"Here you go," my friend had handed me all the Christmas baubles and decor that I asked for, in a white recyclable Ikea bag and added "in the limited 'Alamak' bag!"
What? Did I hear that right? The Swedish brand localised one of their products?
Origin: Malay – An exclamation word to express shock or surprise Alamak is an exclamation word used in situations when you are shocked or surprised by something or an event. It is something akin to “Oh my Mother!” and also “Oh my God!”.
If he didn't point it out I would not have spotted the mistake. "ikea.co.sg" (don't click that hyperlink-- I will not be responsible for any spam that you end up downloading.) It forced consumers to take a second look, and unknowingly, they would find themselves telling the story of this infamous "Alamak bag", a form of word-of-mouth marketing too.
While their iconic blue Ikea bag is one that most people recognize, this boo-boo (mistake) came with a new line of bags, a white tote with the unmistakable blue and yellow Ikea logo featured in the front.
They were great sports, adding the product description to the listing - a humourous interjection which also drove a sale tactic: "LIMITED EDITION."
A spokesperson from IKEA said the mistake was made due to an internal oversight in the global offices, and it still proceeded to sell the bag as it will be a waste to throw out thousands of reusable bags in perfect condition.
With a brand that was quick to admit to its mistake and laugh it off, the "limited edition" nature of the product paid off. In this case, Ikea was able to show its customers that it's not perfect—and even better yet, that the fact that they are a human brand makes them more relatable than most other LARGE companies out there. When a brand can do something like this in such a fun way and still make money from it (while also making customers happy), we think we've hit upon something special here: Limited edition mistakes can be pretty darn lucrative!
Let's label everything "Limited Edition" then!
While this blunder was not planned (or so we think), like all marketing efforts, a limited edition campaign must be backed up by strategy.
Marketing strategies need to be backed up by a plan. Have you done your research? Is your target audience changing and how does this affect your goals or targets? How do you know if your brand is relevant and appealing to consumers today? What is the competition doing and how can you differentiate yourself from them in an increasingly crowded marketplace?
The answers are only as good as their application. Testing, reviewing and revising are essential steps in the process of making sure that every aspect of a limited edition product launch is working together towards achieving its desired outcomes.
The Power of Scarcity
Scarcity is about how much of something is offered. Scarce things are less available because of high demand, limited production, or restrictions on the time or place you can acquire them... This limited availability makes us feel like we have to act now. If we don’t we might miss the opportunity even if we might not have otherwise wanted the opportunity in the first place.
Contagious, by Jonah Berger
Scarcity and exclusivity help products catch on by making them seem more desirable. If something is difficult to obtain, people assume that it must be worth the effort. If something is unavailable or sold out, people often infer that a lot of people must like it, and so it must be pretty good... Scarcity and exclusivity boost word of mouth by making people feel like insiders, plus this Ikea bag has a special story to boot! If people get something not everyone else has, it makes them feel special, unique, high status. They can boast Look at me, and what I was able to get!
It's okay to make mistakes... Or is it?
Making something limited edition isn't a surefire way to have it become a success. This strategy may not work with all customers as it can create unnecessary urgency around a product, and in some cases foster a dramatically over-inflated market for the reselling of those items.
Limited edition products are best when used for items that are truly niche, such as specialty food products you can't find anywhere else or designer jewelry from small brands who want to make their mark on the industry without necessarily making their name known to everyone yet. PLUS, customers are SMART. If you claim something is limited edition but it really isn't, they can call you out on public platforms and this can be quite damaging for your brand.
While the Ikea mistake was a real Cinderella story, this may not work for everyone. If you are deciding to try out the limited edition model, make sure you do your research first. Create new and exciting items that mesh with customer data around what has sold well in the past.
Source: CNA Lifestyle, Contagious by Jonah Berger, Luth Research