IKEA CMO at home with integrated mix

Leontyne Green, CMO of IKEA North America, practices what she preaches. She’s the proud owner of five IKEA bookcases, an IKEA sectional sofa and an IKEA custom “Pax” closet. Come to think of it, she says, her shelves are stocked with IKEA glasses and paper products, and she currently has her eye on an IKEA kitchen as her next big planned purchase.

However, it’s “not the [IKEA] Kool-Aid” that makes her such a brand evangelist. It’s the relevance of the brand itself that she and IKEA customers in general connect with, no matter what demographic they fall into — and IKEA is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to build that relationship even further, Green says.

“It’s important for us to communicate that IKEA provides good home furnishings for the many,” Green says. “We have something for you regardless of whether you’re graduating college, or you’ve just sent your kids off to college and you’re an empty-nester.”

Currently, the brand is focusing on promoting its kitchen offerings to demonstrate that IKEA products go beyond dorm room denizens to embrace a more mature, financially established audience, a tactic Green calls “less functional and more emotional.”

The ubiquity of IKEA products cannot be denied and neither can its loyal fan base. IKEA maintains an opt-in email database of 3.6 million people and the distribution of its annual print catalog — created by IKEA Global with McCann Erickson New York — is at 20 million in the U.S. alone. In order to connect with its community in an even more systematic way, IKEA rolled out the “IKEA Family” loyalty program in March. With more than one million members already signed up, Green says that throughout the coming year she and her team plan to take an integrated, direct-to-consumer approach to “get even more people to join the IKEA family.”

Green says she will continue to leverage cornerstone tactics such as email, owned and paid media, TV, radio, search and the IKEA catalog, which she calls “one of the most important branding pieces of communication we have.” However, she says the future is all about social and digital, where “more money will definitely be focused.” Digital initiatives will be bolstered by other media pushed out across different channels at once “to get our message out in a complete way,” she says.

Green already had social in the crosshairs this past January with the “Bring Your Own Friends” promotion, one of the brand’s first forays into the social realm. IKEA North America tapped its then more than 430,000 Facebook fans to invite their friends for a full day of in-store freebies, discounts and other perks at stores nationwide, while at the same time raising $50,000 for Save the Children.

Instilling an interactive flavor in future work, like that at the heart of the BYOF campaign, is another item high on Green’s agenda. After listening to customers and finding out which products they needed most help with regarding assembly, IKEA posted a series of simple instructional “how to” videos on YouTube in January to guide viewers through the process — something Green says even she needs a little help with sometimes.

“I’ve had the experience of putting something together and then realizing it’s backwards,” Green says with a laugh. “But seriously, the videos are a direct result of the feedback we’ve gotten from consumers.” It’s partially this down-to-earth attitude that makes Green, an “extreme introvert,” according to her Myers Briggs personality type test, such an intuitive marketer and an approachable supervisor.

“My style is to be open and to explore new ideas and explore new challenges,” she says. “My team sometimes jokes around with me — how did an introvert get into marketing? But it’s just the self-reflective way I process things.”

IKEA North America PR manager Marty Marston, who works closely with Green, appreciates the trust Green puts in her team, a management strategy that trickles down to the way Green’s reports treat their own staff.

“She definitely acts as a mentor to some people in the group,” Marston says. “I’ve seen how much of an effort she’s placed on building teams of highly competent professionals, and she trusts us to make decisions — a lot of people talk about that, but she really lives it.”

The coming months promise to be a time of action and reflection for IKEA as a brand and for Green personally, who just got married at the end of March.

“We’re definitely going to invest more in consumer insights and develop our listening, because consumers have so much they can share and help inform us about,” Green says. “We’re also going to be applying what we’re hearing to the way we position ourselves and communicate the brand and its offerings.”

Keeping both ears open is often a difficult task for most brands, Green admits, noting that marketers can sometimes lose perspective by becoming too focused on an internal point-of-view. By taking a step back and asking for consumer feedback, brands can avoid becoming “narrow minded,” Green says.

“The only way to grow one’s business is to spend more energy understanding the outside view,” Green says. “Otherwise you might miss opportunities to become even more relevant in the consumer’s mind.”

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