Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, built purpose-driven brands long before anyone else was even talking about the idea. What can we learn from him about brand building? What has caused IKEA to be perceived as the most purpose-driven Swedish brand, year after year?
”IKEA is different, it feels like Kamprad really means what he says when he talks about creating a better everyday life for everybody. I trust him somehow.” In so many brand studies over so many years, I have heard Swedish consumers talk about IKEA and Ingvar Kamprad in this manner. They feel that IKEA has remained close to ordinary people, close to themselves, despite IKEA’s scale. Ingvar Kamprad built purpose-driven brands long before the idea had even occurred to anyone else. IKEA is a brand with an idea about how everyday life can be made a little bit better for us all – and even for society as a whole. Rough winds and scandals aside, the positive view people have of Ingvar Kamprad and IKEA has remained. Sometimes, I even have the feeling that this positive view was strengthened when times were worse.
When we at Lynxeye have tried to decode purposeful brands, we have seen that they are characterized by high credibility, sustainable thinking, relevant and customer-driven innovation, faith in the future and inspiring visions. In Purposeful Brands in Sweden, IKEA has been Sweden’s most purposeful brand year after year, because it has been strong in all these areas whenever people have had their say. There is so much modern thinking in IKEA to inspire us all. Everybody likes a company and a brand with a strong ’why’; the problem is that so few brands live up to their words.
Brands that are perceived to democratize, offering something that has previously only been accessible to a few, always create goodwill. However, as they grow bigger, much of this is usually lost, but with IKEA this has not been the case. The brand remains at the same level as that of an ordinary man, embodied by Ingvar Kamprad and his lifestyle. Here, there is something to learn for us all. I believe that he never forgot the first encounters he had with his customers as IKEA started to grow and attract millions of new clients around the world. He gave the impression that he always cared about every single client and he never seemed to lose touch with any of them.
Perhaps this is why IKEA’s innovative solutions are often perceived as being so relevant and customer-centered with Swedish consumers. The customers feel that the solutions are truly coming from someone who understands their everyday life complete with all its hassles. Innovation is about solving people’s problems and his mindset was always that the best for the customer was yet to be done. He did not linger on old merits, but looked ahead. He offered his co-workers, and made them a part of, his vision to together make everyday life better for everyone.
Purposeful brands and other studies I have worked with have shown that Swedish customers view IKEA as a frontrunner in sustainability. How can it be that a company that offers interior design at such a low price can beat most others at sustainability, at least perception-wise? Maybe it is because they have been busy making things happen and not only talking about sustainability; maybe it is because people believe that IKEA truly cares about people and the environment.
I feel gratitude towards Ingvar Kamprad. Sure, he was controversial in some respects, but to a brand builder, his creation IKEA is an obvious source of inspiration. When we work across the globe, IKEA has helped give us Swedish brand builders credibility and soul. Even if we come from a small country, we can have big ideas that lie one step ahead of many others. Every day, we benefit from this, as we try to make our contribution to more purpose-driven brands. And maybe that’s the best way to show gratitude for his deeds, to contribute to a better everyday life for everyone. Thanks for the inspiration, Ingvar.
Johan Ekelin, Co-Founder Lynxeye