UK and Ireland marketing manager Laurent Tiersen explains the strategy behind IKEA’s stellar marketing track record
From the controversial (at the time) ‘Chuck Out Your Chintz’ to the iconic and expertly observed ‘Kitchen Party’ IKEA ads have set an admirably high bar for decades, particularly in the UK market. And in recent years, alongside its British agency partner Mother, they’ve been turning out films that are both lighthearted and visually stunning. Remember the Dougal Wilson-directed ‘Playin’ With My Friends’ and ‘T-Shirts’? Well, this month the dream team smashed it out the park again with ‘Ghosts’.
LBB’s Alex Reeves sat down with Laurent Tiersen, marketing manager for IKEA UK and Ireland, looking for some insight into how they manage to get it right so often.
LBB> In your role, what are your responsibilities and ambitions for the brand?
LT> I am responsible for the brand positioning in both the UK and Irish markets. I have an active role in framing the country’s marketing directions and their business plans. I also oversee all marketing communication, including brand programmes, CRM and activation. I like to think of my role as the bridge between the consumers in UK and Ireland and the brand, with the responsibility to connect and engage with them, regardless of channels.
LBB> Your career has spanned years working across the UK, Italy, Belgium and IKEA's home country of Sweden. How does that international experience inform your country-specific role now?
LT> I have been very fortunate to live in a variety of countries and experience the various dimensions of the IKEA brand in this journey. Whilst living in Italy I got to see how our competitive advantage in knowing life at home and connecting with a strong home furnishing offer that is accessible to the many resulted in strong results. This still inspires me today. In Belgium and Sweden, I developed a global overview of the brand, working with many different markets, which helps me give a strong local accent to our global brand.
LBB> I associate IKEA's content and advertising with fun and a sort of warmth - the feeling of being at home is always represented well in your marketing. What's the key to making sure you maintain that?
LT> Our fun, warm tone of voice is rooted in our DNA, and life at home is an intrinsic part to our marketing as it is at the heart of the Swedish way of life. IKEA has a philosophy that simple, pragmatic and ingenious small things can make your life better. This is why we have the ambition to improve life at home for as many people as possible.
We study people’s needs, dreams and aspirations by visiting thousands of homes which help us design products and solutions. It also helps us to present products in our stores in the most effective way for as many people as possible and identify some strong insights for our marketing communication. We strive to connect people with their life at home, and that is why we represent the home in our communication. And we try to do [that] in a human way, through warmth and also fun, because it is the way people are!
LBB> You also work with amazing craftspeople, like Kim Gehrig and Dougal Wilson. And a lot of those films have won industry awards. Why is that level of craft so important to IKEA?
LT> This market has very high standards and requires you to stand out in the crowd, this is why the level of craft is very important, as we want to connect emotionally with people, and it can be quite hard.
LBB> Can you talk us through your relationship with Mother? It goes back a long way in the UK!
LT> We have been working together with Mother for several years. In 2014 we introduced a winning platform under “the wonderful everyday” and since I’ve joined, we have evolved this platform to get a stronger connection with IKEA’s DNA, the life at home and the warm and fun dimension. I am very pleased with how the platform gives our global brand a local accent, connecting with the people in our markets. The evolution works in a similar way to how IKEA interacts with partners, as it takes a while to get under the skin of our brand.
LBB> Your latest amazing TVC seems to be targeted at the growing market of renters in the UK, who can't paint their homes but can decorate them with fabrics etc. Is that a particular shift for IKEA? And does it fit into any wider trends about the home improvement category?
LT> This is more of a perception built in the UK than IKEA as a whole. We have always been looking at the many different people, not only the home owners. In fact, in Germany – our largest market – there are more renters than owners. Our business is not only about furniture, but also home furnishing accessories which we have been selling for decades, and in many markets we are perceived as a home furnishing retailer, not just a furniture retailer.
LBB> Along with the ‘Ghosts’ film, the campaign also featured a full length music video. Can you explain why you decided to do that? I think it's a cool approach!
LT> The music video came as a result of a challenge we experienced where we wanted to show as many solutions as possible in lots of different ways. We wanted to show that textile has endless possibilities and it was quite difficult to feature this in an engaging way. This music video I think is a great answer to the challenge! Like when we outreached with the “Game of Throws” PR story, it is a fun way to engage in an unexpected way with people.