Enduring technology – the launch of the “book-book”

Ikea’s recent “book-book” advertisement for the launch of its 2015 catalogue is a brilliant piece of native marketing. It has gone viral within 3 days with 3 million YouTube hits. It looks set to be on track to match Van Damme’s Volvo splits.

The campaign is clever as it operates on many levels. It utilises many classic marketing techniques (e.g., piggy-backing off another’s launch window as well as imitating success; in this case Apple’s iPhone series, the look, feel & tone of the video, timing, etc). Also the “launch” hits several intellectual and emotional buttons by: using self-depreciating humour in its parody of Apple launches while combining several fashionable topics – ‘technology’ (presentation of a book, a millennia old invention as something new) as well as ‘innovation’ (description a book’s features in modern techno-babble). Finally, the campaign, in a subtle way, raises a debate about the effects on modern society of ‘consumption’ (good) and ‘consumerism’ (bad). Economists and Sociologist acknowledge the powerful benefits of consumption but question the detrimental aspects of consumerism, which is becoming the defining aspect of modern society. As one writer observed: Muslims in Britain shop more often per day than they pray (5 times).

Ikea itself is no economic saint as more volumes mean revenues – just replacing old products with new ones; even if they are in a fine condition. But what is the carbon impact for all those additional Billy book-shelves? Planned obsolescence is not conducted in a holistic manner (as the Reddit debate reminds us). Also observers point to the disparities; such as 20% of the world’s population account for 76% of all consumption, etc. The aspiration dynamics imply that the sheer volume will just increase.

For the business executive the “book book” campaign provides a raft of specific and relevant issues with regard to the impact of: innovation; shortening product life cycles; impact on pricing; the costs of launches as well as how to manage communications and Consumer Experiences in a digital world. A recent article in the ‘Harvard Business Review’ claims that most product launches fail. Samsung recently tried a spoiler launch of its Galaxy Note 4, a few days before Apple’s iPhone 6 (9th September) launch. Yet Ikea’s successful campaign has gone steps further: promoting its furniture business ahead of a mobile phone launch based on a “book book”.

Lessons all round and food for thought.