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Where Ikea gets it right and how Akasa Air gets it wrong

Shivaji Dasgupta, Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory, writes about how the furniture brand is retaining the fundamentals of customer value

Brand positioning is getting more difficult by the day, with the express proliferation of both competition and media. Thus, an overdose of customer centricity is necessary for marketing communications, as a key ingredient for sustainable success.

Everybody familiar with Ikea, physically or anecdotally, is aware that the store is by far the key differentiator – in terms of scale, diversity, ease of access and indeed, the cafeteria. While the established Indian players may offer a similar variety and price range, the retail experiences are indeed unmatched, and compellingly relevant in this ecommerce era. The latest campaign ‘Ghar Aa Jao’ (‘Come home to Ikea’) captures this brand truth most charmingly, with slice-of life nuggets inviting customers to spend loving time in the premises, which is the proven hook for lifelong conversion.

Akasa Air, in spite of delightful livery and the latest 737 Max range, disappoints deeply in its pedantic positioning. ‘Spread your wings India, it’s your sky’ is what was effectively done by Air Deccan decades back (inspired by Air Asia) and successfully brought to life by an entire generation of low-cost carriers, which inspired even full-service players to offer a bunch of cut-price seats. The story of democratising air travel is truly obsolete in India, and made further shallow by a player with a limited route map, and the smaller centres they intend to serve are anyway being rapidly gobbled by gigantic Indigo.

Purely as a case study and I do not even know who the agencies are, Ikea does come across as a smart brand playing to its strengths, speaking to customers with localised empathy. While Akasa Air is resonating as a classic manufacturer’s statement, the self-image of the board room taking precedence over the reflection of the customer, in Kapferrer lingo. Modern customers are interested in being friends with brands who hold engaging conversations with them (meaningful or entertaining) and are less willing to be served a philosophical lecture on newsprint or screens.

Going forward, it would be absolutely splendid if Ikea offers a conscious experiential leg of the campaign in the stores, maybe doing some candid video films of families and subsequently editing them professionally as a digital memento, and this is just one of many possibilities. The next step could well be hinterland marketing for every store, arranging scheduled Ikea visits for entire townships or even agrarian villages, and we all know their aspirations and spending power. To close the communication loop, the next campaigns may well be staffed by actual customers, auditioning on site to demonstrate the semblance of performing skills.

For Akasa Air, as an aviation well-wisher, I do hope that they soon start talking in customer lingo and abdicate this affection for archaic Swahili else all their lean operational advantages may be easily negated. Arguably there aren’t too many brand spaces available in a category which is clearly experience driven, the promised word only as good as the live deal. But even owning a conversational tonality or a POV strategy may help them attain rental space in consideration sets, and an intelligent application of customer facing technology or a differentiated purpose ably implemented may be a feasible gambit.

As brands gallop towards the Metaverse age, it is important to retain the fundamentals of customer value and notable amongst them is coherent positioning, magnetic yet flexible. In this delirium to be a digital livewire, with the age-old prejudices of proprietors still not extinguished, it does require calmly constructed strategy to be equally calmly brought to life. At the present time, Ikea seems to be doing this better than Akasa Air.

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