Case Study: IKEA -- how creative positioning as "second best" won hearts and minds

case studies communication messaging public relations

Messaging is the art of framing an idea in a way that will stand out and be noticed, resonate with an audience, and stick in their minds in a way that shapes behaviour. One way to be distinctive is to say something unexpected or counterintuitive. Whereas most companies promote their products as being the best, IKEA ran a marketing campaign intentionally positioning itself as “proudly second best” – earning a coveted Film Gold Lion at Cannes 2023.

In this atypical campaign, IKEA departs from the conventional emphasis on product functionality, instead highlighting emotionally resonant moments of parenthood. Key products such as the ANTILOP Highchair, BOLMEN Step Stool, and the SMÅGÖRA cot are featured, showcasing babies and children engaging with their parents – not with the product.

The focus is on capturing meaningful experiences rather than just displaying products in use. By harnessing the power of narrative and emotion in its communication, IKEA encourages consumers to connect with the brand on a deeper level. This creative example underscores IKEA's success in not just selling products but in becoming an integral part of the personal stories unfolding within homes.

Key lessons

  • Human-centric: by placing parents and their experiences at the forefront, IKEA humanises its brand. This approach resonates with audiences and positions the company as understanding and empathising with its consumers' lives.
  • Authenticity: acknowledging that IKEA products may not always be the first choice adds authenticity to the campaign. This transparent messaging fosters trust and showcases IKEA's willingness to embrace imperfections.
  • Creativity: by focusing on real everyday family situations with the product as background, not foreground, the campaign wraps the brand in emotional appeal.
  • Universality: the campaign's themes of family, connection, and authenticity resonate universally. By tapping into shared human experiences, IKEA extends its appeal beyond demographic boundaries.
  • Adaptability: IKEA's willingness to depart from traditional marketing approaches showcases its adaptability and forward-thinking mindset. By embracing narrative-driven communication, the brand demonstrates its agility in responding to evolving consumer preferences and communication trends.

ISOC course links

This content relates to the following short courses at the International School of Communication, available live online and also face-to-face in London and Dubai:

Advanced Communication Strategy

Advanced Communications and PR Management

Communication Strategy Design and Development

Copy-Writing for Marketing, Communications and PR

Creativity in Communications and PR

Planning and Managing PR Campaigns

Storytelling for Professional Impact

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