Will Ikea Hotels be a success or a failure?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Ikea is a clearly a beloved brand in the market with a very powerful connection to their consumer.  

But is an Ikea Hotel a good idea or bad? 

Consider me a fan of Ikea, and I’ve been perusing the Ikea catalogues and store aisles since I was 15.  It’s an exciting experience.  The innovative and youthful designs surprise you at every turn–kitchen tables, desks, cool chairs or wall-art.  The low prices make it a perfect fit for the University crowd or those starting out, or if you want something of a disposable need that you know you’ll replace in 2-3 years.  Where else can get an end-table for $14?

But if you have bought Ikea furniture, you have likely experienced the holy terror of their customer service.   You find the item, you write it down on a piece of paper and spend forever looking down in the warehouse section of the store.  You ask an employee and they have no clue and can barely be bothered to help you.   One of your items is in, but the wrong colour.   The other item is out of stock with a hand-written sign that says it will be back in stock in about six weeks.   You take your one item home, open it up.   The directions are simple–which is great–but so simple that you have to stare at the hand drawn object for 10 minutes before it makes sense.  You end up missing a bolt and this small piece of wood.  You can`t figure out if it`s crucial to the design or not.  So you drive all the way back to the store and get in line for customer service.  Oh the fun is just about to begin for you.  You take a number and wait.  Once it`s your turn, you are interrogated and questioned of what you might have done with the missing bolt.

Yes, I`m still a fan.  But I have had some really nasty experiences that makes me question why I stay a fan.  Ikea has a rich balance sheet in the brand equity world:  Amazing Innovation matched against Dreadful Customer service.  The biggest problem I have with Ikea`s customer service is after 30-40 years of bad service, they must surely know it by now.  There are websites called Ikeasucks.com and Facebook pages called I Hate Ikea. But what it really says me is `service isn`t really important to Ikea`.   It`s not really part of the culture.  They value the fun they get from the innovation more than the hard work it would take to fix the service.  And that`s ok, because as a loyal customer, I must have the same feeling.

Ikea has announced they are entering the budget hotel business.  Is that a good idea or a dreadful decision?  

When I first heard the idea of Ikea Hotels, I thought of the good side: great way to show off their furniture, perfect brand image against the younger target market and a great way to trial new products.  I imagined the hotels would be nice and clean, sleek, stylish design and maybe even a price tag dangling from the end of the bed.

But then I thought of the bad about Ikea Hotels: it would be an awful nights stay.  They would lose my reservation, they would forget to put numbers on the hotel doors, I`d have to deal with some cranky customer service person at the front desk and when I phoned for towels, the person on the end of the line would not know whether I could have them or not.  And of course, you would need an Allen Key to open your door, flush your toilet, set your alarm and turn on your shower.  Will the “somewhat disposable” furniture have the strength to withstand the wear and tear of a hotel or will staff be constantly re-building the desks in the hallway?

While I might be questioning why I keep coming back, it`s safe to say I might not be going to the Hotels.  While Ikea says they will outsource the hotel management, the lack of importance given to service must be cultural embedded deep in the DNA of Ikea.

If we analyse the focus of the brand using the Traecy Model (below), and if you map out Ikea on a high, medium or low for the three areas of Product Leadership, Customer Intimacy or Operational Excellence, it might become crystal clear on whether Hotels make sense.  If you do this on your brand, it`s important to be fully completely honest where you sit.

On product leadership in the discount furniture business, I would score Ikea the highest in the category.  As I said above, it`s the thing that keeps bringing you back.  On Customer Intimacy, I`d score it medium.  It`s a big schizophrenic, in that they know exactly the designs and innovation the customer wants, but they have failed to map out the buying experience to see where they are frustrating and even losing customers.  And finally, Operation Excellence would be very low.  It might an efficient low-cost way to get furniture tot he customer, but in terms of the consumer view we`d have to score them a complete disaster.   Does that mindset match up to a hotel experience you want?   Even if they outsource the operations to another hotel, I would expect their culture to still shine through the operations.

