In a first for the privately held, international home-products retailer, Ikea is serving as a marketing partner on Universal's forthcoming summer release "Mamma Mia!" -- which employs the hit songs of Sweden's Abba to tell the story of a girl hoping to discover the identity of her father on the eve of her wedding.
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Brand Not in Movie, but Heavily Involved in Marketing Effort
A destination for serious shoppers
Despite having only 35 stores in 19 states, Ikea sees nearly 50 million visitors each year. What's more, those budget-conscious souls wandering through the blue and yellow labyrinth spend an average of at least two hours in the store when they do, and drive, on average, at least half an hour to get there, explained Bill Agee, marketing manager of Ikea's U.S. operations.
As such, "We're always looking to add entertainment value to the Ikea experience," said Mr. Agee, "because to visit Ikea is often a long drive, so we need to keep the store experience vital, especially since they have to drive by competitors on the way to Ikea."
He added, "Given the Swedish heritage of the film, it made sense."
In addition to in-store trailers hyping the Universal Pictures release, there will be Abba sing-alongs at every location on four different weekends in June and July. More, almost 1,000 customers have applied to be part of a Rev. Moon-like mass wedding of 20 couples on July 17 at Ikea's Burbank, Calif., location, in what the store calls its "Ikea 'I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do' Want to Get Married at the Mamma Mia! Wedding Event" Couples Search."
(It's their first entertainment marketing partnership; future contest titles will surely be less verbose.)
Keeping the brand 'top of mind'
The goal of the campaign isn't to increase awareness. As Mr. Agee admits, "everyone knows Ikea." Rather, its purpose is to make sure that the store stays "extremely top-of-mind throughout the year" -- not just in the summer, when people shop for outdoor garden furniture, or at Christmas, when home furnishings and cookware sales skyrocket.
The furniture maker has been slowly warming to entertainment marketing, if not to Hollywood: It recently allowed New York City comedian Mark Malkoff take up residence at its New Jersey location, living in one of their furnished bedrooms for a week last January in what became a minor web sensation. (It also recently undertook a partnership with Electronic Arts to offer an expansion pack for "The Sims" video game, allowing you to fill your virtual Sims office with a Kila desk lamp, Helmer drawer unit, and a Lack zigzag shelf.)
But with more than 10,000 products at every store, entertainment marketing with Hollywood may become another way to help keep a low marketing-to-sales ratio in place.
"We're not this huge company that's omnipresent in TV," said Mr. Agee. "We need to work hard to reach our customers, but we're also very protective of our brand."
Choosing partners carefully
He noted that outside of a promotion for fellow Swedish car manufacturer Volvo, "Mamma Mia!" is the first time an "outsider" brand had ever been invited into the store. And while plans are afoot to help sell the film's DVD release through displays at its various entertainment center floor models throughout the store, don't expect a new film to traipse through them pell-mell every week.
"A trip to Ikea is not a 'little visit,' so we have to have a certain amount of respect for our customers' time," said Mr. Agee. "Within the four walls of Ikea, we don't want to be seen as pitching all the time."