Ikea Bullies Plants to Demonstrate the Impact of Negative Words

More than one-out-of-five students in the U.S. reports being bullied, making it a prevalent topic for educators and parents. And, over the past few years, organizations and brands have joined the conversation – creating hashtags, emojis and even hidden camera stunts – to bring awareness to the issue. Now, Ikea is joining the ranks with a simple, tangible activation that demonstrates the negative effects of bullying.

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The Swedish furniture chain set up a demonstration in a Dubai school using two nearly-identical plants from IKEA stores, asking students to record positive messages for one plant, and negative messages for the other. Each plant was given the same amount of water, fertilizer and sunlight as the recordings were played on a loop for 30 days. At the end of the 30-day experiment, the plant that received kind words and encouragement remained healthy while the bullied plant began to wilt. While some have criticized the campaign and its lack of scientific backing, Vinod Jayan, managing director of Ikea UAE explains, “It has helped children and their families understand the impact that words can have. It was so successful in driving awareness and reducing bullying amongst these children that more schools in the UAE have approached us to conduct the experiment at their locations.”

Ikea’s experiment served as a powerful message to its target audience. The simplicity of the activation enabled students to engage and clearly witness the impact their own actions can have not just on plants but on their peers as well. While large-budget stunts can be an effective way to grab attention, sometimes a simpler execution allows brands to better connect with the audience – allowing them to focus on the key takeaway rather than the flashy activation.