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Industry Case Study: How Koala Nailed their Message Strategy and Ad Execution

Hannah Park

Koala definitely stuck their proverbial claws into their most recent advertising campaign. If you’re unfamiliar with Koala (firstly, how?), the young company launched in 2015 as Koala Mattresses bringing a disruptive product into a traditionally mundane industry. Their Boxed Mattresses utilise non-disturbance technology and Kloudcell foam instead of the traditional layering of springs and foam found in many commercial mattresses. We won’t bore you with the in and outs of the technology, but if you’re interested you can read more here.

Koala’s mantra is “the old way of furniture sucks. This is the Koala way.”  

So they have a disruptive product, that’s great! But we know as marketers and advertisers that you could have the best product in the world, but if you do not target the right consumer, the product itself will sit in a factory collecting cobwebs. No one will care… This is where Koala really does shine - they know they have a great product that’s shaking up the industry.  But they also understand the importance and power of advertising and have seriously nailed the execution. 

Today, we're going to talk about how Koala managed to execute a great, but risky, advertising campaign by developing a clear (and cheeky) message strategy.

What is a message strategy? We hear you, all this jargon we use can become overwhelming. A message strategy is basically the culmination of your positioning strategy, your target audience and their buyer journey - it’s your unique selling proposition concisely communicated through your advertising execution.  Koala’s message strategy is essentially: "We make beds for Gen Y who value status, convenience, comfort and support the environment. Because the old way of buying furniture sucks, they developed a new way. Easy to buy, easy to try, easy to move, easy on your wallet.”

Here's the campaign we're talking about:

They have selected one of their main competitors, IKEA, and called out the pain points consumers have with Ikea furniture (frustration building flatpacks) and stated how they are better (no tools required). Don’t get it? Don’t think it's clever? Well, we guess you’re not the target market for Koala. See what we did there? Your message strategy does NOT need to appeal to everyone, it can even create some serious polarisation because usually the more haters you have the more lovers you have as well.

Here are some more examples of ads that were a part of this campaign:

      

And here is what you would find on Facebook during the Ikea Billboard ad:

 

Koala strategically decided to utilise the power of the billboard for this campaign.

“But isn’t traditional advertising dying? Isn’t that why you guys always tell us to invest in digital?”  This is a common question. Traditional media is NOT dying, it’s just changing - which means we need to continually innovate to ensure we are standing out! It’s also much more difficult to measure success and it takes a serious $$ investment to do properly.  For many of our clients, this type of campaign is not what we recommend as the outlay would be too risky for the stage of their business. Investing in digital first allows us to clearly capture useful data without spending exorbitant amounts of money.

Let’s analyse the advertising message strategy through the stages of the current marketing funnel. 

At the top of the funnel, we have billboard advertisements. In this instance, we are referring to the Billboard from above that has been placed strategically around Australian capital cities just in front of IKEA. The message strategy is something quintessentially Aussie, using our larrikin culture to gain preference and increase likeability. It is well researched that cold audience’s brand awareness is strongly linked to emotion, so by creating a brand persona that is communicated through their message strategy they can connect more deeply with their audience. This is called using an Emotional Appeal to gain maximum brand awareness within their target market, gain preference and increase their reach, effectively increasing their ROI by driving more people through their marketing funnel. Two sentences? The Headline of the campaign reads: NOFNIDEA spelt using incorrect Scandinavian accents, with the subheading, “No tools, no worries” and a call to action to visit their website. Upon closer inspection, you see that the NOFNIDEA sounds very similar to No Effing Idea… a phrase many of us have used regularly when trying to figure out the infamous IKEA flat pack. Not surprisingly, this billboard garnered massive social media attention which skyrocketed the overall reach for the brand and the campaign itself, with the director of Koala stating that this billboard alone brought in over 10M social media engagements. Not too shabby, right? 

They then went one step further when the complaints started rolling in. It was publicised that they were reported for not meeting Ad Standards in Australia, offending many and probably severely pissing off IKEA executives.  In response, a second billboard was displayed apologizing for the first billboard and offered IKEA $100 off their Koala mattress… not only did this gain even more social media attention, but there was also now an incentive to purchase as a discount code was included on the billboard for everyone to see.

The campaign didn’t stop there!

Koala implemented an aggressive remarketing strategy to follow through with the traffic and engagement online – specifically on their social media.  They created campaigns for both middle of funnel audiences, for those people who didn’t purchase straight away from the billboard but still engaged with the brand (for instance, followed Koala on Instagram after seeing the billboard), and bottom of funnel audiences, being those who engaged at middle of funnel but still didn’t purchase (but maybe added to cart, or showed some sort of buyer intent).

Based on empirical research, the consumer buyer journey follows a pretty consistent pattern:

  • Gain interest and awareness
  • Gain credibility and persuade of superiority
  • Provide incentive and a reason to purchase
  • This pattern is consistent with what we see in the message strategy implemented by Koala.

A fantastic ad execution to gain attention and create an emotional connection with their target demographic, followed by social media retargeting focused on the benefits of their products, how they work, demonstrating massive social proof and explaining their secondary USPs such as sustainable practices and charitable initiatives. The final strategic frontier provides discounts, bundle deals and a money back guarantee on all purchases.  The ad execution is clearly derived from extensive consumer research and follows the expected customer journey, touchpoints as well as handling potential hesitations and objections their audience is likely to have at each stage.

Overall, the advertising and marketing execution of this Aussie brand is creating a stir within the advertising industry and keeping us all on our toes. It goes to show that sometimes taking educated risks really pays off! Koala’s business and market continue to grow exponentially year after year, making $13 Million in their first year and further grew their revenue by 91% in 2017-18 (Financial Review, 2018).