Anupama Sajeet
Oct 18, 2023

We will be brave and fun in our upcoming campaigns: Ikea India’s Anna Ohlin

Amid the festive marketing blitz, the Ikea India country marketing manager sheds light on how the Swedish brand is testing Indian waters and finding ways to mix the ‘Swedishness’ and ‘Ikeaness’ together with ‘Indianess’, and more

We will be brave and fun in our upcoming campaigns: Ikea India’s Anna Ohlin
Ingka Group, the parent company of global furniture retail giant, Ikea last week reported a growth of 5.7% in retail sales for the financial year 2023 over the last year, amounting to 41.7 billion euros. It also announced a 7% increase in store visitation and a boost in online share to 26% as a result of accelerating investments into digital and new and existing stores in some of its biggest markets.
That this increase was in the face of external challenges such as economic uncertainties and geopolitical instabilities makes it all the more sweeter for the Swedish brand with a legacy of 80 years. 
The group also opened 60 new locations across the world this year, with new stores in Copenhagen, Madrid, Rome and San Francisco, to mention a few.
It's been five years since the Swedish furniture maker entered India in 2018 and since then it has opened one store in Hyderabad, three in Mumbai and one in Bengaluru. Its next stop is slated to be Delhi NCR even as the brand gears up for the great Indian festive season.
Campaign India caught up with Anna Ohlin, country marketing manager, Ikea India to understand the brand’s go-to-market strategy in India for the upcoming festivities and its long-term plans for the market, and more.
Ohlin, who has been with the retail giant now for 20 years, started her stint at Ikea Japan in 2004 and went on to spend a decade in different Ikea organisations in Sweden, before moving to India about two years back.
Edited excerpts:
Having had stints at Ikea Japan and Sweden, how has your India experience been so far?
It's been amazing and beyond my expectations, to be honest: The warmth, the love for home, and the way Indians interact with each other, all of it. I feel truly at home here. Ikea launched its first store in India in 2018, with Hyderabad being its first stop. And now we have stores across Bengaluru and Mumbai. 
What's next on the map here? 

We always have great expansion plans, it's just that sometimes it takes a little bit longer than we want. But we don't give up that easily and we truly believe in India. The whole organisation is supporting the expansion in India. While we cannot disclose any details about it right now, you will hear about them soon. 
Take us through Ikea India's festive marketing strategy and the insight/s that influenced the campaign's creative direction and message.
The insight we had this year is that festive is bigger than ever. It's such an integral part of life in India. So it goes without saying we also need to celebrate this and be a part of that celebration. And what we decided to do this year is to create a campaign which says that ‘a little Ikea makes everything new’. It's not so much about ‘small spaces’, but more along the lines of how just one or two pieces from Ikea can make a difference, and how these small changes can create a great impact in one’s home. 

Even if Diwali is the big spending season, people are more conscious nowadays of the uncertainty in the world, and they're trying to minimise the expense in this crazy spending period. We thought that this theme fits into this minimising because it resonates well with people that one needn’t buy everything new for Diwali. Instead, why don't we mix it with a little something new from Ikea to get that extra sparkle in the end? So that was the was the idea behind it.

