Viral content marketing: Lessons learned from IKEA’s campaign

What’s the secret behind creating viral, engaging content? It’s definitely not an easy question to answer, but there have been many successful campaigns in the past that you can learn from as a content marketer. One of them was based on the popular HBO TV fantasy drama Game of Thrones. Even if you’ve never seen it, you’ve probably heard of it. So what exactly does this show have to do with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and viral content marketing? Costuming. Hear us out.

Back in 2016, one of the designers for the costumes of Game of Thrones gave a talk to academics about how they created the medieval look and feel of the show. Buried in this talk was a bit of trivia. One of the furred pieces that the members of the Night’s Watch wear, a furred cape, was actually made from an IKEA rug.

Granted, they did a lot of work to alter it, but the core of it was an IKEA rug. The designer didn’t say which kind of rug though, so when fans discovered the video, speculation began. Cosplayers, people who dress up as characters from franchises and go to conventions to show off, began to experiment with different kinds of IKEA sheepskin rugs.

IKEA discovered that people were buying rugs for this reason and ran with it. The closest match found was the SKOLD rug, so the furniture company dressed up three Nordic-looking fellows in the rugs and put it on its Facebook page. For added effect, one of the men is carrying an Allen wrench, that classic necessity for assembling IKEA furniture.

IKEA then took it one step further and released instructions on how to turn the rugs into capes. The response was well received by the cosplay community and many other Game of Thrones fans, and caused a run on the product. A win for everyone around. 

How did IKEA capitalize on this hype?

But why such a strong response, and how did IKEA capitalize on it? We don’t know how IKEA was tipped off, but when a company can recognize that it’s a secondary or tertiary participant in something that others find awesome, a simple message may be all it takes to prove it’s willing to go along with it.

A core component of viral content marketing is creating and participating in social openings. A positive response that either adds on to or agrees with an existing opening allows someone to plug into existing popularity and ride it, as this case shows.

GOT fans made an opening for IKEA to follow up on after the discovery of the rug purchases. The company could have ignored it, or even tried to downplay it. But instead, it participated positively and took it one step further. It showed it was game. That caused a positive groundswell that translated into sales. 

Generating viral content marketing ideas using AI

Finding these intersections and exploiting them while they are still relevant is the challenge. You may remember the Superbowl tweet Oreo made in 2013 during the power outage. It took what was an annoying yet remarkable experience and turned it into something funny. We think that the increased use of AI can help content marketers find these connections rather than stumbling upon them.

AI systems like CONCURED help find the links between topics to see what others are talking about that might be related to your business. Eventually, we might be able to see real-time buzz about what people are discussing on the internet, even peripherally. Of course, recognizing the opportunity is the first step. Marketing teams still have to come up with a creative response that appeals to the groups involved. But when done right, it’s marketing magic.

Are you keen to learn more about how to generate content ideas that really resonate with your audience? Click on the link below to find out how a data-driven content strategy can help you achieve just that.