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Ikea Feels At Home With Cross-Media Strategy

Over the past five years, as Ikea’s retail environment has transformed and consumer behavior evolved, the line between traditional and digital media has increasingly blurred. In positioning itself as a content brand, Ikea has “stopped speaking” about media in terms of traditional versus digital, preferring instead to embrace a holistic customer engagement strategy, says Alia Kemet, U.S. director of media at Ikea North America.

“The world we live in has become digitized and the impact of having everything at your fingertips means it is crucial that marketers build strategies across all media within the sphere of an immersive digital existence,” Kemet points out. “What is traditional versus digital in a media world where you can’t tell where one begins and the other picks up? We are creating tactics as simple as tagging television campaigns with digital calls to action, or as multi-faceted as launching the Ikea Home Tour, a branded entertainment video series using both digital media and media historically thought of as ‘traditional.’”



Kemet, who will speak at the Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Media Conference, March 2 - 4 in Hollywood, Fla., shares her guiding principles in the social space, how she makes Ikea’s video campaigns stand out, why media innovation is a game changer, and more.

Q. You have been lauded for your pioneering social media efforts. What core principles have served you well in the social space?

A. There are four principles that have served me well:

1. Don’t do social if it doesn’t add value for consumers. As marketers we refer to social media as owned and earned media, but if anyone owns the social space, including your brand status, it is consumers and customers. I think this is something that marketers need to constantly keep top of mind when building strategies and campaigns. While it may sound a bit esoteric, we have to understand consumers’ role in social media and respect their position by putting everything through a “value” filter. When I wrote our first social media strategy document almost six years ago, I was very mindful of the importance of adding value to our customers, and we’ve stuck to this principle.

2. Insights, insights, insights. Social media is not a unicorn, it’s a horse. It’s not fanciful or magical. Luck has nothing to do with it. It is marketing in 2016 and beyond. I don’t even like to hear it referred to as new media. Social media is normal marketing, and just like all other areas, social media campaigns should be grounded in consumer insights.

3. Have an engagement plan. There is this false perception within social media practices that communication will miraculously “go viral” if it’s just good communication, or funny, or clever, or has cats in it. While this can happen, putting all your eggs in the go-viral basket is like gambling with your marketing plan. There should always be pre-planned engagement goals with well-thought-out tactics which support those goals ideally across paid, owned, and earned media. I believe in trying new things based on research and insights, but I don’t gamble with my media plan.

4. Measure success. It’s important to go into this area knowing what you expect it to do for your business. I know for a fact social media helps Ikea grow sales, because in addition to activating our brand advocates, promoting our home furnishing competence, and creating awareness of our brand, influencing the consumer decision journey was and continues to be a goal. We developed engagement and awareness KPIs within our plans to help us measure success. We also use econometric marketing models to identify the contribution of social media to our plans and the ROI. A well-thought-out strategy based on consumer insights and an engagement plan with identified KPIs is a great foundation for being able to measure success and validate investment.

Q. Video has helped you tell the Ikea story in humorous, clever ways. How do you ensure that campaigns stand out, are talked about and shared, and influence buyer behavior?

A. One of the great things about Ikea is a history that spans decades. We know who we are as a brand, and we also have solid values, tested over time, which anchor our communications. Honesty and transparency are values that are very important to Ikea. We’re also a brand that is known for being surprising or a bit rebellious, in a positive way, of course. The whole concept of flat-packed furniture that can be taken home immediately and assembled by customers was quite disruptive in the 1940s. This type of ingenious spirit lies in the DNA of the Ikea brand, and I think it comes through in our advertising around the world. 

Q. You have said that media innovation requires a game-changing mindset. Please elaborate.

A. There used to be a time when it was good enough — even great — to be considered either a creative person or a really analytical person. Today, to be innovative within media you have to have both of these attributes, combined with a big dose of fearlessness and desire to try new things. I encourage my team to truly embrace the convergence of creativity and analytics. I don’t want them to be afraid to explore an idea they really believe in. Some of the best ideas are killed too early, before they were given a chance to find out if there is anything salvageable in the roots. There is nothing more destructive to the media-planning process than an idea-bashing manager who doesn’t listen to colleagues and kills innovation. Who wants to be that guy? Nobody. 

Q. You have been recognized as one of the top marketers under age 40. What advice do you have for young marketers who hope to one day follow in your footsteps?

A. Having a plan to influence key stakeholders while proselytizing my digital agenda has been just as important to my career success as writing strategies and launching campaigns. If key internal stakeholders don’t know the results of your campaigns, there is no one to blame but yourself. While building your marketing, media, and digital plans, don’t forget to write an internal public relations strategy for yourself and your own personal development goals.

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