IKEA as purpose role model

IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, built a purpose-driven brands long before anyone heard of purpose. What can global brands learn from him about brand building? What makes IKEA the by far most purpose-driven Swedish brand, year after year?

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Over the years, we’ve heard so many consumers describe how IKEA is “different”, how they’ve felt that its founder “really means what he says about creating a better everyday life for everyone”, and how they trust IKEA. These respondents are describing how IKEA has managed to remain close to ordinary people, despite its scale.

IKEA is a brand with an idea about how everyday life can be made a little bit better for us all individually, and for society as a whole. These values have traveled across the globe with the brand as it’s expanded. People have remained very positive towards IKEA through the years, and the brand has not just weathered scandals and controversy, but even seemed strengthened by them.

Purposeful brands are characterized by high credibility, sustainable thinking, relevant and customer-driven innovation, faith in the future and inspiring visions. IKEA is a strong performer in all of these, which is why it places at the top of our annual survey. Here are a few ways that IKEA lives up to their words in these areas:

Democratizing

Brands that are perceived to democratize, offering something that has previously only been accessible to a few, always create goodwill. But as brands grow bigger, most lose this philosophy.

IKEA democratizes both design and quality for its customers. They’ve done that from the start, and they still do today, in spite of it’s size. It’s a brand at the level of an ordinary person. We can learn from this.

Customer-focused

It seems Kamprad never forgot the first encounters he had with his customers, as IKEA grew and started to attract millions of customers around the world. IKEA still gives the impression that it always cares about every single person, inside and outside of the company.

This is likely why IKEA’s innovative solutions are often perceived as being so relevant and customer-centered with consumers. People feel that the solutions are coming from someone whao truly understands their everyday life and all its hassles. That’s very powerful.

Innovative

Innovation is about solving people’s problems. IKEA’s mindset has always been that the best for the customer is yet to be thought of. No lingering on old merits, but full speed ahead.

This idea is central to the entire IKEA organization. Kamprad brought his co-workers in and made them a part of his vision early on, to make everyone pull in the same direction. He gave the purpose power by implementing his vision in minds, hearts and hands. This implementation phase is is where a lot of companies fall short: purpose often gets stuck in the minds of management, or even worse, in their desk drawers.

Sustainable

IKEA is perceived in both Purposeful Brands™ and other studies 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 perceived sustainability?

It’s likely because they don’t talk about sustainability, but keep busy turning ideas and changes into reality. Also, their efforts are integrated into their offering, affecting source materials, products and delivery services. And then they explain what they’ve done, right next to the products. People can see, feel and experience IKEA’s sustainability efforts, and as a result feel that IKEA truly cares about society and the environment.

The combination of building trusting relationships with customers and making big commitments to sustainability is a recipe for international success. IKEA, and Ingvar Kamprad as a brand builder, should be a source of inspiration for any business leader. From these examples, we see that it doesn’t have to be complicated to create an impactful brand. You just need to remember your purpose, in everything.