Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How IKEA Became A Global Household Name

Love them or hate them, IKEA products have become ubiquitous in our lives. The company is known for its modern architectural designs for various types of home appliances and furniture, and its simple, eco-friendly interior design work.

When it was founded in 1943, IKEA was a mostly mail-order sales business, which only started selling the furniture it is now known for 5 years later.

As of August 2015, IKEA owns and operates 373 stores in 47 countries, and is the world’s largest furniture retailer worth over €44 billion.

So what sort of marketing strategy did this Swedish company with humble origins use to achieve its exponential growth?

1. Inexpensive but good quality products – a winning combination!

Unlike most companies’ product development process that starts with consumer trends or competitive whitespace, IKEA starts with a target price point. The basis of pricing for IKEA is value i.e. low prices or no-frills pricing. They are not a premium pricer or a skimmer, and are universally loved for it.

A spokesperson for IKEA explains that keeping prices low keeps the company true to their commitment to providing better everyday life for the many people.

“True innovation comes when you design quality furniture that’s affordable by everyone,” she said further.

What customers would say:

“After spending so much on the wedding we’re so glad to find cheap furnishings in IKEA for our new house!”

“I just broke a wineglass, but that’s okay. They were a dollar each at IKEA.”

2. Style products in a visually attractive manner that entice customers to talk about them (and buy!)


IKEA’s annual catalogue is considered to be the main marketing tool of the retail giant, consuming 70% of the company’s annual marketing budget.

The catalogue features showrooms stylishly outfitted with the company’s products, with staged family-scenarios that look too perfect to be true. Apart from presenting a visual treat, the catalogue inspires customers with furnishing ideas that they would want to emulate. Customers would desire to purchase the coveted products — but not before asking the opinions of their spouses or peers!

What customers would say:

“I really like this IKEA carpet, do you think it would match the drapes?”

“This couch looks really nice with that lamp next to it. I should buy both.”

3. Keep reinventing the wheel: update tried and tested marketing tools to keep them innovative and refreshing for customers to use


The original IKEA print catalogue has the advantage of portability, which makes it convenient for customers to share with family and friends.

The company has taken the catalogue online, too. The 2013 catalogue is smartphone compatible, containing videos and photo galleries that can be accessed via an app by scanning the catalogue’s pages, while the 2015 version incorporates an augmented reality app that projects an item into a real-time photograph image of the user’s room.

Such innovation reenergizes an old concept and ensures it remains a talking point amongst customers.

The online catalogue also has the option to share a product on Facebook, in case a particularly indecisive customer needs the opinion of all their friends before purchasing a particular sofa.

What customers would say:

“Thanks to the augmented reality app, I know for sure that coffee table will look good in the living room. Will buy it tomorrow!”

3. Encourage customers to flex their creativity and share


While IKEA loves its experts, the brand also encourages average consumers to flex their own design and creativity muscles.

IKEA created Share Space in 2011, a community photo-sharing site that’s become a hub for the brand’s user-generated content. The microsite invites users to share ideas that inspire them and learn from others as they browse, comment on, and save other people’s layouts.

The project is aimed towards “really having customers who have experienced the brand share how they’ve used IKEA in their home.”

What customers would say:

“I can’t wait to assemble my new furniture and post up the photos on Share Space to hear what the community thinks!”

“This person’s room on Share Space is painted the same colour as ours. I’m going to use her photos as inspiration!”

4. Parodying popular culture to create humorous and universally relatable content marketing

IKEA is so confident about its print publication that they held it up to the glitz and glam of Apple’s iPhone 6 announcement with this brilliant “bookbook” parody.

“It’s not a digital book or an e-book,” says Jörgen Eghammer, IKEA’s “Chief Design Güru,” “It’s a bookbook. You can actually feel the pages move as you swipe!”

Though the viral video was created by IKEA Singapore, it succeeded in representing IKEA’s global brand through a form of humor that’s universally relatable – making fun of Apple.

What customers would say:


5. Appeal to the humanity of customers by making children happy


In 2015, IKEA turned to crayon-wielding kids around the world to help them design their annual lineup of Soft Toys for Education.

The 10 winning entries have been recreated in loving detail by Ikea’s toy designers, and the creations are now on sale as part of the company’s annual fundraiser.

For each toy purchased, IKEA will donate one euro to children’s education projects via Unicef and Save the Children.


Since launching the charity effort in 2003, the IKEA Foundation has donated more than $90 million to global children’s causes.

The genuinely heart-warming campaign not only strengthens the IKEA brand through word-of-mouth, it also encourages customers to do good and buy these soft toys for charity.

What customers would say:


6. Cats

IKEA UK released a herd of 100 cats in their store “to see what happens.” The results were spectacular!

Find a way to incorporate cats in a campaign (lots of them! the more the merrier!) and it would most probably go viral. Because the Internet loves cats.

What customers would say:


Here’s a quick recap on how IKEA became a global household name through word-of-mouth:

  1. Competitive prices on good quality products will win customer loyalty
  2. Create a product catalogue that is stylish, dynamic and inspirational
  3. Encourage customers to get creative and share their experiences with the brand
  4. Use humour to connect to a global audience
  5. Engage in a charitable cause fuelled by feel-good campaigns
  6. If all else fails, employ the use of cats to go viral


Read Next: How To Get Word-of-Mouth: 40+ Successful Examples To Learn From

Izzy Liyana Harris

Izzy Liyana Harris

Creature of the night. Always hungry for adventure, sugar, good literature. Seeking inner peace.

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