IKEA Jumps on the Living Bandwagon

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I visited my local IKEA over the weekend and picked up one of their 2007 catalogs. It looks like they have jumped on the “living life to the fullest” bandwagon that I talked about in an earlier post. As you can see from the photo above, the front cover is different from the 2006 version in a couple of interesting respects.

First, the “Celebrate Your Everyday Life” tagline is a new feature that doesn’t appear on the 2006 version, where price is the key value proposition. Second, it shows people, whereas the furniture itself is the only element seen in 2006 (in fact, this is the first IKEA catalog I can recall that actually shows people on the cover, though I don’t have any archived so could be wrong on that…).

This is clearly IKEA picking up on the zeitgeist of getting back to focusing on the important things in life where price is important, yes, but price in itself is no longer the end goal. The phrase “everyday life” is interesting as it implies the “small” things in life are important, that it’s not just about the big celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, family gatherings, holidays, etc. IKEA is well-positioned for this as they have always been more prosaic than exotic.

Inside the catalog the theme is repeated, but with a twist. Whereas the outside is celebratory, the inside is defensive. The phrasing turns to variations on  “Reclaim your life” on key section pages:

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Nuances are added on other pages, such as this one about closet organization products, which does not mention reclaimation explicitly but implies it:

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Given the conversations going on currently about the state of the US economy and how it’s affecting working families, I find this “reclaim” stand by IKEA to be instructive. It speaks to a frustration of the lower-middle class that is IKEA’s prime customer segment with how they have been getting squeezed on money and time, and that they are feeling control over the life slowly slip away. So slowly that it’s hard to consciously articulate, but IKEA is tapping into the undercurrent of frustration that I think is widespread.

The fact that IKEA has stepped away from its price-driven value proposition to one that is more charged with emotionally and “we’re with you!” comraderie I think indicates the reality and pervasiveness of this feeling. After all, IKEA has to develop its messaging for a full year, so I trust that they have done their homework on what motivations and concerns are driving people’s purchase decisions.

IKEA is acknowledging that a features/benefits/price driven proposition is not enough today - perhaps they are feeling pressure from Target with its “cheap and cheerful” campaign (to use a wonderful English phrase)?

Many tech companies slogging it out in maturing markets could take this lesson to heart: don’t get caught flat-footed when your market shifts from being driven from “rational factors” (price, performance, features) to “emotional factors” (meeting my life needs, satisfying my ego, etc.)