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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Maria Paula Diaz Campo

Prof. Yasbel Acuna-Borrero

ENC 1101 – Writing and Rhetoric

Tuesday, October 26th, 2017

Ikea really is simple

It is well known that Ikea is on the way to global domination, facts such as that one in every fourteen people in the world visit their stores every year, one out of every ten Europeans are conceived on one of their beds, every year more copies of their catalogues are printed than of the Bible, and that they are the world's third-largest consumer of wood, are all amazing, but what's most interesting is the way in which they achieve these results, the marketing strategy behind their success. (MacGauley)

The concept of Ikea lies in the idea of making simple, easy to assemble and affordable furniture, with design, function, quality, and value in mind. The vision of the company is “To create a better everyday life for the many people” (Ikea) and most specifically their target market is both female and male young adults, with low to middle income, beginning to stabilize in life, single or recently married. The reason why I'm stating all of this is because on my last visit to Ikea I came across a rather engaging advertisement that helped me understand the question previously stated, and understanding the background of the company was a key that helped me understand how an ad that simple could trigger a desperate need to buy on people my age.

The Ad is composed of a set of four images placed one on top of the other which describe funny scenarios of life at home. The characters are cartoons which are merely outlined in blue and placed on a white background, with some accents in yellow which resemble the colors of the company. Each scenario is composed of two scenes, the first one is always captioned as “love is complicated” and the second one as “Ikea is simple” all in caps and in the same blue ink as the characters are drawn in. The first scenario shows a couple arguing, and in the next panel, the woman has placed a yellow lampshade in the man's head, the woman is shown smiling because of it. The second scenario shows a very tall woman intending to kiss a short man, in the panel beside it the man is shown standing on a small yellow step stool, now able to reach her and therefore kissing her. The third scenario shows a man stepping out the door with a briefcase full of clothes, it seems to have been packed last minute as some of the clothes have fallen out of it, the man has an angry expression on his face while the woman is shown crying and in a speech bubble saying “Martin, please don't leave me”, the word “Martin” is in bold. In the next panel, there's a yellow chair with its price ($45) underneath it as well as its name “Martin”. In the last panel, we see a man down on one knee with a big smile on his face, proposing to the woman who's running away from him; the panel beside this shows the same man kneeling as if he was proposing but instead of a ring he's holding a hot dog with mustard (yellow), the woman is now seen as if she's running towards the man with a big smile on his face. The price of the hot dog ($1) is shown on top of it. Between each image, Ikea's logo is displayed.

Ikea's ad intends to appeal to pathos with its simplicity and by staying true to its brand, it also pretends to trigger emotion on the consumer through the use of humorous scenarios. The ad appropriately reaches its intended audience with specific scenarios targeted for them, in a way that makes them relatable and in the process portraying their brand as a solution to their issues by addressing a recurring concept such as love, therefore appealing to pathos as well. The ad, however, can easily make the audience lose interest on it as it has too much information and it takes long to grasp.

Ikea intends appeals to pathos by using a simple theme for its ad. The fact that they use such simple colors and characters makes it easy for the viewer to connect with the ad, as it is not saturated with color and images but rather focuses on the essential information. Latest advertisement trends tend to opt for a rather minimalistic approach, enabling the message to be conveyed in a straightforward matter, where the consumer isn't bombarded with information. This approach is most effective as the buyer doesn't have to filter through the information and absorb a big amount of data, this is a clear appeal to pathos as it engages with the intended audience's lifestyle. People who are currently in the period of their lives that fall into the description of Ikea's target market (some from generation X and millennials), intend to carry a simpler/decluttered lifestyle (Weinswig), where they filter information to obtain only the essential, this is evident in their trends in the usage of social media, in which a desire for a simplification in most regards (easier shopping/easier social interactions/easier management of money) is evident, which is why Ikea chooses to appeal to this decluttering lifestyle trend by maintaining a simple approach to their advertisement.

Ikea appeals to pathos by staying true to its brand by using a minimalistic concept, therefore creating a connection with the trademark. This appeal to pathos lies in the creation of the brand. The idea of creating a relationship between the consumer to the brand is key when addressing a target market such as Ikea's as millennials crave consistency, connections with brands (Baar), in such way, Ikea engages their branding with their products themselves creating cohesion between their identity as a brand and their offerings, pursuing then that when the consumer thinks of Ikea they think of simplicity. Therefore, they successfully appeal to pathos in their audience by creating a concept in which they can find the consistency they seek and the fulfillment of their need for simplicity.

