Brands Can Create Content Too: Ikea Home Tour Solves For “Design Paralysis”

IKEA-Home-TourIkea customers have a problem: “design paralysis.” They have a hard time envisioning how to fix their living space.

Which is why Ikea’s marketing team two years ago dreamed up the “Ikea Home Tour”– a three- to five-minute show in which a team of five employees, pulled from the retail floor, travel across the country redecorating homes and posting the results in short videos online. The series is in its third season.

“We don’t just sell furniture, we sell solutions,” said Ikea US media director Alia Kemet, who spearheaded the project. Having employees coming up with better ways to organize spaces was the most authentic way to accomplish that marketing goal.

Ikea operates an integrated marketing team, so representatives of departments like advertising, media, PR and CRM each figure out how they can contribute to a campaign.

The program’s metrics have improved each season as Ikea tweaks the content and finds better ways to distribute it across paid, owned and earned media. (Local news programs really like covering Ikea’s efforts.)

Although the home tour was originally designed as a branding initiative, econometric models showed it drove a $2.31 ROI and was responsible for 0.22% of sales in the fiscal year 2014, an unexpected result. The next year, those results improved dramatically: It drove a $5.50 ROI and 0.42% of sales.

Over three seasons, “Ikea Home Tour” has tallied 34 million video views, the primary way people consume the home transformation stories.

In the current season, running from fall 2015 to summer 2016, the program has already racked up 6.9 million video views, ahead of Ikea’s projections.

Although some people request longer videos, Ikea keeps them short to maintain its YouTube video completion rate, which is 73%. Plus, 20% of people have watched more than four Ikea videos, indicating a subset of extremely engaged viewers.

Although initially Ikea didn’t want to push the commerce aspect too hard, it added product links and prices next to all the videos because of consumer demand. Commenters asked for specific products they wanted to buy because they saw them in the video.

With insights gleaned from previous seasons, Kemet has focused on improving performance, using tactics like content tailored to different social media platforms. Short videos and tips perform 163% better than full-length videos on Facebook and Twitter, for example. On Facebook, it used to post trailers for the videos but now posts whole videos, because people don’t like to click away from the platform.

While Ikea has approved two more seasons of “Home Tour,” the unconventional program almost never got off the ground.

Although Ikea had done some branded content videos around home decoration, it let its partners create the content and never led content creation itself. The risk with “Home Tour” was that Ikea’s employees would function as designers and also shoot and edit the videos. That required work to get internal buy-in to the idea, and Ikea’s agency was initially skeptical it could be pulled off.

“Home Tour” also created numerous compliance hurdles across HR, legal and risk. This was the first time Kemet had to consult with so many departments for a media campaign.

But Kemet, who started out working on the floor of Ikea, knew that talent existed at the store level and pushed through those hurdles. Ikea employees – not actors or influencers – needed to redesign the homes or the program wouldn’t feel authentic.

The results bore this out: “Of people who watch these videos, 94.9% are more likely to recommend Ikea to a friend,” Kemet said. “We would not be getting these results if we had not been using Ikea co-workers.”

While the agency became a strong part of the program, and Ikea also relies on publishers for other branded content initiatives, Kemet sees value in brands becoming content creators themselves.

“I’m a strong believer in branded content if you want to tell a specific and strong story,” Kemet said. “Whatever a brand chooses to do, it needs to be true to who they are as a brand and tied to their brand identity in a seamless way.”

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