Ikea Sold a Product on a Global Scale by Tapping Into Local Values

In India and in the U.S., they connected with their consumer base’s preferences

Catering to a specific regions preferences and culture can help make an ad soar. Ikea

Ikea’s latest commercials in the U.S. and India are two excellent examples of how advertising can be successful by employing innovative storytelling skills specific to each culture, while maintaining a subtle nod to the product. Both advertisements, each in slightly different ways, show how the ever-evolving family and social structures are crucial to capture visually in the marketing of home products.

The American commercial, “Make Room for Life,” is framed within a pastiche of the everyday, leaning heavily toward diversity as unity: various types of families, different sizes and styles of homes, diverse communities, families with children and the elderly, families without kids and grandparents, couples and those living alone. Ikea’s visual American story functions in a way such that anyone can relate to the brand because there is no longer a typical family or community among Ikea’s consumer base. The brand is what ties together this American story to Ikea, as we are presented with diverse homes at dusk: the suburban late-modernist house, the earth 20th-century building, the tenement block apartment and the brutalist edgy designed condominium. The camera largely tracks the subjects throughout this commercial: children running through the house, an old man awoken by neighbors who hits the ceiling with the end of a broomstick, two hands playing the piano, a child rollerblading in a living room, intergenerational discussions at the sofa, a man who sheds a tear and another who smells a lemon.

All this as the lyrics tell us:

Make room for love, make room for loss.
For the things you cherish, whatever the cost.
Make room just to make it really nice.
Make sure you make room for life.

What do these images have to do with Ikea? Well, both nothing and everything. The genius of this commercial is that the hard cuts from one image to the next—each averaging two seconds in length—allow the viewer to get a tiny glimpse into the lives of real humans while not getting weighed down in a particular moment. Even the tearful and pensive moments we witness move seamlessly into the many other light-hearted narratives, all which tell the story of what happens when we come home.

Similarly, in the Indian Ikea commercial, “Make Everyday Brighter!,” leans heavily upon the united yet changing nature of the family, which is used to tie into the company’s recent launch in Hyderabad. Where American families are well-known to be in constant change, the Indian family model is also changing by virtue of work that geographically separates the traditional extended family as well as through the decline of domestic labor within the home. This advertisement hooks into these intersections of old and young, traditional and modern and the meeting of western and Indian foods as we watch a mother decorating cupcakes with her children and a father making saag paneer with his kids. All this within a similar beat and spoken word song narrative that carries the viewer through a day in the life, as the song asks the viewer, “Is a home really a home?” The innovation of the kitchen and of the family is where Ikea pivots its image.

Ikea has successfully mastered marketing its brand to the established U.S. consumer base as well as to an entirely new region and culture. And surprisingly a similar strategy works in both places because these adverts span the horizon of what family means today through presenting a series of vibrantly-paced hard cut edits that focus on the beauty of difference. Where digital marketing strategies like TrafficBox and AdWords can be useful for marketing, the value of well-produced television commercials that focus on unity in diversity cannot be overstated.

The takeaway from this approach is that no matter how varied two different cultures might appear, directing advertising strategy on visual and musical formats that are dynamic and contemporary serves to create a compelling point of identification for the viewer. Ikea shows the best advertising methods need not necessarily focus upon the brand, but will appeal to a wider range of society by selling their core values through concrete visuals of the everyday.

@lubelluledotcom Julian Vigo is an independent scholar, filmmaker, and writer. Her latest book is Earthquake in Haiti: The Pornography of Poverty and the Politics of Development (2015).