India is a culturally diverse market. How does Ikea approach curating festive campaigns that resonate with this diversity? 
I think festive as a whole is something no matter how it is celebrated or when it is celebrated, it's more or less the same needs one would have at home. It's about meeting up, it's about using décor, making it cosy and comfortable. It's about making people feel that they can socialise easily, that they can move the space and maybe do some dancing or some card playing. It's all about that being together and that togetherness at home. And that main common insight is maybe more interesting to look at than the different, specific market needs because I think the commonalities are more than the differences.
What we can look at when it comes to diversification, however, is definitely how we look more into the 'media planning' because there of course we need to do different things for the different markets in a very distinct way. But when it comes to the content itself, we feel that our national campaign fits into all the markets where we are today. 
Talking about the media plan, how are you spreading it across the marketing mix of the campaign and which medium are you investing heavily on?
We're always heavily investing in digital, but having said that, it’s a comprehensive 360-degree campaign, with digital, social media, television, and so on. We are also taking it to the stores, where we celebrate locally. Festive being festive, our main spending will be in this season. So. we are preparing ourselves for a bigger investment than usual as we are in three distinct areas now - Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Mumbai is a little bit trickier when it comes to some media. We focus more on omnichannel for all ages than TV, for example. In Hyderabad, it's much easier to reach many more on TV. I can't reveal any percentages, but the difference is there. So it's just basic knowledge that we have that we follow thoroughly based of course on previous experiences, and also on our research that we have, that we build up the media plans.
Also, since all the Ikea stores are located in metros, is the consumer demographic urban?
Yes, we talked a lot about our PMA i.e. our primary market area, which is the areas around the units where we are present that we focus on. It's usually around 40 to 60 minutes around the store area.
When it comes to online, we of course reach many more people. It's important to us that we are there for our consumers whenever they need us. So we try to promote the app and, of course, online. 
We also have this amazing remote meeting point- RCMP we call it - where you can get help when shopping on the phone if you're a little more conservative. 
So there are so many meeting points that we're proud of, and we're trying to convey that message that it's your choice, we're here for you all the time. And, of course, we reach out through our marketing campaigns to the cities where we are present.
How much of these sales come from the online/ e-commerce channel?
It's a bit fluctuating but as of now, 80% of our sales happen offline while 20% take place via online channels. We saw an increase of sales on digital after Covid and it has stayed strong. Online shopping is growing in the home furnishing category. But also surprisingly, I would say that with big purchases like what we are selling, it's a lot of ‘touch and feel’ that is needed in the shopper journey. 
So in the consumer experience mapping, we would see people coming in, touching and feeling and maybe going back home and ordering online. We also see people being more open to buying less high-purchase products without maybe testing and trying. So it's very different buying, say, a flower pot from buying a mattress. So shopping behaviours are very different, but after Covid, we are seeing a big rush back to the brick-and-mortar- that's something interesting. At the same time staying very strong online.
It's been nearly five years since Ikea launched in India. Where would you say India stands as a market in the larger scheme of things for Ikea globally?
India is still very much an emerging market. We have so many mature markets in the world that have been around, for instance, we’ve been 80 years in Sweden. We've been so many years in the European market. And so compared to them, we are still a baby and we're trying to do our best to grow. 
The good thing is that global has a strong belief in us because the Indian market is amazingly growing at a good pace and we believe that India is one of our biggest potential markets. So we'll see in the next 10 years how big we can grow. We are definitely here for the long term and we're not giving up. At least I think our founder would like to be here for another eighty years!
Ikea is globally known, apart from its DYI products, for some of its cool campaigns- like, for instance, the ‘Life is not an Ikea catalogue’ campaign. When will we get to see such cool campaigns in India as well?
You will get to see some cool campaigns here as well. We had a cool one up just a few weeks back that we have gotten so much attention on. We have a big focus on storage across the home. So we came up with one campaign that we called the ‘ads that skip you’ campaign where we put out the message that by getting organised you save so much time. You don't need to look for your stuff, so you can skip the ad. And it received a lot of good attention in the media.

Another one that was also extremely appreciated a few weeks back was the ‘desktop organiser’ campaign. 
Having said that, to be honest, we are new in the country. There are certain phases we need to go through to create awareness. If people don't know who we are before we get too groovy and fun, it's difficult to reach people. So we try to be Ikea - as ‘twinkle in the eye’ as we can - but we also need to count on that we need to be understandable for many, many more before we can become as groovy as, maybe, the Swedish market can be where the audience or the top of mind is 99.9%. 
So we are testing the waters and we're getting ready. We're finding ways to mix that wonderful ‘Swedishness’ and ‘Ikeaness’ together with India. 
I think we will be braver and more fun in our campaigns going forward. Having fun and being playful is part of our DNA.
Globally, McCann was recently hired as your creative agency. Who is your creative agency in India? And would you be looking at forging a long-term relationship with them?
We are working together with Leo Burnett here. And we love long-term relationships and usually, when we start working together with an agency, we are extremely loyal and we let the marriage stay for long. 
I think when you stay together for a long time, the trust that is built is extremely important in the relationship. It's very much about doing things together, and not just on a ‘client’ basis. They become close to us as they are working for the brand with us, which is very nice.
Finally, coming to this year's festive season, what are Ikea's expectations? Are there any key highlights you're looking to make the most of?
We're looking forward to, of course, extremely high visitation and good sales and we're looking forward to people coming to these stores and online and feeling the energy and the passion that we could enable for the festive season. While also talking about buying less and not more to achieve your festive look with the Ikea touch that makes everything new. That is something we would like to keep. But at the same time, we want to create Ikea as a gifting destination. And for that, we have some really good insights and ideas and some interesting films coming out in the next few weeks. 


Campaign India

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