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IKEA, Marmite, Tesco show how to create winning print

September 2021

This is a self-funded case study using our Advertising Testing solution.

While print advertising’s share of the media mix continues to diminish in a world where digital screens have replaced paper, the channel still serves an important role in the marketing mix – accounting for over £1billion in advertising expenditure each year in the UK alone.

While the generally longer dwell-times of print, particularly compared to out-of-home, in-turn provides advertisers with a platform for delivering more complex messaging – is this the most effective utilization of the channel?

We looked at a number of different creative approaches being taken by brands in the UK, including IKEA, Marmite, and Tesco Mobile, to see what learnings they could provide. To do this we tested them using our three C’s framework:

  • Captivate: Does it stand out and grab attention?
  • Connect: Does it instantly recall the brand?
  • Compel: Does it motivate behavioral change?

IKEA, Marmite and Tesco Print Ad Testing Stimulus |Cubery


IKEA’s ‘Tomorrow’ was well-enjoyed, using clever and humorous imagery – capturing people’s imagination by substituting sleeping pills for pillows.

For Marmite, people quickly caught onto the quirky humor of attempting to hypnotize ‘haters’. The psychedelic visuals were captivating, with the contrasting colors and sci-fi imagery eliciting feelings of excitement and amazement. 

Comparatively, Tesco Mobile’s apology on behalf of other mobile networks didn’t elicit as strong of an emotional response. While the sizeable text stating “Sorry” caught people’s eye and triggered curiosity, around a third of people found the subsequent wall of text overwhelming and uninspiring – limiting how inclined they were to engage with it further.

WINNER: Marmite. Finding unique and creative ways of standing out is a prerequisite for advertising success – no matter the channel, platform, or format.

Print Advertising Testing - IKEA, Marmite, Tesco | Cubery Market Research | Captivate


IKEA succeeded in making the brand instantly recognizable – building upon its established quirky style. This was further reinforced by the familiar typeface and emphasis on the product’s very unique and very Swedish name – a distinctive asset in its own right.

However, it’s not only familiar visual aesthetics that can help build a meaningful brand connection – Marmite did it through the campaign theme being a continuation of its long-running ‘love it or hate it’ platform. The jar’s unique shape and distinctive colors helped build further contextual cues.

While Tesco Mobile utilized the brand’s familiar red and blue color palette, it also cleverly “signed off” the apology with the brand’s logo, thus positioning the retailer as the ‘savior’ of hard-done-by consumers – ensuring they’d be indelibly connected to the message (provided people got that far…).

WINNER: IKEA. Consistent deployment of brand assets, across all touchpoints, builds invaluable synergies – cuing people into the brand with very limited mental effort.

Print Ad Testing - IKEA, Marmite, Tesco | Cubery Research | Connect


Though people found Tesco Mobile’s confession relevant, the condescending tone left some questioning the brand’s intent – subsequently resulting in it doing little to change their thoughts and feelings, while not presenting Tesco Mobile as being meaningfully different to other providers.

Marmite and IKEA instead took more creative, and less product-oriented approaches, which — while causing some confusion — more clearly differentiated the brands as a result of their clever delivery. With IKEA’s playful symbolism embedding the idea that sleep is therapeutic, it helped form positive associations around IKEA being both a fun brand, but also that it offers reputable products.

WINNER: Marmite & IKEA. Driving behavioral change isn’t just about conveying rational messages — a creative approach to delivery can contribute significantly to long-term effects.

Print Ad Testing - IKEA, Marmite, Tesco | Cubery Market Research | Compel

What’s the learning for marketers?

While standing out and getting noticed are non-negotiables for all advertising – not just print, what’s often underestimated in this environment is that success can be just as much about ‘what you say’ as ‘how you say it’.

While the lure of a captive audience naturally shifts planning mindsets toward more rational, shorter-term goals, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee better outcomes – which proved to be the case here.

The best-performing examples used the medium as an opportunity to push creative boundaries, to do something unorthodox, and trigger an emotional response – all the while having a simple, purposeful message at their core.

Print Ad Testing - IKEA, Marmite, Tesco | Cubery Market Research | Performance Summary

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