Celebrating two years as Global Communication Manager at Ingka Group and marking 80 years of IKEA as one of the first purpose-led brands, we sat down with Belén Frau to discuss the journey of navigating the world’s largest and most iconic furniture brand and where IKEA is headed to keep being the Life at Home brand for the many people.
“As I imagine IKEA’s future, I see us becoming more than a home furniture retailer – to become an essential partner in everyone’s Life at Home”
– Belén Frau, Global Communication Manager, Ingka Group
What prompted your shift from Global Deputy Retail Manager to Global Communication Manager?
This transition really captures the IKEA spirit of embracing challenges and exploring new possibilities. In this role I have deepened my understanding of how crucial communication is for the world and for the company. The importance of focusing on clear, meaningful communication that adds value to our business. We are using communication performance analytics and developing more communication by all to all, unleashing the voices of the many people.
Also, it made me realize the big opportunity we have to connect and bring together the voices of communication, marketing, and Home Furnishing Retail Design as one strong community in Ingka Group having one common voice to our common audiences.
Finally, this move has made it even more clear what it means to work in one of the first purpose-led brands. This means we think in generations not quarters, and through communication influence the creation of better and more sustainable homes, lives and, therefore, a better planet.
The last couple of years presented some unexpected turns, didn’t they? How did IKEA find its way?
In true IKEA spirit, we leaned into our strengths during these times, be it supply chain hiccups or broader global events. These moments truly highlighted our position as world leaders in life at home. Through these many challenges over recent years, we have seen that the IKEA core is not merely about selling furniture but about enhancing lives at home, reinforcing our values and our commitment to our coworkers, customers, and society. The IKEA team, from customer meeting points to supply chain, stores to suppliers, rallied behind our values, always placing our customers at the heart of everything. Just as a tree’s strength is tested in a storm, these times showed us the depth of our roots and the resilience of our foundation.
What would you say were the standout achievements?
The accomplishments we have achieved truly speak to the heart of IKEA. Primarily, it is about the people, the team, and the global country communication constellation. We are on an exciting transformation journey together, in the sense that we have been building from the start the common goals, common procedures, sharpening many of the processes, getting closer together – listening to the needs of our countries and our customers – pushing for high quality efficient and cost-effective content production. Our communication, from global to local, helps us shape better and more sustainable homes, contributing to better lives and a better world.
And then, the creation and development of the Content Factory, a creative hub where internal and external communication magic happens with a twinkle in the eye. It is a testament to our ambition of not just being a communication team, but a high-performing group of amazing talents that take pride in everything we do.
Could you share more about this ‘Content Factory’?
Certainly! Think of the Content Factory as Ingka Group creative hub, where our distinct ethos of simplicity, innovation, and co-creation thrives. Recognizing the feedback from our co-workers and customers, as well as the need for fast, qualitative, and efficient content production, we came together from diverse corners of Ingka Group with a shared idea: ‘Let’s innovate and craft differently.’
It is a testament to our culture of innovation, nurturing talent, and acquiring diverse skills we had not tapped into before. Take, for instance, Milan Design Week 2023 where, for the first time ever, from the idea to the production, everything came from the Content Factory with the IKEA tone of voice, displaying how we led the way on Life at Home in the last 80 years and how we want to lead for the next 200. Or our collaboration with legendary Annie Leibovitz, capturing the essence of Life at Home. These projects bring to life the exciting and innovative doors the Content Factory has opened for Ingka Group.
As we move forward, our eyes are set on our global family. We are in active dialogues on how the Content Factory can work more with our countries, amplifying the magic of what we do while complementing the superb product content from our franchisor. Within the Content Factory, our heart beats stronger for high quality content focused on solutions and services.
When thinking of the IKEA bold purpose how do you enhance the day-to-day experience for the many?
It all starts at home, doesn’t it? The IKEA purpose – to create a better everyday life for the many people – guides every decision, big or small. For me, it is about embodying humility, kindness, and inclusivity daily. And like every democratic design, the foundation lies in setting the right example for my team.
