After three years of 'understanding the Indian consumer' the furniture giant has rolled out its ad campaign here, weeks before the grand opening of its first store...
At the beginning of the year, in its hometown of Sweden, IKEA, the multinational furniture and home accessories brand, put out a magazine ad with an in-built pregnancy test, asking women to use it and eventually revealed a discount on a baby crib. Needless to say, the ad flew high on the global ads buzz-meter.
IKEA (‘ee-kay-a in Europe and ‘aii-kea’ to the rest of the world) is no stranger to generating intrigue and its ads are usually described as inspiring; even boundary-pushing. Ads like the one on drag pride or the one that made heroes of everyday home accessories, the one with beds and mothers or even the one that celebrated its classic Poang chair's 40th birthday and the others in between, (and before them, just scroll down for more) have all made interesting statements for the brand.
The ad world talks a lot about IKEA's great track record of winning Cannes Lions, where it has been lauded for clarity of vision and an 'ability to localise its global target market and create campaigns that vary significantly across territories.'
Now, finally, as brand-savvy Indians eagerly await the opening of the first IKEA store in Hyderabad next month, the company has partnered with Dentsu Impact to roll out its first campaign for the country - titled 'Make Everyday Brighter'.
The maiden TVC strings together carefully curated mise-en-scène shots filled with everyday family moments aided by visual staples for IKEA ads - soft natural light, products woven in, with some price points thrown in here and there.
In India, the company has spent three whole years learning about its consumers - from cultural roots, aesthetics, aspirations, and buying behaviour. While some would expect the DIY aspect of IKEA's products to be highlighted somewhere, the first film, for now, doesn't touch upon it. Also, consumers can, for a small premium, opt for pre-assembled home delivered furniture.
IKEA earlier stated that the growing young population in India, who move houses frequently and are more likely to snap up its inexpensive, functional furniture, are a focus. The brand is reportedly expected to spend between 150-180 crore on advertising this fiscal. Ulf Smedberg, country marketing manager, IKEA India, says "Everything we do comes from our belief to create a better everyday life and from market insights and this is expressed in our positioning direction 'Make Everyday Brighter'."
He adds, "For us, it is important that all we do should be relevant yet aspirational and connects India and IKEA in a fun, distinct, yet unique way."
Keeping Indian sensibilities in mind, how did the team at Dentsu Impact interpret the brief?
Its president, Amit Wadhwa and chief creative officer, Soumitra Karnik, agree that 'this is unlike any other launch'. "IKEA has a very strong global tonality that ensures that the brand's core and vocabulary remain intact from country to country. India, of course, is unlike any Western market and it was a fine balance to maintain between global tonality and Indian sensibilities, especially given the largely traditional market of Hyderabad," they explain.
They add that the brief was, therefore, interpreted from 'the lens of modern India; a melting pot of traditional values interpreted for contemporary society - with blurring gender roles, loosening social mores, evolving family dynamics, and modernising value systems - but still hinged on the universal bond of home and family, which is IKEA's core domain'.
Perhaps the 'cosy family' is more tailored for a TVC launch and there would be a quirkier approach for digital?
"Absolutely!" exclaims the team. "This is a brand whose communication always leaves you with a happy feeling - sometimes through quirk, sometimes through warmth. The TVC, being the first one in India, was conceptualised in a manner that'd appeal to the mass audience. Yes, it is warm, but not in a mushy, stereotypical way; it's progressive and very real," they elaborate.
They agree that digital, as a medium, does allow for a quirkier approach. "Very soon you will see an entire series of communication that is fun, quirky and very fresh. Without giving away much, all I'd say is that we have in store something that is new for the Indian market, as well as for IKEA," the team promises.
On the execution, the team wanted to focus on the brand's 'warm, real and authentic values'. "Moments that are real and spontaneous i.e. not made up at all - that is something that you will always see in IKEA's films", they express.
So has IKEA's maiden ad for India made an impact?
"No one can deny that IKEA is iconic. It needs no introduction to the globally travelled, affluent Indian. All that these people need to know is the address of the store!" exclaims Subramanian Krishnan, chief strategy officer at TBWA India.
"However...," he adds, "... in the longer-term horizon, one assumes that the brand seeks to connect with a more middle-class sensibility and be aspirational to someone who is not aware of IKEA yet. Seen through this lens, I feel IKEA could've done better. The challenge, in such cases, almost always, is to take a global brand idea and 'Indianise' its meaning. It's in this Indianising that the campaign falters. I feel it would've resonated more if it had some uniquely Indian situations or emotions, instead of cupcakes, forks and sleepovers."
Krishnan also says that while a local brand may be pardoned from an attempt to be too global in its canvas and for becoming aspirational, the same has been proven to be untrue for international brands wanting to be successful in India (unless one is an uber-luxury niche brand). "IKEA repeats that mistake. I'm sure they will do well locally in India. But surely they can get more local insight on the advertising," he feels.
Varun Duggirala, co-founder and content chief at The Glitch, has this to say, "IKEA as a brand, has always been aspirational and its range of furniture and the variety and beauty of each has always been the stuff of furniture dreams. There has also always been a certain quirk to its advertising. That's, unfortunately, missing in this film."
"In an attempt to make a wholesome Indian family the hero of the film, the furniture itself doesn't look as appealing or differentiated. For me, personally, the messaging of 'why should I buy', isn't clear enough for the Indian consumer. Bring back the quirk, I say," he adds.
Rahul Ghosh, senior VP and creative director at Contract Advertising looks at IKEA as a lighthouse creative brand that has consistently hit out of the park.
"It has done some delightful work across all kinds of media-great films, compelling activations. So we were looking forward to the first Indian IKEA commercial. And frankly speaking, it was a bit of, you know, a downer of sorts," says Ghosh.
"Of course, I hasten to add that I understand the story that is being told here. This is the first commercial. A setting the tone, of sorts. An opening shot. A start of a conversation, that introduces IKEA. In a not-trying-too-hard way. It says, I am here and effortlessly segues IKEA into everyday moments," he adds.
Finally, he feels that IKEA is first all about design, and as the India conversation progresses the design story should be front and centre-probably digitally. "Being India, the affordability angle will push itself into the conversation at some point. Understandably, the DIY aspect will be kept out of the starting line-up." he says.
One may have to wait for the digital leg to witness all the edginess to be unleashed. And also for that famous IKEA yearly catalogue (203 million copies distributed around the globe) that, like the Harry Potter series, is one of the most popular books in the world.
Here are some more global ads by IKEA:
The brand will open its first store in Hyderabad on August 9, and one in Mumbai next year, followed by Bengaluru and Delhi. While it eventually plans to open 25 stores across India (with an investment of $670 million), its online store has a mid-2019 launch target. Among the brand’s competition, e-tailers like Pepperfry and Urban Ladder have been strengthening their omni-channel presence.
The seven year old Pepperfry (turnover of Rs. 1,000 crore in 2017) is upping the number of its offline ‘experience studios’ from 32 to 70 by April 2019. Five year old Urban Ladder (95 crore turnover in 2017), which has raised Rs 600 crore till now (100 crore in a fresh round this year) is strengthening its offline presence in metros.