IKEA Retail Therapy case study: How IKEA creatively used search to get products seen where they wouldn’t normally be seen

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In November 2016, IKEA launched the “Retail Therapy” ad campaign created by the Swedish advertising agency Åkestam Holst, which renamed Ikea products after commonly searched relationship problems in Sweden. This case study looks at how search can drive product discovery by incorporating an SEO perspective into product naming – while bringing a smile on people’s faces.


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Case study summary

• The campaign was based on a creative and disruptive search strategy
• The Retail Therapy campaign was covered in multiple international news media
• IKEA successfully improved their SERP ranking

The challenge

In most industries the first organic search results are highly coveted and it’s getting harder and harder for marketers to get – and maintain - content shown at the top of search results. Search engine optimization (SEO) is changing fast and increased competition for keywords can quickly cause your content to slip down the SERP page. Therefore, today’s marketers must constantly look for new ways to improve their SEO and beat competition. There are a few general SEO tips available but with their recent “Retail Therapy” campaign, IKEA decided not to follow general rules but instead think out of the box by focusing on a broader (and unexpected) content territory.


The solution

As a part of their ‘Where life happens’ campaign; the furniture giant launched a new website called Retail Therapy featuring some of their typical products, but with a bit of a twist. Developed by Åkestam Holst, a Swedish advertising agency, the website takes a creative SEO-focused approach to promoting some of IKEA’s products.

A trip to IKEA can be a great test of any relationship and according to Allan Dickner, IKEA’s deputy manager of packaging, the company even has a special name for products that are difficult to assemble; ‘the husband killer’ (Fortune 2015). With the “Retail Therapy” advertising campaign, IKEA now wants to use its products to help solve its customer’s relationship problems – or at least put a smile on their faces.

The Swedish advertising agency looked at common Google search queries related to relationship problems in Sweden and IKEA then changed the names of their products to match frequently googled relationship problems. The Retail Therapy website then beautifully paired each relationship problem with the product that hopefully provides the solution.

For instance:

• A google search on “My Partner Snores” would show a daybed for one.
• A frying pan was named “How to Stay Married”
• The “Ate too many Swedish meatballs” bike.

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IKEA gave catchy, SEO-friendly names to more than 100 products on the Retail Therapy website, which looked similar to the IKEA website. The Retail Therapy website then linked through to the IKEA website allowing consumers to purchase the product through an easy, seamless purchase consumer journey.

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The results

The campaign generated a lot of buzz online and was mentioned in multiple international news media as well as being shared on several social media platforms. Towards the end of the video it concludes that, "Whether it's a snoring husband, a never-ending gaming son or any other relationship problem you have, IKEA can come to the rescue … or at least put a smile on your face while you keep Googling for an answer." Many consumers found the campaign amusing and shared links to the “Retail Therapy” products on their social media platforms.

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Besides putting a smile on their consumers face, IKEA successfully improved their SERP ranking. It helped IKEA get increased visibility in an even broader range of organic searches on Google and other search engines. In other words, the campaign successfully used search to get IKEA’s products seen where they wouldn’t normally be seen. According to Econsultancy, the IKEA day bed named “My partner snores” appeared on the first page for the search query “My Partner Snores” during the campaign period. Same result was seen for the “She Doesn't Want to Cuddle” mattress wedge with the "she doesn't want to cuddle" query.

Whether the Retail Therapy campaign and website helped IKEA drive sales is still to be seen but nevertheless, the campaign serve as a great example on how a creative and innovative SEO strategy can help your organisation drive traffic to your website as well as gain visibility and increase awareness. Thinking as a consumer and using consumer language is key. Most organisations do pay close attention to product names and product descriptions as part of their SEO strategy, but the IKEA campaign highlights that there may be interesting opportunities for marketers to think about the problems their products solve when developing product names instead of simply describing the product itself.

At last, it’s worth mentioning the risk of using too broad search terms. For example, if your company is selling “organic chicken stock cubes”, it’s not recommended to go after broad keywords like “chicken” or “organic chicken” as these are not specific keywords related to the products you are selling. You want to ensure that you can provide high quality content, that answer the questions people are searching for. With a humorous twist the “Retail Therapy” campaign ensured that the IKEA products matched the search queries in an unexpected way which ensured that the campaign was not just regarded as irrelevant content although the products were not necessarily what the consumers were looking. This means that relevance – but even more so humour - played a crucial role in the campaign’s success.

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