Those quirky, lovable people in the yellow shirts have done it again.
IKEA’s latest marketing video, “Experience the power of a bookbook,” presents the 2015 catalog as though it were a revolutionary Apple device. The starry-eyed Swedish narrator goes through each feature of the catalog one at a time, from its “eternal” battery life to its “no-lag” page loads, as if he himself can’t believe his eyes. The parody is perfect because it’s so thorough – a white, minimalist background; whimsical music laden with bells; even familiar Apple-isms like “intuitive” and “interface” and “life-enhancing.”
The cultural caricature also comes at the right time. After so many Apple releases over the past few years (the new iPhone, in fact, will be revealed today), there is perhaps a feeling of desensitization – a numbness to new technology, at least when it’s continually portrayed as life-changing. Drawing our attention to simpler items in our lives – like books – allows us to collectively laugh and feel nostalgic. But the video also produced in me a sense of actual amazement at how great books really are, and how their simplicity and function truly cannot be improved upon. (Anyone else?)
The tongue-in-cheek approach is infectious, and IKEA is quite fond of using it. It works wonders for recruitment, too. Think of the narrator of the video above; would you like to meet him? I would. This also isn’t the first time IKEA has drawn attention to a lo-fi strategy. Two years ago, when the company needed hundreds of new staff members for an Australian mega store, they used the power of paper to recruit. The video below explains how they “created a set of instructions for assembling a career,” which they stuck inside the flat packs of furniture pieces that went home with customers. The step-by-step imagery is immediately recognizable and playful in the context of “assembling a career.” Of course, the concept of targeting customers as potential workers isn't new, but the strategy seems almost innovative in today’s social media-crazed, touch screen-dominant climate. The video, which reveals how many quality applications they received (4,285), how many careers they “assembled” (280) and how much they spent on media advertising and postage ($0) is part advice and part gloat:
Even though the video doesn't constitute the recruitment strategy itself, it does some brand-building legwork of its own. If you didn't see the fliers in Australia, the video allows viewers worldwide to say, “Hey, this is a practical company that doesn’t worry about how other companies do things." Perhaps these viewers will keep their ear to the ground and be more receptive to an IKEA career in the future.
For those of you who run your own companies, here’s a prime example that what works for some doesn’t necessarily work for all. IKEA found that internet/TV/radio/social media marketing was not necessary, and they are not ashamed to go a lo-fi route. In fact, they celebrate it. If paper-based recruitment works, it works.
And yet, even as they portray a down-home, folksy goodness that resonates with “old-school” sensibilities, the company is far from low-tech. They released their first augmented reality catalog last year that allows customers to preview products in their home. As explained by the design site Inhabit, “The catalog is placed within the room the user wants to decorate, and the application senses and measures the booklet itself to create accurate images. Products then appear on your smartphone’s screen in the correct size and color.” Here's a video that shows the process (complete with silliness, of course. They couldn't resist):
IKEA has seized the best of both worlds, appealing to both tech addicts and people who feel too saturated with modernity. They’re proving you can have it both ways.