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5 lessons in positioning from Ikea’s brand strategy that are applicable to your marketing strategy

IKEA-featureIKEA has a unique positioning! This remarkable positioning is not easily compared, in our experience, to any other company in the world. What can other brands, marketeers or strategists learn from Ikea? This post talks about 5 remarkable aspects of IKEA’s positioning. Unique aspects that are worth being considered and might be applicable for your organization.

Almost all companies aim for the same market position; being the best. This is measured for example in quality, customer service rating or having the cheapest production. All while obviously only one company can be the best in any race. Many see past the fact that it might be better to look for a new positioning. But how do you look past the current market situation and objectively decide on a new path? These five lessons in this article will at the very least inspire you to look at your business from a different perspective.

The “best product” doesn’t exist

IKEA proves that it’s about the balance of all factors involved to order to determine what’s best. We’re secretly not surprised that at the exit of every IKEA there’s a parts cabinet, full of bolts and pieces of wood that ‘might be missing’. Imagine encountering this at your car’s dealership just after purchasing. A closet full of parts that might be missing the moment you drive it out of the showroom. We would immediately claim that it’s unacceptable and inquire if the salesperson is in his right mind. This simple example proves that expectations on a product level alone are wide apart. The main question is: Have you ever asked your customers what ‘the best product’ is for them?

Your employees’ behaviour is 100% focused on meeting your customers’ expectations

IKEA’s staff has one unified goal; getting the customer home to easily assemble their products. The attitude that comes with this unified goal is completely different from almost every other company you buy from. It’s not a matter of better or worse, it’s simply the result of selection and a focus on heavily educating its staff internally. Because the only thing IKEA staff have in common is this goal and a uniform, every employee still has an individual personality and authenticity; you are talking to a person, not a representative. While the application in your company will be completely different, it’s not hard to see the lesson here: because people only buy from other people, not companies.

A customer that works on or influences your product has a more intense connection to it

You know beforehand it’s not going to be pleasant, assembling your IKEA purchase, but the pride you feel when it’s done is enormous. Even though anyone can manage the assembly, you have a proud story to tell, a story everyone can relate to. Dutch comedian Youp van ‘t Hek, who managed to kill alcohol-free beer in Holland, also did a sketch on assembling the IKEA bunk bed. Instead of putting everyone off from buying one, he established it at every home. Your “I’m assembling some IKEA stuff”-story is now something you are proud of, your ‘war stories’. While it’s not a smart move to make your product’s use harder, it is great if you are able to create a unique user-experience that will give your customer a story to tell and share.

Being your customer should be a remarkable experience

IKEA’s products and service have led to some kind of ‘cult’ status around their brand. A visit to IKEA is an experience everybody can relate to; from the schadenfreude we all feel when watching people pull 5 Billy-bookcases from the shelves to the ease with which your new furniture was delivered to your home. Both also allow you to tell stories for weeks. And it is the ability to relate and share that allows customers to refer you to their friends, colleagues and other contacts, which is often one of the most important sources for new customers.

Surprise your customers

In essence, IKEA only focuses on their core product; supplying you with the most affordable furniture. In all other area’s they focus on delivering ‘just enough’, and they have positioned themselves accordingly. Their identity and the market’s perception of them are extremely balanced, positioning them solidly in the Open Playground area. Being at the lower end of the spectrum also allows IKEA to exceed expectations quite easily as we experienced ourselves only days ago. When buying some office furniture we spend two hours to buy four desks and have them delivered to our new office, not a great experience but it is what we expected. When they then delivered on the exact minute they said they would, we were pleasantly surprised, which led us to tell this story.

There are other successful B2C companies we could name that aim for a positioning similar to that of IKEA. But in the market we focus on – professional services and industry – this is a lot more difficult. Who knows a law firm that proclaims: “We are not the smartest lawyers in the world, but we can deliver exactly what you need for the price you’re willing to pay.”? Other markets have an even more distorted playing fields, can anyone tell us the difference between any two main banks?

There are many gaps wide open, in any market, to anyone who has the guts and confidence to claim their unique and remarkable positioning. Instead of all competing to win the same race, it is often better to create a new race. Not just for your organization, but above all for the customer. It allows your customers to make a real choice again!

Do you know of any companies that have redefined this race for their market? We would love to hear of them!

Also read: Difference between consumer- and business-to-business marketing
Also read: Brand identity and its role in positioning
Also read: De Merkelijkheid Positioning Matrix

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