Ikeafans.com is an independent website for fans of IKEA launched in 2005 by Susan and James Martin.
Their mission is revealing in itself – “the largest online community of IKEA customers and fans provides what IKEA itself cannot – personalised service”. As it happens I am not a fan of IKEA precisely because of their service. Or rather their complete lack of it, personalised or otherwise. Anyway, this community are fans of the brand, the aesthetic, the product. To such an extent that they are prepared to try to make good a widely accepted weakness.
The community is now more than 150,000 strong globally. (Some might suggest that this is indicative of the service issue at IKEA.)
It is beautiful. IKEA access a fix for what is generally perceived to be a pretty big flaw. For free. From people who focus on the one thing that the brand can’t or won’t get its head round. In return, the IKEAfans obviously get some sense of reward – if only psychological - for making a genuine and obviously very needed contribution to the community.
It is an entirely symbiotic relationship between the brand and the fans. There is no sense of IKEAfans criticising IKEA for their (lack of) service. There is just a general acceptance of IKEA warts and all.
In mid July this year, the relationship went to another level when IKEA invited IKEAfans to an exclusive event in New York City, which, demoed room sets and gave them exclusive access to the 2011 catalogue two weeks in advance of the national launch. Two weeks for the fans to garner valuable IKEA kudos by buzzing like crazy.
The event they attended was not that exclusive as it appears to have also been the press launch. However there’s nothing wrong with that. Not least as it felt exclusive to the fans. Companies spend fortunes on snazzy launches to often cynical, bored and disinterested journos. Why not leverage the set up costs of the event by re-running it for folk who are, grateful, excited and engaged. In other words, fans. Folk who will be more active and vocal publicists for the brand. Folk who will actually spend real money with the brand.
Now if they could only come round and help me put that wardrobe together…