How IKEA and Other Retailers Get Consumers to Buy on Brand Purpose, Not Just Products


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Our desire to shop more purposefully and sustainably continues to grow. In fact, Sustainable Brands research shows that an overwhelming 88% of us would like brands to help us lead a more sustainable lifestyle and a recent study from IRI finds that Sustainably marketed products have grown 7X faster than conventionally marketed products over the past 4 years!

Yet, sadly, we aren’t always seeing this “intention” translate into “action” across many categories, especially in CPG. When push comes to shove and convenience comes into play, only 26% of us actually end up making a more sustainable purchase. And here’s the missed opportunity: Sustainability-marketed branded products enjoy a significant price premium of 39.5% vs. their conventionally-marketed branded counterparts.

Closing this “intent to action gap” and getting more people to buy on purpose therefore represents a huge opportunity. In fact, the world’s biggest problems are also the world’s biggest business opportunities. Commercial innovation, social enterprise, and shopper-based design thinking and experience at retail have the ability to transform purpose into profit like no other because as any shopper marketeer or enlightened brand manager will tell you – retail is where the rubber hits the road. That’s where brands get bought and behavior can be influenced, changed, and even ‘re-looped’ for the better. 

One of the best examples of this, that has stood the test of time, and is still held up by the United Nations Office of Partnerships as best in class, is the Pampers One Pack One Vaccine Campaign. Even thirteen years later it’s still going strong and thanks to this campaign, 100 million women and babies across the world have been vaccinated and protected from serious illnesses, 500,000 babies’ lives have been saved and maternal/neonatal tetanus has been eliminated from twenty countries. It takes a combination of strategy, marketing, innovation, partnership building, creative facilitation, and exponential thinking to develop solutions like this that can build brand equity, remain behaviorally ‘sticky’ and stay the course over time.

On the retail side, IKEA for example is really dialing up its commitment to purpose and sustainability thorough its brand purpose campaign, various initiatives such as #buybackfriday, the launch of its better living app and Ikea Korea, have even launched their own Urban farm in-store.

Source: IKEA

But, here’s the challenge. It’s really difficult for many brands and retailers to know where to start. Purpose is a big word. It’s often hard to define, harder to transform into a discernible commercial benefit, and then even harder still to galvanize a brand or organization around enough to convince your customers and stakeholders that you really mean it.

Here at Grounded, our founding belief is that the way people shop and the brands that they buy have the power to change the world, and the ability to activate brand purpose into profit often lies at the intersection of brand experience, commercial innovation, and social impact. In other words, it’s the white space between what your brand uniquely stands for, what’s preventing the shopper from changing their behavior and what the world needs. 

A good place to start then is to draw this simple Venn diagram and then find the intersection between what your brand uniquely offers (which could be a distinctive functional and / or emotional benefit) what the world needs (the social or environmental issue you want to help solve) and the barrier to purchase that’s currently getting in the way and preventing the shopper from getting what they want i.e. the ‘trade-off’.

Then, by adding the ability to fine-tune and customize that idea – by capturing the company’s vision (behind the brand) the retailer’s positioning, and the non-profit’s mission–you are also ensuring that there is corporate alignment behind the brand. This way, you can unlock resources, create the ability to customize the initiative to the values and experience of the retailer (to secure support), and define a clear role for the nonprofit to play (to enable delivery).

So that’s the trick…and it’s the ability to synthesize, simplify and then get buy-in from all your key stakeholders that guarantees success! If we can help create scalable partnerships and solutions to genuine market opportunities that deliver sustainable revenues for everyone involved, then activating purpose and sustainability at retail should become the most powerful platforms for change the world has ever seen! 

Phil White
Heidi Schoeneck and Phil White are the Co-founders of Grounded World, they are creative and strategic marketing executives who left big agency life to use their talents for good. Their company, Grounded World, is a B-corp certified, award-winning social impact and sustainability marketing agency that helps brands, businesses and nonprofits articulate their brand purpose, activating their brand and accelerating their positive impact.


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