Shoppers have reacted with both delight and confusion over a 25-minute long product explainer video created by the US arm of furniture giant Ikea this week.
But despite calls from many that the campaign is “creepy”, digital 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 students returning for a new college year in the US by running through how to set up a perfect dorm bedroom using Ikea products.
Rather than simply creating an animated catalogue, the company sought to leverage the relaxation movement ASMR. The acronym stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and 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.
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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.
Digital marketing is a key strategy for businesses of all sizes, but the idea of making a video that runs for the same amount of time as a TV show might turn the stomachs of many SME owners.
Director of Social Concepts and digital marketing expert Jessica Humphreys says Ikea clearly knew what it was doing with this campaign — but there are range of other factors businesses should consider before launching their own ideas in the video space.
“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.
The longform approach works in this case because Ikea is targeting a certain group of viewers, but the bulk of research into viewing habits shows customers rarely stick with something for more than a few minutes.
“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
Humphreys reminds businesses that social platforms have recently changed their approaches to video, and as a result, even if your content can hold a few die-hard fans until the end, it might not be enough to get a strong reach.
“Facebook made changes earlier this year with how they record video engagement,” says Humphreys.
“They realised that shorter videos that were watched to completion were being ranked as higher performing than longer videos that may have had a small percentage of the overall video viewed but the actual viewing time for example was still 4 minutes out of a 10 minute video, compared to watching an entire 60-second video.”
Facebook has since changed engagement ranking methods for video, which shorter content could benefit from.
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.