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Por Joan Collado | 06/06/2018

Brand tensions: how to deeply connect with people?

Brands that manage to grow and evolve are the ones that find their special niche among us, understanding us and placing themselves at our service. Those who are interested in our way of thinking, feeling, and in the challenges we face. Acting accordingly, with a proposal that’s tailored to us.

That’s why in branding empathy is key. Putting yourself in the shoes of others to understand precisely why the situation is occurring and how we can help.

What are brand tensions? On the inside people tend to have conflicts between two opposing realities which apply pressure, produce anxiety and condition our behaviour. It’s a difficult situation, which often tends towards one option or another but you’re never fully satisfied.

For a brand, dealing with this situation and relieving these tensions is a challenge, and in some sense, a responsibility. Providing a third option is a great opportunity to be a brand that means something genuine that generates strong connections with the people it focuses on.

Concepts like “Dirt Is Good”, by Skip, identifying the tension parents deal with, parents who have a difficult time when their children’s clothes get dirty but yet want their kids to live and learn at the same time.

Skip relieves this tension reminding them that if a child plays and gets dirty it’s because they’re learning with new experiences and are fully enjoying their childhood. Then it gives them peace of mind, guaranteeing a high quality product capable of dealing with any kind of stain.

As we can see, identifying these types of tensions is key for our audience making the brand’s proposal their own, and growing as a result. IKEA for example, has been adding layers of depth over time, attending to three different tensions we’ll learn about below:


Expensive exclusive design vs. cheap furniture: accessible design

IKEA started its journey in Spain at a time when furniture was understood to be something expensive and for a lifetime. So it created new competitive environment and built upon rational foundations:

  • Smart: accessible furniture that’s lower quality but “cool”.
  • Independence: you take it away and you assemble it. The user isn’t passive, they are co-creators.
  • Functionality and versatility: furniture for any type of room and person
  • Variety: IKEA warehouses. The “Don’t look, find” concept. A trip to IKEA is synonymous with finding a new piece to breathe life into your home.
  • Speed: the wait is just the time it takes to take the piece of furniture home and assemble it.

Once this phase had been worked on, IKEA moved on to an emotional and aspirational plane, revolving around the following two tensions.


Staying the same vs. changing: change to be a better version of yourself

A proposal inspiring us to let go of what we don’t find fulfilling, to get over our fear and dive into discovering something new to reconnect with ourselves. In short, to get out of our comfort zone but while seeing it as natural change. It’s strategic language encouraging people to visit IKEA’s warehouses.

Some examples of how IKEA has tried to relieve this tension over time:

  • Everything a piece of furniture means that you hadn’t thought of before: “Redecorate your life”.


  • Change: “Start something new”


  • What happens when you don’t go beyond your comfort zone and everything waiting for you on the other side: “Say it singing”


Following the rules vs. doing things your own way: we make the rules

One of the deepest tensions, because it speaks about us and the way we are. Explore all the areas of a home where we demonstrate who we are and how we act. We feel empowered by celebrating these little moments each day which is what in the end IKEA wants to improve.

Some examples of how IKEA has tried to relieve this tension over time:

  • Freedom: Your home your way, “Welcome to the independent republic of your home”


  • Uniting people: “Where two can fit, three can fit”


  • “Home”, the place for learning and growing: “Nothing like the home to furnish the mind”


As you can see, IKEA has been carving its niche among us by working to improve our lives not only through its furniture, but also by showing us a different perspective on life. That is exactly the side of brands we need to manage how to get. Large, small… all of them have something to say and offer.

Do it: find the tensions where getting there depends on us!

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