Top exec talks to PSFK about the values that drive a brand with innovation and creativity.
How does a legacy brand keep connected to fast-paced consumer culture? How does it remain relevant and engaging? I spoke to Rich D’Amico, Deputy Marketing Director at IKEA USA, about the IKEA brand, the values that drive a business of innovation, and methods behind their creativity. IKEA’s lessons are relevant for everyone involved in building businesses – whether they’re evolving a brand from the head-office of an established corporation, growing market share a local subsidiary or seeking trajectory in their start-up.
Piers Fawkes, PSFK.com: On PSFK.com, we find ourselves frequently writing about the IKEA brand. What is your company’s ethos that keeps IKEA innovating and staying fresh in the consumer mind?
Rich D’Amico, IKEA USA: Firstly, we’re a company with very clear values. The culture is built on those values. The ones that I like to think about that are relevant to today’s conversation are around simplicity (being as simple as possible) ad working together.
We also have another value that we talk about all the time: it’s called constant desire for renewal. We ask ourselves, ‘What can we do better? What can we do differently?’ We are helping people figure out what it is they need and providing a solution for that.
In addition, the other thing we talk about all the time is this idea of daring to be different. That’s rooted in our history, how we’ve evolved as a brand and as a company. Back in the ’50s and ’60s, nobody was selling furniture the way we were selling furniture. That was about daring to be different. That stays with us today in 2014. How can we do things in a different way?
Piers Fawkes: How does your philosophy inspire creative work?
Rich D’Amico: We rely on consumer insights to drive marketing and product ideas.
A key thing we do is that we tend to get very close to consumers. I like to call it anthropological marketing, studying people, getting close to them, going into their homes, having conversations, reading reports, information. Understanding their needs, dreams and desires. Being the brand that helps them fulfill those needs, dreams and desires.
I like to call it ‘co-creation’ because I believe that a lot of what we do that drives marketing is co-created with consumers. What we do in terms of product development is co-creation with consumers.
The Home Tour is a good example of that because we could see from our conversations with consumers. We knew from the research that people were staying in their homes longer, but they were motivated to do some freshening up.
They felt challenged, this idea of decorating paralysis, “How do I get started? What do I do? Where do I go? What’s the source for that?” Sometimes people need a nudge.
Piers: What is the best approach a modern brand can take in order to create value with the consumers?
Rich: When I think about our brand, it’s about being open and approachable, simple, inclusive, very much down to earth, authentic, fresh, curious, conversational, insightful and empathetic. Those are the words we use to describe the brand.
I would use those same words to describe our relationship with consumers and our relationship with coworkers. For me, it’s completely integrated.
Every touch point is either going to enhance the brand or it’s going to hurt the brand. For us, it’s looking at all those touch points with our coworkers and consumers and really ensuring that we’re delivering consistently and at the right level
Of course, through the Home Report and some of the other things that we mentioned before, we have this beautiful opportunity for consumers to tell us what’s going on in their life and how we can help them. We have all that information now that we can feed back to communication, to product development, to a store, an online experience.
For me, it comes back to co-creation, collaborative effort between co-workers, consumers and the brand.
Rich D’Amico is the Deputy Marketing Director at IKEA USA