The ad appeals to pathos using relatable scenarios targeted directly to their intended audience. Given their target market, Ikea uses scenarios that are common in the lives of their consumers, making the ad relatable and therefore making the buyer have the sense that the brand understands their needs as well as what they're going through.  In a way Ikea is trying to convey to the consumer a message that can be put into words by saying “My product is designed for you, because I know you're going through this” generating in the consumer a feeling of empathy and understanding from the brand, therefore, successfully appealing to pathos, as the consumer would rather opt for a brand that they trust. Josh Ritchie, CEO and co-founder of Column Five, a content marketing agency, and Visage, a visual content design platform, claims that “If you can clearly communicate that you understand your audience's struggle and have the expertise to help solve their problem, your audience sees that you really care, which makes them more eager to form a relationship with you. The key to creating that type of content? Empathy.” Ikea gains this trust by creating a sense of awareness and care for their customer's needs.

The advertisement addresses problems or situations that are common to their intended audience by using humor. Marc G. Weinberg and Charles S. Gulas from the Department of Marketing at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst allege that “94% of advertising practitioners as an effective way to gain attention”. Ikea, therefore, successfully engages in the usage of humor as a direct appeal to pathos, in this matter, they fruitfully obtain the customer's attention, however, what's most interesting, is what they do once they get this attention. The company presents four scenarios that suggest dispute, and in all, the outcome or solution includes one of their products, accordingly, creating a notion of consistency and correlation between problem-solving and their brand. This a direct appeal to pathos since, as it was previously stated, their target market covets stability. The ad makes emphasis in the presence of their products in the solutions by them being the only things highlighted in yellow within the ad, hence, reinforcing their meaningfulness within the desired outcome. The fact that the viewer tends to analyze imagery from right to left also contributes to the success of this appeal, as all products highlighted in yellow are located in the right sector of the ad, making them a focal point for the consumer.

The advertiser chooses to address a topic of common interest within its audience, love, in pursuance of establishing a connection with their target market. Naomi Troni, CEO of Havas Worldwide Southeast Asia, asserts that “[Millennials] They're hungry for romance”, this way, Ikea seeks again, establishing a personal affiliation with the consumer and therefore appeal to pathos. Without verbally stating it, all scenarios include romance-related situations which are commonly experienced by their consumers, and although exaggerated for the sake of humor, they successfully introduce a topic desired by the consumers (love) without forcing it upon them, which could be counterproductive as it could be interpreted as a cliché.

The ad can become tedious for the consumer as it takes too long to analyze, this is particularly true for a young audience. Young adults live a fast-paced life where information should be as easy and quick to grasp as possible, therefore, although repetitiveness is efficient, as it clearly conveys the intended message, the amount of content within the ad makes it unappealing to the consumer. It was previously stated that millennials seek minimalistic lifestyle, and decluttering should not only come in the concept itself, but rather in the amount of information provided, as a voluminous quantity of material is unappealing for said audience.

Ikea accurately advertises its brand by using a marketing strategy which is most efficient for their target market, young adults, by using mainly appeals to pathos, as done with the use of a minimalistic concept that's easy to grasp and also true to their brand which promotes simplicity and minimal design, as well as by using scenarios that are easily relatable for the consumer due to the usage of humor, the reference to a topic of common interest and by showing consistency within their brand and the solution to problems, however, the ad has the flaw of being particularly long, and therefore making it easy for the buyer to lose interest in it. Ikea does an accurate job by reiterating not only with text and images but with the product itself, that they strive to stay true to their brand which intends to make simple, easy to assemble and affordable furniture, with design, function, quality, and value in mind. Ikea says it is simple, and they show me how simple it is.

Works Cited

Baar, Aaron. "Mediapost." 16 August 2017. MarketingDaily. 26 October 2017.

Ikea. The Ikea Concept: Ikea. N.d. 16 October 2017.

MacGauley, Joe. Thrillist. 25 March 2014. 25 October 2017.

Ritchie, Josh. "How To Do Effective Content Marketing: Use Empathy." Forbes 24 February 2017.

Tromi, Naomi. Huffington Post. 16 February 2012. 26 October 2017.

Weinberg, Marc and Charles Gulas. The Impact of Humor in Advertising: A Review. Journal of Advertising. Amherst: University of Massachusets at Amherst, 1992.

Weinswig, Deborah. "Millennials Go Minimal: The Decluttering Lifestyle Trend That Is Taking Over." 7 September 2016. Forbes. 26 October 2017.

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