LONDON: Marketers need to leave themselves the flexibility to respond to events on which they can successfully piggyback their brand, as the recent experience of furniture retailer IKEA has demonstrated.

The revelation that its sheepskin rugs were being used as costumes for some characters in the popular Game of Thrones TV drama prompted IKEA Norway to issue a DIY guide to creating a cape, a step which not only generated huge publicity but had a “good impact” on sales.

“We’ve already seen a 775% increase in online searches for the SKOLD rug since the news broke,” Aisha Furtado, consumer PR manager, IKEA UK and Ireland, told The Drum two weeks ago.

Since then the campaign has been picked up by mainstream media on both sides of the Atlantic and gone on to reach 1m internet users and deliver 778m global impressions.

“It’s about studying as closely as possible the reality of your customers and always leaving the door open to react to what they are experiencing culturally,” explained Laurent Tiersen, UK marketing director at IKEA.

“If you just throw all your marketing budget into two or three campaigns a year then you don’t leave room to let your brand live in reality,” he told Marketing Week.

“Sometimes IKEA’s more reactionary campaigns, like the Game of Thrones activity, can be the most effective things we do all year,” he added. “It shows people your brand is relevant emotionally.”

That’s important for a retailer that a few years ago had seen its sales growth rate slowing towards 1.5% at a time when it had been set an 8% target.

It achieved that through The Wonderful Everyday, which reimagined the brand by “seeking the dexterity of a platform, not the consistency of a campaign”.

That agility continues to be evident in the response to the Game of Thrones news. “Don’t be afraid to improvise,” advised Tiersen. “A marketing strategy should never be fixed. New opportunities arise every day and you need to make the most of them.”

Data sourced from Marketing Week, The Drum; additional content by WARC staff