From ‘stuff’ to stuff of dreams

How IKEA’s new Planning Studio plays to hearts as well as minds

The homewares sector is besieged on several fronts. More people are renting, Brexit uncertainty makes big ticket investments feel riskier and over 30% of spend now happens online. Meanwhile, fashionable brands like Made are piling on the pressure. There have been high-profile casualties such as Multiyork and Warren Evans, and last year IKEA’s profits were down nearly 40%.

However, IKEA has made a bold response – creating a new type of store on Tottenham Court Road that represents a shift from its traditional OOT ‘warehouse’ approach. We used our 5Drivers model of the emotions behind buying behaviour to unpick the proposition and see if it fits in neatly with modern needs.

Immersion: consuming consumers in the brand

The biggest change the Planning Studio makes is the way the consultation process has been put centre stage. IKEA has always helped shoppers plan their homes, but here the maze of high-shelved aisles has been replaced by sleek surroundings where visitors can feel comfortably absorbed in one-to-one conversations with experts. They can stand in a fully equipped room-set and visualise how products will work at home.

At a subtler level, the very location of the store accentuates the feeling that you’re part of an enjoyable experience that goes well beyond the functional. Of course, Tottenham Court Road lies at the heart of one of London’s most fashionable quarters, and visits to this store can be just one part of a seamless flow of enjoyable moments such as other prestigious shops, great cafés and restaurants. All this glamour can’t help but cast a little reflected glory on IKEA and heighten the sense that this is an exciting sensory world into which you’re happy to plunge.

Desire: playing to passion not just practicalities

A natural by-product of this enhanced experience is the products themselves start to attain the ‘objects of desire’ status that justifies paying a premium versus a discount, online player. The usual understated design signature is there and this is reinforced by the elegant room-sets. Also, through their knowledge, friendliness and willingness to push beyond standard, functional advice, staff members play a key role in setting an aspirational tone.

Freedom: helping people think outside the flat-pack box

The Planning Studio limits its scope to kitchen and bedroom areas, but in many ways the format plays well to people’s appetite for transcending their limitations. Support from expert staff in an environment that oozes confident style can embolden users to go for a more ambitious, unified look and buy products they might not have otherwise considered.

Putting the accent on the creative, ‘fun’ part of the process, rather than the practicalities of finding and transporting items, leaves users feeling energised and empowered. With car ownership falling to just 50%, inner city locations look set to become even more relevant and liberating.


Overall it appears the Planning Studio is an idea whose time has come. It’s a brave departure for IKEA, but we believe that the emotions it plays to are prevalent and hugely influential.

And, as Kokoro’s 5Drivers model makes clear, emotions move faster and more powerfully than rational thoughts – and brands that leverage them well can gain a big advantage.

See how quiet voices being heard amongst the noise?

3 factors behind the organising trend and what it means for retailers
This is Marketing – listening to the stories consumers tell themselves

Leave a Reply