IKEA’s back-to-school campaign is a vibe

Who: IKEA Canada, with Pigeon Brands for strategy and creative; Cooper Films for production (James Cooper directing); Wunderman Thompson for loyalty; Carat for media.

What: “Influenced by You,” a new Gen Z focused back-to-school campaign for the home furnishings retailer, whose products are a dorm room mainstay. It’s the brand’s first full-blown back-to-school campaign since before the pandemic.

When & Where: It’s in market now, with the national media buy including online video, digital/social, out-of-home (billboards, TSAs) and audio.

Why: IKEA products can be found in dorm rooms across the country, so it makes sense for the retailer to try and reach college-age students at a key time.

Just last month, for example, it introduced a $99 “University Starter Kit” for students comprised of cookware, flatware and storage products. Pigeon GM Ania Russocki said that IKEA’s priority for this campaign was on connecting with Gen Z audiences who prioritize personalization and individuality.

“IKEA offers easy and affordable living solutions,” she said. “The opportunity was connecting with this audience in a way that helps them see that using IKEA’s products can help them express their uniqueness and personal style,” she said.

One of the key objectives for the campaign is ensuring the Gen Z target feels understood by IKEA, and growing awareness among the target that it provides easy and affordable solutions during a time of belt-tightening. The campaign’s success will be determined through online visits and in-store traffic, said Russocki.

How: Rather than going the standard route of presenting the target audience with pre-configured “looks” for its various products, IKEA enlisted three actual students—not influencers—and took cues from them on how to best present its products in ways that reflect their varying tastes.

“What’s wonderful about IKEA is that you can really express yourself, and that’s the [creative] approach,” said Russocki. “When the audience is viewing the campaign, they can see themselves and how they might interpret that product. [It’s showing] that there’s really something for everybody to express themselves.”

The 15-second video creative shows a single IKEA product, a Kallax shelf unit, in three markedly different room set-ups. That theme is continued in the out-of-home and social, with the latter including the students’ actual social handles for further authenticity.

Longstanding partners: Pigeon’s relationship with IKEA stretches back nearly a decade. While the agency started out working on IKEA’s flyers, the past two years have seen it take a lead in the brand’s activation marketing, providing creative for everything from the launch of the IKEA Business Network, its Green Friday activities, and the acquisition strategy for its IKEA Family program. The partnership is unaffected by IKEA’s recent global creative alignment with McCann, said Russocki.

And we quote: “Starting with the insight that our Gen Z target audience values self-expression and personalization, we developed a campaign that shows how easy and affordable it is for students to create spaces that truly reflect who they are with IKEA. We then leveraged an extensive media plan, including digital, social, OOH, sponsorships, and audio spots, to meet this specific audience where and when they consume their media.” – Claudia Mayne, director, marketing communications, IKEA Canada



Chris Powell