May 13, 2018IKEA ‘bullies’ a plant to promote empathy in schools

Furniture brand IKEA has released a poignant video that sees two plants receive critical and encouraging comments to parallel the effects of bullying. The campaign aims to teach children the benefits of positive reinforcement and encourage them to think about how their words can affect others. We discover the insights behind the ad, and understand how IKEA is inspiring empathy among schoolchildren.

Safa Amirbayat

As a way of illustrating how bullying can affect the development of children, IKEA teamed up with Memac Ogilvy Dubai to create a campaign based on an experiment exploring positive and negative reinforcement. In the experiment, two plants were taken to a local school in Dubai. Of the two, one plant was bombarded with put-downs such as “You’re not even green” and “You look rotten,” while the other plant 'heard' positive statements such as “Seeing you blossom makes me happy.” The results showed the ‘bullied’ plant wilted, while the cherished plant flourished. Vinod Jayan, managing director of IKEA UAE, says: “[The experiment] was so successful in driving awareness and reducing bullying among these children that more schools in the UAE have approached us to conduct the experiment at their locations.”

IKEA takes a thought provoking approach to tackling bullying

Bullying is a global problem, with nine in ten young people believing that it is a pervasive problem in their communities. Yet many adults are unaware of the extent to which bullying takes place, as just half of students who are bullied report it. IKEA's campaign shows that it is taking its CSR seriously in a thought-provoking fashion, something that can ultimately benefit the brand. Researchers from the University of Cologne have found that a euro invested in a highly creative ad campaign has nearly double the sales impact of its non-creative counterpart. Just as Tobacco Free Florida's video campaign did for smoking, IKEA’s ad raises awareness of bullying creatively, attempting to foster more empathetic attitudes among audiences both young and old.

Safa Amirbayat is a junior behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. An economics graduate from University College London, he can be found boxing or reading a novel outside of work.

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