Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Teddy bears are a universal symbol for comfort and security, with the cuddly toys often evoking memories of emotional soothing as a child. Ikea kicks that to another level in its latest ad campaign, depicting a set of adorably buff bears providing companionship and literal security as they guard a home's front door.
"Every Home Should Be a Haven" shows the colorful, muscular bears helping a family bond in a living room fort, even crushing someone's work phone so they can enjoy a fun night at home without life's outside stressors. The new brand-building campaign premieres ahead of a more product-focused effort around the holidays and comes after Ikea created a new chief creative officer role earlier this year.
The 60-second spot is the first move by the retailer to ease into fall coziness in the holiday lead-up, according to Christine Whitehawk, marketing communications manager at Ikea U.S.
"The ultimate idea surrounds how folks are looking at their home right now as a place of safety, security and sanctuary," she said. "Sometimes it's a place of play and respite from things that are happening in the outside world."
Sanctuary as a through line
Developed with agency Mother, "Every Home Should Be a Haven" will appear on TV via cable and broadcast, digital video and social platforms in both the U.S. and U.K. markets.
"This is the cornerstone of what we're doing in TV and digital video for the next few months," Whitehawk said.
The spot fulfills a brand-building role around home as a place of sanctuary and how Ikea can support that, while a separate product-level marketing push simultaneously focuses on bottom funnel activity to drive sales. Gift ideas and communications around preparing the home for the holidays will slowly roll out as the holiday season ramps up.
"That would be the more traditional holiday angle, giving you those ideas and insights for how to entertain, how to make a warm, cozy welcoming home as well as gifting ideas," Whitehawk said.
The side-by-side efforts pursue different consumer segments, with the product-focused push targeting people in Ikea's database who have engaged with the brand's content online or are actively browsing for home goods. The video, which was developed last spring and produced over the summer after testing, casts a wider net to capture a more general audience.
Ikea's latest effort arrives amid global supply chain disruptions that span industries. Mother and Whitehawk's team constantly "wash" products to ensure they're promoting only the items that are in stock and have ample distribution. Dishes, sofas or other goods in the background of Ikea's marketing creative might occasionally be out of stock or on backorder, but the team works to ensure the items heavily promoted in ads are available on store shelves for shoppers.
"We're careful to only name and price the products that we have reviewed in that way," Whitehawk said. "It is really constantly being on top of that and trying to be as far ahead of it as you possibly can."
Assembling a focused approach
Home as a place of sanctuary repeatedly surfaces in Ikea's research for what consumers want, according to Whitehawk. It's a broad enough concept with which the marketer can experiment in different ways throughout the seasons and years to meet the moment.
"When we're doing consumer research, we try to mirror back what they're feeling," Whitehawk said. "That's what informed a lot of what we were seeing around home as being this place of sanctuary, whether it's escape from reality or just finding that place of safety where people could huddle together and be together."
Ikea will extend this sanctuary message again in spring 2022 with a fresh angle, per Whitehawk, though she declined to share further details on the campaign.
"Folks may be entertaining in a much smaller way than they have in the past, but maybe this year [they're] expanding that a bit. We try to take those consumer cues and work them into what we're doing."
Marketing communications manager, Ikea U.S.
Home has taken on a new meaning during the pandemic. More people were working and learning from home last year as lockdowns closed offices and schools, pushing consumers to retool their personal space to make fresh realities more comfortable — and driving demand for home retailers like Ikea.
The amount of change people have undergone in the past 18 months is dizzying, motivating Ikea to try to reach consumers through creative that inspires a moment of lightness and "brings a twinkle to the eye," according to Whitehawk. While the notion of holiday gatherings has changed over the past two years, Ikea has worked to quickly adjust to meet consumers' shifting realities.
"Folks may be entertaining in a much smaller way than they have in the past, but maybe this year [they're] expanding that a bit. We try to take those consumer cues and work them into what we're doing," Whitehawk said.
When the pandemic first forced consumers to reconsider their holiday plans last year, Ikea's approach was to respond with a message around sustainability. The effort, dubbed "Don't Let the Holidays Go to Waste," focused on how scaled-back celebrations could still occur without food waste. The retailer extended that sustainability focus into 2021 with a campaign that attempted to make a mammoth issue like environmentalism more accessible to the average consumer while positioning the retailer as a helpful solution.
While consumer attitudes toward travel and large gatherings run the gamut this year, Ikea's goal for the upcoming holiday season is to continue to provide ideas and items for however people choose to celebrate, per Whitehawk.
"Our opportunity from a brand communication perspective is always to establish Ikea as a leader in the home and how we can help improve life," she reiterated. "But ['Every Home Should Be a Haven'] really starts to show us turning it back toward the home and positioning it as a sanctuary."