Brilliant Brands: IKEA’s secret to brand authenticity – built on a real human need

By November 29, 2018 Branding, Inspiration

In the Brilliant Brands blog series, I’m going to show you all kind of follow-worthy companies - from small to well-known - and give you an insight on their branding secrets. And the best: you can copy these best practices and apply them to your own brand. So let’s dig in.

Our first Brilliant Brand destination is a Swedish Giant you definitely know. Whenever you catch a glimpse of their blue & yellow building along a major highway exit, you start craving Swedish meatballs and imagine spending hours in a labyrinth of household gadgets. Meanwhile, your husband sighs with a bit of frustration but then he takes the exit. “At least there will be almond cake” - he mutters while you’re smiling in joy.

This is IKEA. A brand we all know. But how could this Scandinavian company win our heart? With their cheap yet stylish furniture? With their laid back in-store ambiance? With their famous meatballs?

WHY DO WE LOVE IKEA?

OK-OK… Back-up for a sec! Not everyone loves IKEA.

My hubby is a good example and it’s understandable:

He solved multiple IKEA puzzles at home - a.k.a. assembling the furniture we’d just bought - and he saw the same furniture suffer combat damage after numerous moves.

Let’s face it: IKEA furniture is not the best in quality, not the most original in design and not even the most convenient - except if you like puzzles like me.

But then why do we still love shopping at IKEA? Why do we feel more joy about the idea of visiting their store than any other furniture mall in the same price range? What raises this brand out from the mediocre grayness of budget solutions?

The answer is in the core purpose of IKEA. Or as Simon Sinek would call it: their WHY.

WHY DOES IKEA EXIST

If you navigate to IKEA’s about page, you’ll find this phrase as their WHY (also called as core purpose or vision): 

“To create a better everyday life for the many people.”

Simple, universal, understandable and most importantly it’s customer focused.

Now go and google any competitor and try to find their vision (good luck). You’ll most probably will find long paragraphs going on and on about:

  • We sell the best quality furniture
  • We provide the best customer service
  • We offer the greatest deals every week
  • We have the biggest inventory
  • We sell for the lowest prices
  • We sell at the most locations
  • We offer the longest warranties
  • We have the most unicorn-shaped, jingling sparkle pillows...

Complicated, overly-specific, all-over-the-place and self-centric. There’s no one core idea or value that states what the given brand stands for.

They just admire their own “bestness” which is cool time to time but not as a foundation of a brand.

They try to convince you by logical facts, e.g. “we are cheaper than XYZ”. But hardly any loyalty has been ever built on logic. You must impact customers’ emotions and focus on understanding and feeling their real life struggles.

If you have a clear, simple, universal & customer-focused vision, this will become more possible.

THE POWER OF SIMPLICITY

Why is this important?

Because when you have a simple, understandable purpose, it’s easier to operate in an authentic and consistent manner. It’s easier to define what you can do and can not do, what your team should focus on and where you can develop new ideas. It’s a key to turn decision making easier.

THE POWER OF A UNIVERSAL PURPOSE

When I say “universal”, I’m not talking about something vague or overly generic. I’m talking about a vision that can inspire every department of your company from marketing to customer service and product development.

In addition, a universal purpose expands the solutions that your company can offer.

Just look at these examples (and try to imagine your team coming up with ideas around your WHY):

Example #1 - IKEA CAN SELL FOOD

IKEA: “What makes your everyday life better?"
THE MANY PEOPLE: “Food!”
IKEA: “OK, let’s sell good food in our store, so people can relax before making decision about a $1000 sofa. And if we are there, let’s add a Swedish food shop so that they can bring easy to prepare meals into their homes.”

Example #2 - IKEA CAN LOOK AFTER YOUR KID

IKEA: “What makes our everyday life better?”
THE MANY PEOPLE: “If someone can look after my kiddo while I’m shopping so he won’t get bored and I won’t get frustrated.”
IKEA: “OK, let’s put a Kids Club in all our stores where children can have fun activities while their parents are looking around. Let’s also add toys to the restaurant so kids can play and learn while their parents enjoy a cup of coffee.”

Example #3 - IKEA CAN BUILD HOMES FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE

IKEA:  “What makes our everyday life better?”
THE MANY PEOPLE: “If we can all feel safe, when we get home, and we can leave problems behind.”
IKEA: “OK, let’s create easy to assemble modular homes for refugees who flee violence and war and make sure that these homes have a door to lock, electricity and enough space for a family.

Example #4 - IKEA MAKES IT EASIER TO MOVE TO COLLEGE

IKEA: “What makes our everyday life better?”
THE MANY PEOPLE: “A dorm room that I can feel good in without having to rent a 15ft UHaul every semester.
IKEA: “OK, let’s design modular furniture that’s easy to transport and affordable for students.”

Example #5 - IKEA CAN BUILD A BETTER FUTURE

IKEA:  “What makes our everyday life better?”
THE MANY PEOPLE: “If we know that our kids will have a future full of opportunities.”
IKEA: “OK, let’s make sure that those kids will inherit a world that’s good to live in: let’s invest €700 million in programs fighting climate change, let’s create a sustainability strategy to reduce our own effect on the environment and let’s set up partnerships with other companies to stop plastic waste entering the oceans.”

AND FINALLY...

This conversation wouldn’t work if IKEA’s core purpose would be “offering the best deals” or “manufacturing the best products”.

IKEA: “We make the best and the cheapest furniture!”
THE MANY PEOPLE: “Oom… good for you, I guess.

Yes, I know. Those qualities are important too. You need good products that people want to buy. But without defining your core WHY first, you won’t be able to create, sell and market those products in an authentic way.

Empires are built on purpose. So define the WHY first and then build WHAT you do and HOW you do it on this one core idea.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!

These examples are really just the tip of the iceberg… imagine what you can do with your team!

First off, read Simon’s amazing book (or at least watch his TED video). Then gather your team and phrase your company’s core purpose. Make it simple, understandable, universal and customer focused.

After that, start brainstorming with your team: how many ways can you achieve that purpose / vision? Remember, there’s no bad idea during a brainstorming.

Did you come up with something unique? Did you start to put yourself in your customer’s shoes during the process?

Share one of your big realizations in the comments. I can’t wait to read them.

I hope you liked this article about IKEA. I’m going to add other interesting companies with excellent branding strategies in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!

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