Communication becomes our tool, our bridge. Through it, we help explain that a sustainable life at home is not just a dream – it is a tangible reality. And this healthier, more harmonious life at home ripples outwards, contributing to a brighter future for our planet. While profitability remains a cornerstone for us – it fuels our mission – we view it as a means, not an end. Profit ensures our sustainability as a company, allowing us to be both humanistic and robust. It is a balance, but an essential one.
What often keeps me pondering into the night is this: How can we touch the lives of an even broader, diverse audience? How can we be their trusted advisors in shaping an affordable and sustainable life at home? It is our mission to display that living sustainably is not only attainable but also meaningfully affordable.
In the dynamic world of retail, how does IKEA keep things straightforward yet impactful?
Our guiding star is understanding and meeting our customers’ desires and crafting moments that spark joy and wonder. While the pace of change accelerates, we find our balance by leaning on our founding principles and embracing the strength of what I refer to as our 4 Ps: People, Purpose, Passion, and Profit.
These 4 Ps are the guiding lights in these challenging times. Why? We need to have people at heart. To really win over the hearts and minds of our co-workers, so they are proud and passionate, by ensuring that we are a good employer, that people and passion are at the core. Because that is what I genuinely believe will enable us to be a good business that generates profit, a pre-condition for success and that allows us to have the resources needed to deliver to our purpose. We need to stay active and curious and push ourselves and others to do more continuous innovation, as our founder Ingvar Kamprad used to say: “Most things remain undone. Glorious future!”
Do current times necessitate brands to be more daring?
Absolutely! In today’s busy world, brands need to be brave and stand out. There is a lot of noise, and to be noticed, brands must express who they are clearly while staying true to themselves. At IKEA, we are lucky to have a strong purpose, values, and culture that has helped guide over the past 80 years, and we take with us into the future. It is not just about talking clearly; it is about being responsible leaders, integrating sustainability into everything we do.
We combine ethics with courage, accepting both praise and criticism from our colleagues and customers, always striving to improve. As industry leaders, it is our responsibility to make society better. This means not only setting big goals for our company, like our 2030 climate and people-positive goals, but also inspiring others, like governments and other companies, to care more about the environment and human rights. Even though we have challenges ahead, facing them together makes the journey easier.
What would be your best advice to young, aspiring leaders today?
My advice revolves around the three Cs: Curiosity, Courage, and Continuous learning. Embrace your natural inquisitiveness; it will lead you to opportunities you would never imagine. When challenges arise – and they will – muster the courage to face them head-on. Your experiences, whether they end in success or learning, will become invaluable assets. And remember, in our rapidly evolving world, being a perpetual student is essential. By intertwining these three Cs – being curious about the world, courageous in your endeavors, and committed to lifelong learning – you will set yourself on a path to meaningful leadership.
IKEA turned 80 years this year. What does the future hold?
Reflecting on IKEA’s incredible 80-year journey, I find myself more excited about the next 80 than my personal next decade.
It drives me toward endless possibilities, and one thing I am certain of is my strong commitment to our people. For me, leadership means nurturing the growth of individuals and the business. The best parts of my job are the moments spent with colleagues in our stores, learning from them, and connecting with diverse personalities.
As I imagine IKEA’s future, I see us becoming more than a home furniture retailer – to become an essential partner in everyone’s Life at Home. This means expanding our services and offering complete home solutions. Ingvar Kamprad once said, “To design a desk which may cost $1,000 is easy for a furniture designer, but to design a functional and good desk which shall cost only $50 can only be done by the very best.” This spirit of offering value without compromising on quality has always been at the heart of IKEA. The immense trust our customers have in us gives us both the responsibility and the chance to explore new horizons. So much remains to be done, and a bright future awaits!
About Ingka Group
With IKEA retail operations on 31 markets, Ingka Group is the largest IKEA retailer and represents about 90% of IKEA retail sales. It is a strategic partner to develop and innovate the IKEA business and help define common IKEA strategies. Ingka Group owns and operates IKEA sales channels under franchise agreements with Inter IKEA Systems B.V. It has three business areas: IKEA Retail, Ingka Investments and Ingka Centres. Read more on www.Ingka.com.