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IKEA Executes B2C Video Storytelling with Style


I don’t think [innovation] requires someone who is just digitally savvy; it involves someone who’s a game-changer. You have to have conviction. You can’t let fear be the thing that stops you from moving forward – Alia Kemet, Integrated Marketing Week, 2015

Video is one of IKEA’s core content marketing approaches, and Alia Kemet, U.S. media and web manager, is a pro. Alia has taught the company to show – not tell – customers how to improve their lives. When she first started with IKEA, she says the goal was to extend the message by telling a story bigger than a commercial allowed.

Using the power of video, Alia created programs focused on the customers or their interior design challenges. The videos tell the IKEA story in funny, educational, instructional, and inspirational ways. They also play to a variety of market segments – from adults and older millennials to college students and singles establishing their first homes, and even businesses.

Alia says the stories told through video inspire people to share their own IKEA stories. This word-of-mouth (or -social) communication helps tell the bigger story – IKEA doesn’t just sell products, it sells solutions that help people live better.

Chosen in particular for her dedication to video storytelling, Alia is a finalist for Content Marketer of the Year, which will be announced at Content Marketing World this week. Alia shares key insights from some of IKEA’s initiatives to help you improve your video storytelling.

Production takes a high level of planning and collaboration

Given the number of complex initiatives IKEA undertakes, Alia and her team take three months to plan the year, and then they focus on executing the plan as closely as possible. This plan maps a paid-, owned-, and earned-media approach against IKEA’s commercial product calendar. With this alignment, campaigns stay in step with new products as they come to market at IKEA. Campaign development is tied tightly to consumer insights that the company works tirelessly to gather and analyze. Each campaign must have a defined purpose approved by the CEO and CMO.

Measuring the effectiveness of video storytelling is based on engagement goals and identifiable increases in – or changes to – perception. Consumers viewing videos on IKEA’s YouTube channel are surveyed in real time. This timely feedback allows Alia to make adjustments to campaigns, as sentiment shifts, to ensure campaigns are as relevant as possible. When an idea or topic shoots off the engagement chart, her team creates more of it.

Because Alia involves a variety of agencies on her projects, she says teamwork is critical. “I have found that our agencies work extremely well together when we set very clear expectations.” To ensure clarity, Alia and her team create an ARC document (Accountable, Responsible, Contributors) that defines who is accountable for the project from a strategic level, who is responsible for the tasks, and what different contributors’ roles involve.

The ARC document accompanies the project brief, provides tips for collaboration, and invites the sharing of ideas. It also establishes key performance indicators so everyone knows the project’s expected outcomes. Alia says the projects have been successful because of the quality teamwork.

She tells me that she also uses an ARC document for internal collaboration because so many functions are involved – from the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) group to legal, human resources, etc.

Alia and her team have created numerous successful video storytelling campaigns over the years, including the design shows Easy to Assemble and Fix this Kitchen.

Easy to Assemble was her first foray into video storytelling and enabled the team to talk about the brand in a fun way that made people smile and laugh.


The results were so good that Fix this Kitchen was the next investment. This show was closer to a commercial endeavor consisting of 30-minute segments focused on kitchen makeovers.

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IKEA Home Tour

Alia created the latest endeavor, the IKEA Home Tour, which had the team go beyond developing another design show to create a series of interactive events to make emotional connections.

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What makes this storytelling authentic is that it’s told by real people, including IKEA co-workers and customers. In the past shows, IKEA used actors or celebrity chefs, but Alia wanted the Home Tour to reach a new level of authenticity and she found employees with the confidence and home-furnishings knowledge to take the show on the road. Given its magnitude, the project that started with marketing also would involve human resources, legal, and other departments across the organization.

Alia says she got a lot of push-back from agencies about her decision to forgo professional actors because people were concerned about the unknowns and “what-ifs” of using IKEA employees to tell the story. But the senior leadership gave their support, which helped her stick to her guns about being as authentic as possible. The program was meant to be bare-bones – the employees would video their segments with the customers and Alia’s team would throw them out on social media.

Alia and team elected five IKEA employees to travel the United States to help people with home makeovers and record the process on their own (no film crews). “We allowed them a good amount of license as to how they shot the video, and they did a great job,” she says. Many of IKEA’s customers are DIY, so the idea was a great way to align with their interests.

Take a look at this Washington, D.C.. studio apartment makeover video, which has garnered more than 352K views, to get an idea of what the IKEA Home Tour is.

You’ll notice that the video stories from the IKEA Home Tour are short – three to five minutes. That length is deliberate because IKEA’s analytics revealed that their audience’s attention span had shortened. With shorter videos, the metrics show that more viewers are watching until the end.

The real-time-survey feedback shows the impact these stories have had on people’s lives and how much they enjoy learning from real people (rather than actors) about how to make improvements to their homes. In fact, the Home Tour was one of IKEA’s highest performing marketing programs for 2014 and secured funding for a second year. A new crop of employees will have six weeks of training before they hit the road to create new original content later this year.

Alia says she’s amazed at the talent discovered with this new employee group. One has a background in music production and wants to redo the background music used in the videos. Another has film-editing background and ideas on how to improve upon the initial success.

Alia presented the project as a brand-building story that would require a long-term investment to see a payoff and make ROI difficult to predict. But success came in the short term as she’s been able to tie store sales directly to the Home Tour.

As she explained to me, being nimble and able to respond quickly to changing trends is one of the things she likes most about video. “Being able to react to what’s happening in the world is the great thing about creating content in real time,” she says.

First :59

First :59 is how IKEA chose to share the insights from a nationwide survey conducted to learn about what people do in the mornings, along with tips from experts to help people improve the first 59 minutes of their day. First :59 came from the idea to focus on the importance of how the day starts, incorporating bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen tips with the facts learned from the survey.

Short promotional story videos (see below) were created with calls to action linking to the facts from the survey and tips from the experts on this web page. “The goal isn’t just about having more people come in and buy furniture, it’s about how IKEA can help people with solutions and their struggles,” Alia says.

An extension to First :59 – the last 59 minutes of the day – is in the works.

How to get buy-in from your organization

Alia is often asked how to sell a project to executives. She recommends that you start by sharing insights about how the proposed program will build an emotional connection with your brand. “If you do this and stay in that space, you can’t go wrong because your program will be authentic,” she says.

While she believes that new programs are about innovation, she also understands every brand has “innovation killers” – folks who fear change and want to stick to the status quo. To get past them, you need to find an influencer, someone who really believes in the program concept and will go to bat for it and for you.

Alia also recommends that you follow up and share the results of the program when the wins are fresh and happening. Share the program itself, too – don’t think they will see it in the marketplace. By making the programs tangible to stakeholders, you can create believers.

For Fix This Kitchen, Alia held a premiere screening with a red-carpet experience and popcorn machines to create a fun experience for IKEA management and staff. People loved it and still talk about it several years later.

Alia sums up the opportunity for video storytelling as a complement to IKEA’s popular print catalog by saying: ”Content is everywhere and accessibility is key.”

IKEA’s Alia Kemet is a finalist for Content Marketer of the Year. To learn more about our Content Marketer of the Year finalists, we’ve put together a new SlideShare presentation, Get Creative: Profile Of Six Content Marketers Of The Year Finalists. In it, you’ll find evidence of what made these marketers stand out.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute