All businesses can learn from IKEA’s response to rowdy England fans following World Cup win over Sweden

As the hopes of England supporters get higher each day, excitement was on another level as the international football team defeated Sweden – a result that saw IKEA dragged into the mix

All businesses can learn from IKEA’s response to rowdy England fans following World Cup win over Sweden

Like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, there’s no question Burger King and McDonald’s are rivals. Unlike Burger King though, McDonald’s doesn’t seem to have much sense of humour about the fast-food face-off that the royal maker of burgers often tries to ignite. A perfect example of this would be back in 2015 when Burger King suggested a partnership with McDonald’s to create a McWhopper for the International Day of Peace and make love not war.

However, like a class clown being scolded by a stern teacher, Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s CEO, replied with a rather flat: “Let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequalled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war.” Er, okay, mate. Needless to say, Easterbrook’s statement, which was published on the McDonald’s Facebook page, left a bad taste in the mouths of fans and the CEO was deemed “boring AF”.  

Perhaps IKEA just didn’t want to be deemed “boring AF” or maybe it actually encourages its marketing team to be creative but, whatever the reason, there’s no question that the Swedish flatpack retail giant dealt with a bizarre turn of events following a World Cup match like it was all in a day’s job. On Saturday July 7, England went head-to-head against Sweden during the quarter-finals and, with England victorious, a bunch of overexcited fans went storming into a store celebrating by dancing around and jumping over furniture.

This could have been handled in two obvious ways by IKEA. Option A: ignore it. Option B: Issue a generic corporate statement slamming the behaviour. But there was a third option that the business decided to embrace, however, as an IKEA spokesperson said: “We are aware of a small group of fans celebrating the match result in one of our stores. Being both British and Swedish, we were on the edge of our seats during the game and we would like to say ‘grattis!’ (that’s congratulations in Swedish) to the England team for getting through to the semi-finals.”

As if that weren’t enough, the company issued a deal on fish and chips for the duration of Sunday July 8, charging just £1 for the grub. Julia Mitchell, the managing director at Toast PR, the PR agency, was particularly impressed by IKEA’s handling of the situation and told Elite Business it was a “fantastic response” and offered to doth her cap to the PR team.

“Instead of focusing on what was, let’s be honest, a group invading an IKEA store and causing potential damage and security threats to staff and customers, with some slight xenophobic undertones; they decided to accept that the situation was probably a moment of over-excitement, madness, hijinks and use it to congratulate the England team and fans rather than berate them,” she said. “Other brands could learn from this pragmatism. IKEA have come out on top, appeared forgiving and gracious and probably ingratiated themselves as a brand with English fans at the same time – a masterstroke.”

Likewise, Chris Gilmour, director at Beattie, the communications agency specialised in crisis management, believes the scenario was managed “wonderfully”. Offering his thoughts, he said: “When you’re in a situation not of your own making, it’s very easy to inflame it by approaching it in a heavy handed manner or, as most companies would have done, ignore it completely. Both of those approaches would have been an own goal in my opinion.” 

Gilmour said it was the perfect opportunity to embrace the feel-good mood sweeping across the country at the moment and said it was spot on and “a perfect demonstration of Scandi-coolness.” He added: “Most businesses are desperate to engage directly with their customers and deploy all sorts of convoluted tactics. But sometimes a big lump forward into the box presents an open goal – and Ikea demonstrated Harry Kane-like composure to stick the ball in the net.”

Offering her thoughts, Lesley Muir, managing director at Good PR, the marketing business, said that the relaxed response was “in keeping with the IKEA brand itself” and the calmness of the response defused what happened immediately while erasing any suggestion all fans are the same. “This demonstrates the insignificance of the individuals involved and effectively discredits them and what they did,” she said. “They had no air time, and their childish antics became rather a non-event, even though there is a video doing the rounds.”

Of course, this negative could have simply remained just that but David Alexander, managing director at Calacus PR, the sport-centric agency think turning it into a positive was the best thing possible. “That makes them appear more human and more reasonable than many brands who might have been quick to condemn bad behaviour,” he claimed.

There you have it, a marketing masterclass that could serve you well should your business experience excitable sports fans singing inside your four walls – or perhaps another crisis. 

Zen Terrelonge
Zen Terrelonge

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