Shoppers have reacted with both delight and confusion over a 25-minute “product explainer” video created by the US arm of furniture giant Ikea this week.
But despite calls from many that the campaign is “creepy”, marketing experts say the company knows exactly what it’s doing.
The retailer posted its Oddly Ikea video on Tuesday, trying to capture the attention of US students returning for a new college year by running through how to set up a perfect dorm bedroom using Ikea products.
Rather than simply creating an animated catalogue, the company used the relaxation movement ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is described as a pleasurable relaxation response some individuals feel in response to certain stimuli, like listening to soft spoken instructions or watching repetitive movements like folding sheets.
Online video platforms like YouTube are home to a number of producers who make videos to encourage this type of relaxation, and Ikea has jumped right in by creating its own version — complete with product descriptions and price points for a sample bedroom.
More than 100,000 people have watched the video so far, but responses from customers have ranged from excitement to pure confusion.
“Is this a joke?” asked one viewer on YouTube.
“This is the most uncomfortable video I’ve ever seen,” said another, while many others called it “highly disturbing”.
Others reacted with more enthusiasm, saying the whole process was relaxing and resulted in them watching the entire 25 minute campaign without really realising it.
“Lots of negative responses — I dig it though,” said one fan.
Director of Social Concepts and digital marketing expert Jessica Humphreys says Ikea clearly knew what it was doing with this campaign.
“An ASMR-inspired video is targeting a very particular audience regardless of how long it is. The people who regularly engage with those types of videos will most likely be highly engaged with IKEA’s new ad,”she explains.
“People are often consuming social media on the go and in short timeframes,” explains Humphreys, which means this is where more brands are likely to be pitching their content.
Targeting a small group might not be enough
InsideOut PR marketing expert Hannah van Otterloo says while the Ikea creative team clearly had fun with the idea in this video, it seems unlikely the target market of college students need Ikea products to be explained to them in that much detail.
“Are the students really putting that much effort into the decision-making of sheets [purchases]?” she asks.
Instead, van Otterloo suspects the whole campaign is an attempt by the retailer to go viral.
While Ikea is showing awareness of a sub-culture with this campaign, one of the other things it has going for it is a novel concept. If all businesses started mimicking that approach, the impact would be lessened, Humphreys says.
“If all businesses were creating videos of this length there would be little interest and we would expect very little engagement,” she says.