Ikea wanted a mail mechanic that would engage customers in play - the theme of its brand marketing campaign - and encourage them into its stores to continue playing. The retailer knew that, though the pandemic was receding, growing cost-of-living concerns meant simple discounts alone would not be enough. So it set out to use mail in a very different way.
Direct mail was already an established part of Ikea’s marketing mix. Typically, it is used to add an additional creative dimension to each campaign and expand reach, according to Osmund Pill, Ikea’s head of customer marketing for UK & Ireland. “DM plays an important role within our integrated campaigns, adding a touch point for our most engaged customers but also lending itself to customer activation,” he says.
“By including DM within channel planning, we can engage a select audience with both the sentiment of the message from the Ikea brand campaign but also include a direct response element. This has greater impact in print rather than digital.”
In this case, mail was to be part of a wider brand campaign called “Let play unwind your mind”. Here, its role was to bring that campaign to life in a physical way that would encourage people to visit Ikea stores.
A tough target was set: not just to do better than previous spend-threshold promotions but to generate a short-term sales spike beyond original forecast.
Ikea and Rapp, its marketing-agency partner, began by identifying the audience likely to be both most receptive – and lucrative. Members of Ikea’s loyalty programme, Ikea Family, are its most engaged and valuable customers so the decision was made to reward them for their loyalty and target the campaign at them. The exclusive discount in the mailer also provides a physical demonstration of the value of being an IKEA Family member, Pill points out.
The next step was to find a new and powerful hook. The team zoned in on the wider brand campaign’s theme: play.
Acutely aware of how challenging times were driving up people’s stress levels, Ikea and Rapp chose to lean into the potential benefits of play as an activity and mindset – benefits ranging from coping with stress to improving relationships.
Evidence suggested that people lacked play in their lives, even though ample research demonstrated its benefits. So the creative idea was to address this lack directly, by taking play into people’s homes.
An A5 four-page mailer was created that invited recipients to play a dot-to-dot game to reveal a voucher that could be spent at their local store. The idea was to use the heuristic technique of co-creation and encourage active attention, according to Russ Groombridge, Rapp’s VP, data analytics. The belief was that recipients would be more likely to redeem a voucher they had created themselves – and this proved to be the case.
“The mailer brought a moment of ‘play’ into the homes of our Ikea Family members and, through that dot-to-dot mechanic, rewarded them with a coupon they could redeem in store,” says Chris Kilgariff, Rapp’s group account director. “It was a simple and well-executed idea,” he says, “which, as well as delivering against our objectives, hopefully brought a smile to the face of our members.”
Along with the dot-to-dot puzzle, the mailer also featured a brief explanation of the role that play can have in de-stressing. And on its front were instructions for folding it into a paper aeroplane to play with before recycling.
The biggest challenge was to make sure that the pack was playable and usable without the value of the voucher itself being immediately obvious, ensuring a sufficient sense of curiosity was fostered that would encourage recipients to engage with the piece, Kilgariff adds.
The mailing went out to one million Ikea Family members between August 30 and September 5, 2022. And with a resulting ROI of 4.5:1 – significantly outperforming the year’s earlier best-performing mailing - the campaign became Ikea’s most successful mailer of 2022.
Sending a great offer is easy but it isn’t always enough to get people so excited that they rush into store waving their vouchers. Ikea recognised this, took a step back and focussed on making sure its offer wasn’t just an afterthought, tagged onto product messages - it was central to its targeting strategy and built out of a powerful insight.
At a time when costs were rising and there wasn’t much positivity around, Ikea used play to bring some joy and levity to Ikea Family members’ lives. Mail was the perfect channel to achieve this. Bespoke TGI data supports what our extensive research had already shown: mail makes people feel valued – people are twice as likely to agree that “brands that make the effort to write to me using mail value me as a customer” than they are to disagree (this rises to nearly three times amongst Ikea Family members*). Mail also grabs attention, ensuring that Ikea’s generous offer was seen and acted on (again, people are twice as likely to agree that they “pay more attention to something sent in the mail than something sent using email”*).
People touch mail and interact with it. Its tactility taps into the emotions imbued in play and the nostalgia of this simple, but rewarding, childhood game. Let’s be real – who wouldn’t be drawn to join the dots to find out the reveal? And voilà; there is the reward…one that you have created yourself.
Once the responsibly sourced mailing had been played with, drawn on, and read, the recipient was instructed to give it a fitting send-off: to fold it into a paper plane and fly it into the recycling bin.
*TGI Quick Connections June 2022
"Trailblazing Mail" is where Campaign and Marketreach showcase campaigns that demonstrate the most creative, innovative or effective use of mail, a medium that's providing fresh disruption in an age of screen overload.
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