Will Hotels help or hurt the Ikea brand? 

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do. I have walked a mile in your shoes. My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. I’m now a marketing consultant helping brands find their love and find growth for their brands. I do executive training and coaching of executives and brand managers, helping on strategy, brand planning, advertising and profitability. I’m the President of Beloved Brands Inc. and can help you find the love for your brand. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc, visit https://beloved-brands.com/inc/

Ikea: “Long Live the Home” is Easy to Love

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

I’ve always loved Ikea.   As a kid, I’d pour through their catalogues reconfiguring my room in my mind.  Most recently, I took my 13-year-old girl to Ikea and she must have said about 38 times “I’m serious Dad, I want that.”   I can sympathize.

Ikea is fully committed to creating magic for their consumers, whether it is in product designs or in their advertising.    Whether it was the Ikea Lamp Ad (“Many of you feel bad for this lamp.  That is because you’re crazy…”) or the Subway ad where they took a plain and boring subway car and turned it into a lively home you could live in.   Ikea was in the same class as Volkswagen where they’d surprise and delight you on a regular basis.   However, over the last few years, the ads seemed to be missing the magic—I was trying to understand the symbolic nature of the ads, but it wasn’t really connecting with me.  The risk of talking to yourself is you don’t connect and you lose your beloved status.   Ask the Gap.

But this year, Ikea has begun to make their advertising comeback, thanks to the powers of Leo Burnett who can turn brand purpose into brand magic.   And while Ikea always had great ads, it was always hard to piece these ads together until “Long Live the Home” came along this year to establish a Big Idea in the marketplace.   The work is truly beautiful.

One of the hardest things to do is come up with a Big Idea for a Brand, especially in the case of a Branded House.   For a case like Ikea, the idea needs to be big enough to establish the brand idea, yet still sell kitchen cabinets, chairs and closets.   Internal conflict gets in the way of creating a Big Idea and standing behind it:  a) how much brand vs product b) how much equity vs selling c) who makes the ad and finally d) who pays for it internally—brand or product marketing?    You really need to commit to making it happen, and gain the full support across the organization—usually starting from the Top.   Big Ideas like “Think Different”, “Just Do It” and “I’m Loving It” are some of the best examples of Idea lines that connect the brand with consumers and even transform their way right into the culture of everything they do.  That’s where Ikea needs to go next.

There are many brand and business benefits to a Big Idea.   Big ideas should have a 5-10 year life, giving brands a consistent idea to connect behind.   It makes it easier to come back to the brief each year.  Also, there becomes a tone, a character and sometimes a series of devices that help frame the Idea that makes it easier to control how the brand shows up, over time, across various mediums and across the various business units.

Ikea follows the best in class use of the Big Idea, with a 60 second anthem style Ad to establish the Big Idea in the consumers mind, and then separate product ads across various mediums and built into the website, in-store and catalogue.   The TV ads are beautifully shot and connect on a deeply emotinal level, the print ads of high quality and connect.  I really like the unique product Ads they’ve done wheter it is TV ads that sell kitchens or print ideas that sell closets, while staying within the Big Idea.

However, I didn’t notice the idea making its way when I looked at the store level.  I’d love to see “Long Live the Home” be built right into the Ikea culture, brought down to the store level and even begin to influence their customer service.   The big idea becomes more than a tag line, but rather a promise the brand stands behind at every stage of the brand. Without the full comittment to brand all the way through the Love Curve, the magic of the great advertising and cool product designs sets up a High Promise that Ikea struggles to deliver at the experience stage and leaves consumers yearning for more.

That commitment to brand at every touch point has helped propel the Apple brand to the next stratosphere of Beloved Brand.  Ikea, you’ve done such a fantastic job with the advertising, my only ask is that you keep going to make it part of the brand. 

As a bonus for fans of past Ikea Advertising, here is Lamp and the Subway Spots.