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IKEA and Accenture Song on Promoting Sustainability in Retail

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IKEA Denmark’s CMO and Accenture Song’s Nordic CCO remember their ‘CIRKULÄR’ project and tell LBB’s Ben Conway how to create a sustainable retail campaign

IKEA and Accenture Song on Promoting Sustainability in Retail


Sustainability-conscious campaigns are becoming more and more prevalent as businesses feel the increasing pressure of the global environmental crisis and their customers’ desire for environmentally-friendly options. However, whether these campaigns actually change customer behaviour and encourage sustainable habits is another question. 

As more light is shed on the environmental impact of brands’ products, services and processes, many have launched sustainability initiatives - but where certain brands and marketers are seeing a tangible impact on consumer behaviour, is in their in-store, retail campaigns. One such project, launched last year, was IKEA’s ‘CIRKULÄR’ campaign, a circular exchange that saw the furniture giant buy used IKEA furniture from its customers, refurbish the items, and sell them at a reduced price.

To discuss this Gold Lion-winning, sustainable retail campaign and how it has continued and succeeded almost a year on - and to discuss what other brands and marketers can do to be successful themselves - LBB’s Ben Conway spoke to Anne Krogh, chief marketing officer of IKEA for Denmark and Adam Kerj, chief creative officer, Accenture Song in the Nordics

Anne and Adam reveal how they tapped into IKEA customers’ existing behaviour, why “creativity is the answer to every question” and what new Accenture research means for behavioural change in retail.



LBB> How do the best sustainability retail campaigns effectively change customers’ behaviour? 


Adam> Think long-term. We need to be truly integrating creativity, innovation and purpose into organisational culture, behaviours, product development and new commercial models. We need to solve more, not tell more. Customers don’t care much about brands talking about lofty visions far in the future – they want concrete solutions and actions for how they can contribute to a more sustainable society today.

You have to work closely together with your clients. There is so much innovation in this space, such as smart and sustainable packaging, new delivery models and ecosystems. Helping consumers to simplify, navigate, access and support in the increasingly chaotic world is essential.  

IKEA has always asked its customers to do a bit of the hard job themselves – to assemble their own furniture. But that act alone means that furniture becomes uniquely the maker’s. We applied this thinking to ‘CIRKULÄR’, asking the customers to take the first step. In a way, creativity is our universal Allen key.



LBB> Can you elaborate on the ‘IKEA CIRKULÄR’ campaign? 


Anne> ‘IKEA CIRKULÄR’ was the launch campaign of a circular exchange, in-store and online, that allows customers to sell and buy used IKEA furniture in IKEA. Launched for Black Friday [2021], it encouraged people around the world to save more than just money during the big consumer event.     

More than 155,000 pieces of furniture globally were received before Black Friday, which were restored and resold at even lower IKEA prices via CIRKULÄR. It is now a year-round sustainable service in 28 countries, helping drive behavioural change in the home furnishing market, delivering to the IKEA business from the sales of pre-loved furniture and strengthening the IKEA brand.  



LBB> Where else in the industry have you seen a successful sustainability campaign in retail?


Adam> I think ‘Close the Loop’ by H&M Foundation is an outstanding innovative technology, where the machine called ‘Looop’ cleans and shreds old garments and then knits the remains into new products that the customer can pick up the next day. Without using any water or chemicals. 



LBB> What are some pitfalls that sustainability projects often fall into, regarding CX and their design/approach? What are the most common mistakes that result in no customer behaviour change?


Adam> The challenge is to create experiences that put the customer at the heart, which is unfortunately where many companies fail. Our goal with ‘CIRKULÄR’ was to create a simple, thought-provoking idea, but in the end, we asked quite a lot of the customers – to invite them to take the first step. A few steps in fact. 

Fortunately, IKEA is no stranger to that approach – as we know from their heritage of self-assembly furniture. While there were risks and challenges, this value-exchange was already 100% in IKEA’s brand DNA. The whole idea tapped into an existing behaviour adopted by many customers all over the world. 



LBB> In the creative process, what is there to consider when involving a sustainability element into a campaign? How do you ensure the sustainability part feels authentic and not ‘added on’?


Adam> Make the creative idea actionable. I truly believe that creativity is the answer to every question. Creative thinking is what solves the big, real-world problems – and it can be applied by anyone to anything – including design, technology, data, insights – whatever makes an idea scale and be as relevant and human as possible. 

In fact, we know that customers are expecting brands to help them make smarter, better choices. According to our recent research, 67% of global consumers expect companies to address their changing needs in new ways. Brands should be considering how to amplify customers’ human potential through contributing to a more sustainable society. 

Creativity should be in service of the brand, the business and its people and the planet. 



LBB> How do you give scalability and replicability to a sustainable retail campaign? What obstructions stand in the way of expanding a campaign?


Adam> There are many partners, stakeholders and complexities that come with orchestrating a campaign across multiple global markets. Each market has different mechanics, the brand has different maturity, consumers have different behaviours and you also have different local expectations. 

A global brand must be culturally relevant locally, not globally tone-deaf. 

Empowering local management is key to this. As is having a core concept that is crystal clear, so it can easily be adopted and tweaked locally. 


Anne> What binds IKEA’s global circularity movement together is a strong community – global-local and across countries – with a common long-term direction and an unshakeable belief that the power of creativity can both amplify a change in human behaviour and move the needle on the business. In the community, we support and build on each other, and we constantly push each other to do better tomorrow than we did today. Our IKEA culture and structure are the reasons we can give scalability to an initiative like ‘CIRKULÄR’ and make such important steps happen simultaneously in so many different parts of the world.      



LBB> What is the future of sustainability campaigns in retail? How do brands and advertisers go from ‘purposeful’ marketing to ‘transformative’ marketing, that actually changes customer behaviour in the long run?


Adam> Nearly 70% of consumers are worried about the impact of climate change on their lives. As a result, they want and demand radical transparency, planet-first commercial models, value-driven supply chains and diverse representation. At the same time, they are used to on-demand delivery, and experiences tailored uniquely to them.

Most companies and CMOs know that they can’t advertise themselves out of solving our most urgent sustainability issues. Our research has also found that 88% of global executives think their customers are changing faster than their businesses can keep up. Businesses that want to thrive through forming new connections with customers and creating relevant brands, products or services must bridge the gap between what customers want and the world changing around them. 

There’s never been more expectation on companies and brands to behave better, earn customers’ trust and take responsibility.



view more - The Sustainability Channel
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LBB Editorial, Thu, 06 Oct 2022 16:05:00 GMT