CMO Q&A: Leontyne Green Sykes, Ikea

Ikea's Leontyne Green Sykes talks about engaging consumers through social media and the importance of sharing.

How does marketing and PR work together at Ikea?
We have two different arms of PR. One focuses on the commercial aspect, which reports into marketing and works directly in my unit, but we also have a corporate PR division that focuses on efforts including sustainability. PR is part of my line organization, but I also work very closely with our corporate PR manager.

We all work together within our marketing department. That's the thing I'm most proud of in the past four years that I've been in this role. We've moved away from working in silos where PR works in isolation.

We're developing campaigns and working to move the business to a place where we approach our marketing campaigns from an integrated standpoint and PR is part of the original brief. We also leverage our external communications and paid media efforts if necessary as it relates to promotions.

Digital media, such as online display, interactive seasonal brochures, and the digital format of our annual Ikea catalog, sits within our paid media. Social media, including Ikea Share Space, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, does as well.

Digital, particularly social, is probably one of the most important reasons for us to work in a very integrated way because it crosses over functions, so we need to be linked to meet our objectives.

Tell me about the 2014 Ikea catalog (below), themed All Moments Count.
The catalog is a global communications piece. It's the same all over the world. Local or national groups don't play a role in the development of the catalog, but we leverage it in individual markets and talk about it with the media.

One of the most exciting components of this years' catalog, which launched in July, is there are so many engaging elements to it. The catalog has been a major source of inspiration and knowledge around our overall products and pricing. In the last few years, we have been following the trend of how the general public is consuming media and focused a lot more on the digital aspect.

This year we have more engaging apps, where you are able to use your mobile phone or other digital devices and scan some of the pages. There are videos and an augmented reality app that allow you to put a piece of furniture from the catalog into your room and play around with it.

How do you engage consumers?
What attracted me to Ikea seven years ago and the thing that keeps me motivated is that we have a passion for understanding consumers and what is really important to them.

We leverage global research, but we also do quite a bit of local research to understand how we can make a connection and show Ikea's relevance to them.

The statistics prove that our consumers are online and sharing and that fits into an initiative we have called the Ikea Share Space platform, which launched in August 2011. Consumers can share photos of their homes, rooms, and ideas they have that may or may not include our products.

As of July, the website had nearly 11,900 members, more than 16,000 room uploads, 860,100 unique visitors, and almost 2.5 million page views. What has allowed it to be a success is that it's a lot of real people with real ideas.

What's going on in social media?
We're continuing to leverage the platforms we have and we are realizing we have only scratched the surface with social.

Primarily, we are on Twitter at a local level with our individual stores and on Facebook. We've been increasing our presence through social, but also broadening the scope and looking at it from a customer services standpoint as opposed to just being an advertising platform.

We are becoming quite engaged with Pinterest. Consumers are pinning our products, so we will make sure we keep the brand relevant on the platform in a way that makes sense to them.

What are your goals going forward?
I'm interested in trends that are happening with consumers, not necessarily from a statistical standpoint, but about what is important to them and how we can continue to grow and make connections.

Internally, one of my primary objectives is about continuing to develop the marketing department. Four years ago we were a pretty good unit, but we have evolved to be much more than just marketers. As we continue to develop and expand Ikea within the US, there will be many more opportunities.

I've been working with our management team on the evolution of our organizational structure and how we can continue to develop, as we've seen great success with our PR – so how do we continue to grow? 

The priority is to continue to focus on our competency development, our engagement with consumers, and the overall development of our coworkers.

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