did prior to Spring 2020 due to improving alignment across channels as well as having greater visibility over campaign planning.

Part of simplifying that process is streamlining and improving collaboration across teams and regions, and especially creative agencies. “Agencies need a single truth connected to an area to land the point-of-view we’re sharing in a creative way,” says Jason. “So we spend a lot of time developing the strategic platform before we do anything and make sure it resonates with our customers, etc.” Then Jason says refinement and testing are central to defining success. “We make sure we are thinking through the customer journey so we’re communicating to them at different points while becoming more relevant with the right content at the right time.”

Having Opal as a shared marketing calendar keeps everyone on the same page and makes sure no team is left working in a silo. This allows Jason and his team to have structure despite the fast pace and ever-changing environment that comes with working in Marketing. “Something as simple as having awareness of what’s coming and giving them trust to be aligned to media, CRM and online efforts across channels, it’s really critical,” says Jason.

And being able to tear down silos is as rewarding as it is effective. “As our web manager, I was responsible for the online customer journey. It wasn’t easy to find out what’s happening and when. We were all working in quite a siloed way,” says Jason. “Having a central source of truth like Opal as our marketing calendar has been really helpful in tearing down those silos.”

With Opal, Jason says the simplicity of the interface made it easy to get his team up and running in the platform. “It’s not something you have to sell into people. It can be adapted to someone’s specific role or function and allows us to share what we need to — without oversharing or undersharing. We’re not working in different spreadsheets, we’re developing our work in Opal.”

The efficiency and increased performance Jason and the team at IKEA have experienced as a result of streamlining their work in Opal is significant. “We are saving time being able to see what’s currently happening, what’s gone out in the past and what’s planned for the future.”  

If you’re interested in learning more about Jason, visit his website .

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    Published Nov 24, 2020 + Follow Around this time every year, holiday ads are blasting non stop across all TV screens, interrupting your Youtube videos, overly cheerful voices on the radios....

  20. IKEA Navigates the Future While Staying True to Its Culture

    Transcript. June 15, 2021. After years of success in providing quality furniture at affordable prices, Swedish furniture maker IKEA is challenged by the rise of online shopping and changing ...

  21. Case study

    Can you guess how many IKEA products there are? All of them follow the IKEA principle: To make the everyday life better for anyone. And we can do that online...

  22. Crowdsourced Retail Photo Galleries : IKEA Wonderful Everyday

    The IKEA Wonderful Everyday contest is a covert marketing campaign from the UK arm of the Swedish retail chain that will see user-generated content included in an exhibition at locations across Britain. The #WonderfulEveryday photo contest will be judged by British photographer Mike Kus and aims to "save the printed photograph" in light of ...

  23. How IKEA Streamlined their Marketing Process to Bring 'The Wonderful

    The tagline Wonderful Everyday serves as somewhat of a brand platform across all layers of the brand's communication, and it's critical that Jason and the wider team have consistency when orchestrating content that brings this statement to life across multiple channels. "This statement means a lot," says Jason.