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The IKEA 180: Can a brand just change point of view?

I first understood exactly how a creative campaign can help a company when the teacher of my high school film class showed us the following, multi-award-winning Spike Jonze directed IKEA advert:

The advert (teacher’s favorite) shows a woman dumping a lamp on the curb in favor of a newer model. While she, and the new lamp, live the high life back in her apartment, the old product lives out a sad, useless existence steeped in rain and scored by sad music. Just as you’re feeling bad for the lamp however, a Swedish dude pops up to proclaim: “Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That’s because you are crazy, it has no feelings and the new one works much better!”. Rug pulled, message clearly sent.

It’s an ad that plays with your emotions and clearly sets out IKEA’s point of view and ever since it’s been one of my favorites too.

Fast forward to last week where Adweek’s Ad of the Day was Ikea Everyday Hero 365, a whole campaign based around attaching feelings to inanimate objects:

“Hmmm” I thought. SO-MANY-QUESTIONS, not least: “Is this even acceptable?”

Can a brand just change their point of view? Or rather, should they?

This isn’t a brand swaying from a failed campaign hidden at the back of their PAX closet, nor is it a small venture away from a past campaign that isn’t really that relevant. This is IKEA telling their audience one thing: “Don’t attach feelings to your old objects because you can get newer better ones”, then 12 years later saying “No, actually feel all the feels for your everyday items and treat them like heroes”.

I was suitably invigorated to dig a little deeper.

So, armed with access to a local NYC networking group called Mosaic, I asked them what they thought of the topic:

  • Is there a statute of limitations on campaigns?
  • Is a decade long enough for a brand to make a 180?
  • Do campaigns expire?
  • Does anyone really care?

The opinions, as ever, varied. Some felt that in 12 years the landscape of the world can change, so how can you expect to target the same exact demographic? Others noted that agencies making the work change (not to mention staff at the company in question), while still others pointed to there being a more competitive landscape with different, even better mediums for communication.

There was reference to the Goldfish theory (that people have short memories, so you run minimal risk doing this) though this was countered when someone mentioned that people still refer to Orlando Jones as the 7up guy (yeah that one was a major throwback for me as well), which means that maybe our attention spans aren’t as short as we thought.

And then this emerged: a formula and an example of how it can be used to figure out if you can change campaign directions.

It is of course completely unscientific, but it still holds water.

It goes like this:

First measure the original campaign:

  • Reach of original campaign, expressed as a % of people that were aware of it
  • Success of original campaign, expressed as a % measuring how completely it achieved the brand positioning desired
  • Time decay, which is probably a bit of an S-curve, but for the sake of argument let’s say it’s 1 divided by the number of years elapsed

Then you measure the current proposed campaign:

  • Reach (as above)
  • Success (as above)
  • Length (how long the campaign is proposed to run for)

Compare the two. If the current campaign out scores the previous, you’re onto a winner.

Got it?

Let’s run through an example.

Brand X wants to completely change perceptions.

They put out a campaign 10 years ago about how puppies are evil, it was very successful, and half of America saw it.

Maybe the numbers look like this.:

R*S*T = .5*.7*.1 = .035

Now they want to be known as a brand that worships cute fluffy dogs.

RSL [present] must be greater than RST [past] for this to be successful.

So let’s put the new figures through the mixer. If they reach half of America (50%) and do so slightly more convincingly (80%), how long would they have to run the campaign for it to be successful? Let’s say we measure Length as years divided by 10. If they ran for two years, then we’d have:

R*S*L = .5*.8*.2 = .080

RSL > RST, so we’re onto a winner.

It’s an interesting theory, and fun to think about these things in different ways, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the issue: can a brand just undermine things they have said in the past and expect people to go with them? Me, I’m not so sure.

I logically see that Everyday Hero 365 is a great campaign idea. It used not only video but also twitter to give these household items their own personalities. But it still irks me deep down. Maybe, I am one of the few whose attention span lasts, or maybe if the commercial hadn’t been award-winning or one of my favorites I would be behind this campaign 100%. But I don’t know, I like to believe that a great brand has a consistent message running through its core.

What do you think?