With Ikea expanding its footprint across the Asia Pacific, Branding in Asia decided to catch up with the brand’s Head of Marketing for Southeast Asia, Nigel Richardson. Nearly a 25-year veteran at Ikea, he has been guiding the retailer’s brand in Southeast Asia since 2018.
This past year, as social distancing policies around the world saw more people staying at home than ever before, Ikea launched the “Home is a Different World” campaign – a concept that Richardson told us was actually in the making before COVID, and “only became more relevant in 2020 as our homes became even more central, instantly transforming into our office, school, gym, and more.”
Over the course of our conversation, we talk about the campaign, challenges for the company as it expands its footprint across the region, how the brand has evolved during the pandemic era, coming store openings, and more.
Tell us more about the “Make Home Count” brand platform and the “Home Is A Different World” brand campaign that launched last month. How has it elevated the Ikea brand in SEA?
As a mass-market retailer first and foremost, there’s always a focus in our marketing to drive sustainable and profitable growth. But in amongst all this hard-working advertising, I think it’s important to sometimes step back and communicate purely on our brand. That’s what the Make Home Count platform allows us to do. It’s about inviting our customers in Southeast Asia to take a step back too, and remember that home really is the center of our lives.
This year, we brought the message to life through our “Home is a Different World” campaign. It’s actually an idea we were playing with long before COVID changed the world, but it only became more relevant in 2020 as our homes became even more central, instantly transforming into our office, school, gym, and more.
Through this work, we want to solidify our place in customers’ hearts and minds as a brand that truly enables everyone to have created a better life at home.
As the Head of Marketing in Southeast Asia, what are some of the challenges for the growth and development of the Ikea brand in such a diverse region?
You said it in the question – our region is so diverse! Homes and lives are very different in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, so what resonates with one market may not always work in the others.
On top of this, the levels of brand awareness differ hugely. In Singapore, we’re very much “part of the furniture”, having been here for over 40 years – in fact, our brand awareness in Singapore is higher than in Sweden! We’re a little newer in Thailand, and fewer people live within easy reach of our stores, which presents a different opportunity.
“We’ve been through a lot – working remotely, putting social distancing measures in place to keep customers safe, followed by up to 73 days of store closures.”
It’s a challenge we enjoy tackling though and goes beyond just marketing. For instance, lots of our effort in Thailand is about communicating the affordability of Ikea – we lowered many of our prices this year specifically focusing on Thailand, to bring our products within reach of many more people.
How has the brand evolved regionally this past year in the face of a global pandemic?
The brand itself hasn’t really had to evolve. We’ve always been about democratic design – the belief that everyone should be able to afford great design. And, that’s even more relevant today.
Business, though, has clearly evolved. Shopping online has been very important to customers in a socially-distanced world, and we’ve been very busy fulfilling web orders. We’ve also seen shopping behaviors change as people spend more time and do more activities at home. Everyone seemed to become home chefs and bakers this year, judging by the amount of interest in our cooking and eating ranges.
“Homes and lives are very different in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, so what resonates with one market may not always work in the others. On top of this, the levels of brand awareness differ hugely.”
Obviously, home office furniture was hugely popular too as people realized that sitting at the kitchen bench for 8 hours a day isn’t the most comfortable way to work! The job for us as marketers is to recognize these behaviors and be top of mind communicating inspiring and affordable solutions. We put lots of effort into this on social media, as it allows us to be nimble and react quickly to the latest trends.
Read the entire interview over at Branding in Asia Magazine.