IKEA stands firm on its promotional tie up with controversial pastor

Yesterday, Marketing reported that furniture brand IKEA came under fire for partnering up with Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) controversial pastor Lawrence Khong.The partnership saw the store offer promotions for his magic show to its members.

While a seemingly innocent move, Khong has been in the limelight for openly opposing homosexuality and campaigning to maintain a law that criminalises homosexuality.

This stirred strong reactions from netizens, with some lauding the brand for supporting traditional family values and others slamming it for supporting the show.

In an updated statement to Marketing, Sandra Keasberry, assistant marketing manager of Ikea said that after speaking directly with the organisers and reviewing the content, IKEA Singapore is carrying on with the promotional tie up. This comes after the company reviewed the content and confirmed that the Vision show offers “high family entertainment value.”

She added that as a company, IKEA Singapore respects the diversity and equality of all people living in the community.

"We also respect that all individuals have a right to their opinions and personal choices, including the freedom to choose their preferred entertainment,” said Keasberry.

Here's the full statement that was put up on its Facebook Page.

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Dear IKEA fans, thanks for your patience while we took time to come to an informed decision on an issue that has raised...

Posted by IKEA Singapore on Tuesday, April 21, 2015



In a conversation with Marketing, Scott Pettet, VP APAC of Lewis PR said that the issue here for IKEA is one of misaligned brand values.

“IKEA is well regarded as a modern, progressive and creative brand. Not to mention hailing from Sweden - one of the most tolerant and progressive societies in the world. By aligning themselves with an individual who appears of have some personal views that are out of step with modern societal thinking, IKEA’s brand values in turn become compromised,” said Pettet.

He added that the brand cannot on the one hand position themselves as a supporter of diversity and equality and then on the other, be seen to be supporting an individual or organisation that does not share the same view.

Lars Voedisch, founder of PRecious Communications added that while this is a sticky situation to be in, the brand should be lauded for listening and reviewing the situation before making a final decision. This act alone shows that the brand has taken the raised concerns seriously and such a move is not one "many brands would follow."

"IKEA is currently caught in between a rock and a hard place - and it obviously cannot satisfy both camps’ demands. I believe that this move will strengthen IKEA’s position as a brand that listens and that alone will add to its brand image,” said Voedisch.

He added that IKEA probably chose to support a magic show for its entertainment value for IKEA’s key customers of young professionals and families, which is not a platform for political or moral statement.

“As long as the brand believes the show and the political views of the main person behind it can be seen separately, it’s the right choice. Some activists might be unhappy  - but in the bigger picture, that’s most likely the situation IKEA can live with from a business point of view,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tarun Deo, managing director of Golin echoed similar sentiments.

He explained that fundamentally, this is about an open issue in the Singapore society and like in most instances, with issues like this, there will be different points of views that need to be accommodated, respected and tolerated. While no doubt there will be some  IKEA customers and stakeholders who will not agree with the decision, as with most consumer brands, it is impossible to keep all your customers happy all the time.

“Ikea is, rightly so, the custodians of its own brand. Clearly, it has given this some thought and decided that this decision does not impinge on it to the extent that it damages it or creates a great deal of dissonance. So ultimately they are doing what they are entitled to. That is their prerogative,” said Deo.