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The 'IKEA ASMR' spot from the retail giant details products through 25 minutes of hands stroking fabric. By targeting the ad towards the niche, internet-born ASMR community, IKEA is showing that, despite its size, it understands how customers experience its wares on an individual level. We explore the insights behind the ad, and how crafting a small-scale message can build mass appeal.

ASMR – or autonomous sensory meridian response – is characterised by a tingling sensation often triggered by auditory stimuli. And from the BBC’s Planet Earth visual soundscapes to dedicated YouTube channels like Gentle Whispering, ASMR-friendly content is earning more attention than ever. In response, IKEA and Ogilvy conducted extensive research into how the ASMR community makes its videos, with the aim of understanding the experience and offering authentic content to suit it. The result is a 25-minute commercial featuring a woman’s hands stroking various fabrics and surfaces in IKEA’s back-to-school collection. “Our products are designed to help people every day," say Ogilvy's creative director Della Mathew and Kerri Homsher, IKEA's external communications specialist. "Our dorm room solutions help students relax after a long day. So we thought of content that does the same."

Not everyone experiences IKEA’s products in the same way
IKEA USA | YouTube (2017) ©

IKEA’s practicality and price point make it an easy sell as a brand that’s suitable for the everyman, which explains why its website racked up 2.1 billion visits in 2016 alone, along with 425 million physical visits to shopping centres, and 783 million store visits. But in achieving this broad appeal, the brand risks losing its personal feel – something that can’t be regained through targeted advertising alone. "As a race, we’re deeply suspicious of being spied upon," says Jeremy Bullmore, former president of the Market Research Society, who adds that when it comes to advertising, "personalisation can get altogether too personal for comfort."

Given that 21% of Britons say that personalised ads run the risk of coming off as creepy, IKEA is using its closeness to one community to demonstrate a personal touch, without resorting to surveillance or data-mining. While plenty of people can appreciate the value of a pillow and bedspread, not everyone can experience ASMR, so by crafting an video targeted towards these enthusiasts, IKEA is making something as universal as its affordable furniture seem intimate and personal. Through its ad, the retailer is reminding people that it can still understand its audience as individuals, and gives thought to how each person experiences its products.

Mira Kopolovic is a behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. She has an MA which focused on artist-brand collaborations, and spends her spare time poring over dystopian literature


14 Aug 17
2 min read

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