The IKEA effect

The new IKEA print catalogue is hitting the stores this week, and with its fresh evidence for the huge value brands place on paper. But it’s not just the Swedish furniture giant that’s putting its trust in print.

The first couple of weeks of September is a momentous time in the lives of millions of homeowners around the world. Whether they want to completely redesign their homes, installing new kitchens or bathrooms, or just want a few extra bits of storage, early September marks a new beginning thanks to the arrival of the print version of the world’s most popular catalogue.

The moment the IKEA print catalogue drops in the furniture brand’s 424 stores across the world marks an annual triumph for print. You should know the figures by now: 180 million copies, 283 pages, 72 different versions, 29 different languages. IKEA understand that the catalogue is their single most important piece of marketing – that’s why they devote 70% of their marketing budget to it.

“People have a ‘magazine momentʼ with the catalogue,” said IKEA Group Catalogue Leader Tanja Dolphin recently. “Sitting at home with a cup of tea, at home, touching the paper.”

Assembling the print-online relationship
Alongside flatpack furniture, Allen keys and meatballs, IKEA are known for their innovation when it comes to print. Whether it’s the augmented reality content of their 2014 catalogue or the personalised covers of their 2017 publication, they understand the importance of bringing together the worlds of print and online.

Of course, it’s not just IKEA that’s using digital technology to increase the engagement power of their print marketing. A large number of global brands are taking the latest technology and applying it to their publications, adverts and campaigns to grab consumer attention, improve targeting, and make themselves more memorable. Not only that, but better targeting in print means greater efficiency and a more sustainable marketing model.

Recently, Netflix used the emerging artificial intelligence (AI) tool Google Lens to turn newspaper ads into digital content. The international streaming service wanted to promote the new series of Stranger Things, so took out three ads in the New York Times. By holding their smartphone over one of the ads, readers were treated to exclusive fictional video promos of the show’s Starcourt Mall, complete with 80s MTV-style graphics and big hair.

Programmatic print
Meanwhile, over in Brazil, ad agency Isobar have just created the world’s first programmatic print advert. Using a QR Code printed in adverts for clients such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway, readers are invited to scan the ad to receive personalised offers and vouchers based on the time of day and the reader’s location.

“If an advertiser releases an offer at 8.30am and, within hours, realizes that it has been losing ground to more aggressive deals from the other brands, its offer can be adjusted to become more competitive,” explains Rui Branquinho, Isobar’s Chief Creative Officer.

While digital programmatic ads have been around for a while, following you around the internet with ads based on previous searches, programmatic print ads have been a lot more elusive. But this ability to understand location and time offers print a huge amount of potential for future campaigns, enabling brands to target specific offers and messages with the same ruthless efficiency of digital.

A safe space
Advertisers and brands know that print delivers engagement. They know it’s a trusted safe space for brands, free of online ad fraud and the risk of ads being placed next to damaging content. They also know that people absorb more information and have a more enjoyable experience reading it. What they’re not sure about is how it can compete with the scalability of digital and its instant metrics, as well as ensuring they get maximum efficiency out of every piece of print.

What’s clear from the amount of time and investment being put into the print-digital relationship is that it won’t be long until they do.

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