Ikea Converts Showroom into Refugee Home

For many consumers, the refugee crisis, impacting 65.3 million people worldwide, can seem like a distant issue. It can be hard to grasp the nearly 34,000 people forcibly displaced every day, many living in or around refugee camps or areas of strife. It can be difficult to picture what the daily lives are like for these individuals – and how they strive to create a sense of “home” amidst chaos. Yet, one company is bringing that experience to its flagship store, recreating the home of a refugee family right in the middle of its showroom.

This October, Ikea swapped its sleek Scandinavian look to transform a showroom in its Norwegian flagship store into a Syrian refugee home. The display, replicating a 25 square meter cinderblock structure, brought awareness to the lack of food, medicine and clean water for Rana and her family of nine who live in the home outside Damascus. Consumers could walk through the home and learn more about the daily difficulties for refugees by reading the typical Ikea-branded hangtags. The experience also included a call to action, asking consumers to donate to the Red Cross to continue relief efforts in the region. The installation attracted nearly 40,000 visitors weekly and raised 22 million euros for Red Cross efforts in Syria, according to AdWeek. This is not the company’s first foray into helping refugees. The Ikea Foundation has also been instrumental in creating better temporary shelters for refugees in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

For most consumers, they may never walk through the streets of Syria or have a conversation with an individual who is building a new way of life at a refugee camp. Yet, marketers have the opportunity to make these experiences real for consumers through creative and innovative social impact efforts. While Ikea chose to transform a brick and mortar location into a war-torn home, other brands are harnessing virtual reality or video to make stories real for consumers, and the call to action that much easier.