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15 . 04 . 18

Print: a word of mouth powerhouse

Words by: Print Power
Ikea caused a splash with an ad that doubled as a pregnancy test – and proved that print gets people talking
ikea-pee-1.jpeg

At a glance:

  • Print media has “a double word of mouth advantage” over digital media
  • New technology takes a back seat to a brilliant conceit that benefits the consumer
  • A consistency of campaign message cues recall and engagement

When Ikea and its creative shop, Åkestam Holst, took out a one-page ad in Swedish women’s magazine Amelia, it wasn’t long before they made global news.

Adweek, Bloomberg, The Guardian, Fastcodesign, Fox News… the trade and mainstream media loved the print campaign that doubled as a pregnancy test.

So, they shared it, fondly using words like ‘odd’, ‘funny’, ‘gross’, ‘weird’, ‘unorthodox’ – and also ‘undeniably clever’ – to fuel the water cooler and Twittersphere buzz.

Soon, what started life as a simple offer became a viral sensation, generating a tidal wave of warm brand sentiment.

Here’s why…

It does what print does best

“Just like secrets, word of mouth spreads when the information source is perceived as credible and when the information itself is seen as new and exclusive,” says communication psychologist, lecturer at the London College of Fashion, and author of Connected Marketing: The Viral, Buzz and Word of Mouth Revolution, Dr Paul Marsden.

“This gives print media a double word of mouth advantage over digital media, because print media is typically seen as having superior ‘source credibility’ – it’s more believable – while creating the perception that the reader is ‘discovering’ content that has not yet been shared.”

More talk, in turn, usually means more sales. A Word of Mouth Marketing Association study found that on- and offline conversations and recommendations account for around 13% of sales – while two-thirds of conversations ultimately result in sales offline.

Åkestam Holst creative chief, Magnus Jakobsson, was never in any doubt about print’s ability to catalyse a wider conversation (or conversions), according to Adweek.

“Could it be more than just an ordinary ad for a baby crib stating a price?” he asked. “Could it prosper outside the boundaries of a magazine and go viral? Yes, it most certainly could.”

It’s disruptive – because it’s unique and useful

By encouraging women to pee on the specially engineered stock, Ikea was able to identify expecting mums – and serve up a 50% discount on an Ikea crib for a positive result.

The incentive was a nice touch. But really, it was the playful, edgy idea and execution – which the audience had never seen before – that cut through.

“If nobody has ever asked you to pee on paper, that, in a sense, is the brilliance of it,” argues Mariana Lucia Marquez, co-founder of communications specialist, Metaspeech.

But it’s not about being provocative for the sake of being provocative, she points out. “It’s how your message benefits the person receiving it.

“If, like Ikea’s, your idea is controversial, is it disruptive?” muses Marquez. “Perhaps. If the audience stands to gain in some way from the disruption.”

By encapsulating antibodies that bind to the pregnancy hormone hCG in the synthetic paper, the collaboration between Åkestam Holst and the science guys at materials innovation specialists Mercene Labs created an execution that was more than just a gimmick – or a print advertising first.

It was useful. For some, it helped to solve a meaningful mystery – and, in the longer term, could even lead to better tools for diagnosing certain types of heart disease, if you believe this piece by The Verge.

“The challenge we face is that a lot of technology is being used to create novelty and gain attention,” says Michael Johnston, Innovation Director at Publicis Drugstore. “The aim should be to use technology to bring something that is beneficial – that addresses real life challenges, with a touch of novelty for fun.”

It just feels like Ikea, right?

There’s a quirkiness and coolness to this idea – and the tone it adopts – that is unmistakeably, authentically Ikea.

We’ve seen it before, with masterful, wryly amusing video concepts like the bookbookTM and the more recent Irresistible Pointless TrueView Ads.

Like the ‘Pee Test’, the latter was delivered under the auspices of its ‘Where life happens’ campaign – which seeks to draw inspiration from the everyday lives of people.

And the flat-pack furniture giant has an enviable facility to tell these stories in a way that is consistent, instantly recognisable and often pretty damn funny – regardless of channel.

The big picture, it understands, is everything: a campaign – especially one that wants to drive word of mouth – is only as strong as the sum of its parts.

Of course, it makes sense that one part is an execution that justifies Ikea’s enduring love of print.

Jerker Winther, Head of Planning & Strategy at Åkestam Holst, revealed in a WARC exclusive that the ‘Where Life Happens’ campaign, which the agency launched in September 2016, has affected both short- and long term sales at IKEA. According to econometric modelling, the advertising has an ROI of 5:1, well above the category norm (1).

Magazine ads might have more limited reach in our digitally-obsessed world. But it seems that – when done well – they also have a massive ‘talkability’ cachet.

Besides, who wouldn’t want to claim they had the best pee-based execution of the year so far, eh?

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