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Case Study: IKEA Come into the Closet

AgencyForsman & Bodenfors
Client: IKEA
Award: D&AD Yellow Pencil, Websites / Photography, 2007. 

IKEA continues to dominate the world of affordable home furnishings, both in its native Sweden and across the globe, but it is the company’s longstanding relationship with Forsman & Bodenfors that solidified their status as Yellow Pencil digital marketing winners at the D&AD Awards. The Swedish agency were celebrated thanks to their online interactive site for IKEA closets, entitled ‘Come Into The Closet’.

IKEA invites you into the closet. Watch the campaign film here.

‘We wanted to really focus on the bedroom and the need for organising one’s living,’ explains IKEA’s advertising manager, Mattias Jöngard. ‘We could especially see that need for women. We also wanted to showcase the width and depth of our range, which can offer a dream walk-in closet for everyone.’

IKEA has worked with Forsman & Bodenfors since 1996 on everything from long-term brand development to ongoing tactical campaigns. ‘We have worked with several creative teams within Forsman & Bodenfors over the years and they have a great ability to both pass on IKEA knowledge as well as great communication skills that fit the IKEA brand within the agency.’

Philip Mascher, account director at Forsman & Bodenfors, concurs. ‘We have had a retainer relationship with IKEA for more than ten years,’ he says. ‘Campaigns are planned on a regular, rotating schedule, up to one year in advance, typically with sales goals, but sometimes perception goals, to allow creative solutions to include both execution and media.’

At the beginning of the partnership, Forsman & Bodenfors carried out its own research, which revealed that although IKEA is recognised for functional values, such as good quality at low prices, the brand fell short on emotional values. Customers could imagine buying functional items such as those for the garage, hallway or study, but they were apprehensive about buying ‘capital investment items’, such as furniture for the living room or bedroom that could be regarded as indicators of personal taste. The IKEA customer also believed that the only time something new happened at IKEA was when the company released a new catalogue.

Armed with this knowledge, Forsman & Bodenfors set about working to change these perceptions. For ‘Come Into The Closet’, the brief was simple: to sell more IKEA wardrobes and bedroom storage systems.

The campaign had two objectives. The first, and most important, was to to increase store sales for the closet category, which was achieved to such a degree that IKEA began to have fairly serious product availability problems. The secondary, more long-term objective was to elevate closets from a purely functional role in the home to a more important way of expressing personal style and becoming a ‘treat’ purchase. Addressing this, we came upon the concept of walk-in closets.’

While the walk-in closet may be commonplace in the US, it was not well-known in Sweden, where people often live in smaller homes. ‘This presented an opportunity for us to use walk-in closets as dream closets, much as we have often presented fairly out-there IKEA kitchens as dream kitchens.’

Recognised worldwide for its distinctive blue and yellow stores, each complete with its own IKEA flag (a patriotic nod to its founder’s heritage) the story of Sweden’s best-known export started in 1943. From its early beginnings in the Småland region of southern Sweden to its seemingly infinite presence in homes around the world, the renowned Swedish furnishings manufacturer and retailer has come a long way since it was founded by Ingvar Kamprad more than 60 years ago.

Kamprad already had a nose for business at the age of 17 when he started out, and even as a young entrepreneur, he focused on keeping prices low. Furniture was only introduced to IKEA lines in 1946 and six years later the company reached its first major milestone by opening its inaugural furniture showroom in Älmhult. From modest beginnings, IKEA has continued to go from strength to strength.

IKEA continues to make a vast contribution to the contemporary furniture market, with sales in 2007 totalling €19.8 billion, despite the fact that the brand is treated snobbishly in the design world. The circulation of the IKEA furniture catalogue is now said to surpass that of the Bible. Last year more than 191 million copies were printed in 56 editions and 27 languages. And then there is the internet – perhaps the fastest-growing marketing medium. The internet is being used by more and more people as a source of information and last year the IKEA websites attracted 450 million visitors.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Forsman & Bodenfors selected the internet as its medium of choice when responding to the brief from IKEA.

For the advertising team at IKEA, ‘Come Into The Closet’ was very much a case of working together. ‘It really was a joint venture – from strategy and briefing to creative execution,’ agrees Jöngard. ‘For us, it’s extremely important to let our home furnishing knowledge shine through in all of our communication, and that’s why the agency’s creative team worked closely with IKEA home furnishing experts.’

The second version of ‘Dream Kitchens For Everyone’ had just been completed, and this campaign had become a benchmark both for IKEA and for Forsman & Bodenfors. This meant a definite level of performance anxiety once creative work began on what would eventually become ‘Come Into The Closet’. But it wasn’t long before the pieces began to fall into place and the creative concept became evident. The resulting campaign uses high-end video and simple flash to highlight the benefits of IKEA’s closet collections, and personalises each product to cater to a certain audience.

The ‘Come Into The Closet’ site features a clean layout, clear typography and crisp, vibrant flash video. This allows navigation via elevator-type buttons which move seamlessly from one ‘floor’ to another and demonstrate the features of each closet through contrasting subjects. The site showcases the benefits of the product through a virtual-reality interpretation of everyday human experience.

When it came to shooting the campaign, there were a number of issues to address. ‘Doing these major productions always creates problems during the process,’ notes Jöngard. ‘It’s natural. The thing is to see them as challenges and even utilise them to improve the final result. That said, building five complete walk-in closets and shooting in two days demanded a large crew and everyone had to be completely devoted to the project to make it a success.’

In terms of specifics, extra budget had to be made available for the project since production cost more than was planned, explains Mascher. ‘The concept for the website cost more than the original brief, which had a 30-second TV spot in mind. But after the site production was estimated, the production process went amazingly smoothly considering the complexity of the production, and the original production budget was held.’ The sets had to be built on six tall platforms so that the motion control camera was able to ‘dive’ down to the floor. ‘And then there was the cat’, says Mascher, ‘which didn’t want to do what we had planned for it to do!’ What is it they say? Never work with …

If there is one thing that the creative team learned from the experience, it’s that interactivity rules, says Mascher. Use the best set designers you can afford. Choose a director that understands the interactive medium – and try to get as much as possible right on the shoot, rather than relying on post-production to fix stuff later on.

Seeing the different walk-in closets come alive in the first offline version was a treat for Jöngard. ‘It was then that we knew we had succeeded – and even over-delivered on our expectations.’ One of the best features of this campaign is the way it successfully combines a great experience with a feeling of need. The site has so much genuine atmosphere that you automatically find yourself spending more time with it than you originally intended – and then, of course, you can’t help but forward it to others.

More than this, it is great to see this burgeoning new category doing so well. Creatives are no longer simply transferring traditional ideas and means (more often than not unsuccessfully) to the internet. They are now viewing online as a medium in its own right and, as a result, we are seeing some of the most creative work in years. The D&AD Student of the Year award in 2010 went to two Kingston students who created a revolutionary new way to look at the IKEA catalogue.

It’s not just creatives that are recognising this. On this occasion, it was the brief from the client that challenged the creative team by opening the project up to a wider choice of media. We look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

For more creative inspiration and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s best design and advertising, join us at D&AD Festival.

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