Knowing what consumers are thinking is the Holy Grail of building products advertising.

Whether it’s through research, experience, insights from the client, or just plain luck, when advertisers can get inside the head of their target consumers, they are able to open up endless creative possibilities.

The trick, of course, is what to do with that knowledge. How to execute a creative approach that accurately captures that consumer mindset. In other words, create ads that make consumers think to themselves, “They get me.”

Recently, two European home improvement brands have given us ads that show they know their customers, perhaps better than those customers know themselves. The resulting ads are so exquisitely executed that they are worthy of note here.


Hornbach Captures the DIYer’s Struggle

There’s nothing like a well-placed f-word to get your audience’s attention.

But the singular vulgarity in this ad by German DIY retailer Hornbach is just the first of many reasons we love it. (Side note, the German-language version of the ad is almost as fun to watch.)

Let’s start with the script. The narrator perfectly captures what do-it-yourself home improvement is really all about. Failure. Triumph. Humiliation. Accomplishment.

Most importantly, ownership. Any DIY enthusiast knows in the deep recesses of his or her soul that they can do it. They need to do it so they can look themselves in the mirror each morning and not be disgusted with what they see.

They consistently bite off far more than anyone can chew, always on the edge of reducing their home to a pile of rubble with a single, ill-advised swing of the hammer. But they love it.

Hornbach knows this, and has captured all of the visceral emotions, the ups and downs, the arrogance and humility, the fear and focus. Hardcore DIYers will find this ad to be irresistible, and will find themselves wandering into Hornbach stores without realizing it, if only to be among people who understand them.

Second, there are the pictures. This is filmmaking at its artistic best.

The ad is a rapid-fire succession of close-ups, slow-motion, reverse-motion, and action shots that capture every emotion the DIY hero endures. Exhaustion. Exasperation. Agony. Supreme confidence. Perseverance.

The pictures are beautifully lit, giving the viewer the feeling the main character is working in solitude in a house with no electricity, committed to a quest that may never end. It’s so well done, you can’t help but watch it multiple times.

But the best part about this ad is that it’s so different from what we’re used to seeing from the home improvement big boxes here in the United States. Those stores’ ads, which focus on helping you get the home you really want, now seem fluffy and saccharine by comparison.

Before seeing the Hornbach ad, we might have thought Home Depot and Lowe’s were on target with their messaging. It’s impossible to think that now.

The Hornbach ad is a shock to the senses. It wakes you up to the naked realities of home improvement, embraces them, and casts their customers as an Odysseus-type character, doomed to a quest on which he will face many perils, and may never return.


The American Dream, by…IKEA?

Leave it to a Swedish company to understand the current state of the American dream better than anyone.

Over the generations, the American dream has gone from being the house in the suburbs with the white picket fence, 2.2 kids and a Chevy in the garage, to being declared dead altogether. It’s been torn down, stepped on, rebuilt, dissected, dismissed, rejuvenated, disregarded and reborn so many times, that few can say what it actually is anymore.

Enter IKEA, the Sweden-based manufacturer and retailer of affordable, modern furniture, casegoods and accessories. In its 2016 ad, the company tells us what the American dream means.

The answer is, it depends.

It depends on who you are, where you are in your life, what’s important to you, and what your dreams are. In this age of social media individuality, should that really be a surprise?

IKEA demonstrates this knowledge through a series of very short “stories,” featuring a diverse mix of people. An entrepreneur catching some winks while working late, a middle-aged woman trying out composting for the first time, a young father in a cramped apartment with a newborn, a chic urban couple with a few too many cats.

The voice over chronicles the situations of each set of characters, stating that no matter what their situation, they deserve to live comfortably.

The stories have as their backdrop, of course, IKEA products. The way they are featured is very well done. Every IKEA-cool product attribute is shown subtly and in context, demonstrating how the products fit seamlessly into people’s lives. Not calling out the features with neon arrows and confetti like you’d expect from a car commercial.

In the payoff at the end, IKEA brings it all together with the headline, “Make the dream yours.”

IKEA gets it.

In today’s world of customization and personalization, consumers don’t have to settle for just a few choices. The Internet has given them nearly unlimited choices in products they can use to create a home that suits them and their needs.

IKEA plays right into that by showing the short stories in quick succession, covering a tremendous amount of ground. This approach works so well, because there is almost no chance that anyone watching won’t see at least a little bit of themselves in this ad.

In case we haven’t made ourselves clear, we like this ad for taking such a smart approach to storytelling, but mainly for understanding the diversity of the American consumer. And that each person’s version of the American dream is different.



Campaign Critique: Trex Puts Sustainability Into Action

When it comes to environmental sustainability, actions speak louder than words. That's why the alliance between the Trex Company and REI Co-op is such a powerful action… it aligns with core values and promises of both brands’ audiences. And...