If you try to please everybody, you'll excite nobody.

A rare misfire from IKEA.

IKEA recently announced a new ‘global campaign’, created out of Spain, that will run in 31 countries using an assortment of messaging.

And it shows.

For me, everything that makes IKEA, IKEA, is missing from this ad. I’ve spoken about IKEA before as being a weird presence in my life. I hate going to IKEA, it’s a labyrinth of pain, the products are flimsy and fall apart if you try to move them, and putting them together - jesus christ… there are probably divorces purely attributed to assembling four Malms on a Sunday afternoon. Plus, overall it’s just not my style.

But somehow, my house is full of IKEA stuff. I still find myself in IKEA stores, as if I’ve somehow blacked out and just awoken there. Because, you know what, it’s a great brand. And, for the price, great products. It’s an endearing brand that has won the hearts of minds of people all over the world.

And it’s done so by building itself on relatable human insights and behaviours. And then executing these human truths with restraint, and simplicity, and positioning their useful products as just the background to everyday life. That’s IKEA. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Take this recent ‘Don’t worry, you can afford it’ campaign.

And this ‘Proudly Second Best’ campaign.

These are effectively retail ads with a big intrusive product and a price on them, and you don’t even mind. Because they’ve seamlessly integrated their product into a relatable, human truth. It’s not just great advertising, it’s great IKEA advertising. It makes IKEA undeniable as a brand. IKEA products are not statement pieces. They aren’t there to shout at people and demand attention. They’re proof that, often, less is more. They’re functional and affordable and helpful. They’re just a thread amongst the tapestry of life.

So why is this new campaign trying to blow my face off? It’s yelling at me and spinning me in circles and throwing and pulling me in and out of make believe worlds. The careful and considered product placement is now fighting between cartoon explosions. There’s barely a relatable moment in the entire 60 seconds. I have no idea why I’m watching it and what it’s supposed to tell me about IKEA. I feel like it’s unnecessarily trying to overcompensate for something. The total opposite of IKEA’s age-old strategy.

And then there’s the language. Instead of a line that hits home, the campaign is running stuff like ‘Do try setting new trends at home’, ‘Do try mischief at home’, and ‘Do try showing off at home’. The world’s clunkiest headline writing aside, what does any of this actually mean? What does this have to do with me or IKEA? I have never once in my life gone to IKEA to ‘set new trends’ or ‘try mischief’. The whole thing is a confusing mess.

And I’m pretty sure I know why. What has, in the past, been about singular, precise, sharp executions built on specific insights has now become a box-ticking exercise. Someone has decided it would be easier to make ‘one big ad’ to run all over the world. So it has to be broad. It has to ‘make sense’ in every country. It has to ‘appeal’ to every demographic. It has to be ‘colourful’ and ‘exciting’ and ‘grab your attention early’. You can see all the boxes being ticked on the screen. It reminds me of that infamous global Pepsi ad. You know the one. *shudders*

The problem is, no one outside a corporate marketing department cares about any of these boxes. For years, they’ve been responding to how that $14 piece of Swedish innovation can make their life 1% easier. That’s what keeps IKEA front of mind when they suddenly see two stripes on a pregnancy test. Or the cat knocks a pot plant off the windowsill. Or every other version of their life they see inside a great IKEA ad for the past few decades.

Of course, this is just my subjective opinion. But it hits on one of the hardest truths about what we do, and that’s ‘if you try to please everybody, you’ll excite nobody.’

Because specificity sells, and generality bores.

Hopefully this is just a blip on the radar, and they go back to doing what they do best, because as critical as I am of this piece - IKEA does some of the best advertising in the world.

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