Bun puns? IKEA Xi’an teams up with Little Team on “cursed” store opening campaign

On 18 April, IKEA opened its second location in Xi’an, Shaanxi. For the launch, it partnered with the creative agency Little Team with a fun and punny campaign involving buns. Interestingly, it calls the opening “馍都宜家馍性开业” (lit. bun-ny IKEA opens in bun city). On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, the topic “IKEA Xi’an Yanta Shopping Mall store opening” (#宜家西安雁塔商场开业#) gained an impressive 4.30 million views for a localised opening.

However, to anyone who’s not familiar with the Chinese language or the online culture, the campaign may look downright incomprehensible. The campaign shows an IKEA instruction manual style graphic, and features an item called “Roujiamo” which can be made up with a set of any two items, from “malao” monkeys, mugs to sofas, just add a piece of salmon (marked in pinyin as “sanwenyu”). Now we dive into the deep lore of roujiamo and why the tagline is “两个一夹,两个宜家” (press two together and get two IKEAs).

Like many punny viral sensations, there are layers of meanings to unpack with this campaign. First of all, Shaanxi is the home of roujiamo (肉夹馍, lit. meat in buns), sometimes called “Chinese hamburger”, a type of street food popular across China. There is also internet slang about the bun being able to hold anything (馍夹万物).

The “mo” (馍) has the same pronunciation as “魔” (magical or demonic). Meanwhile, “魔都” (magic city) is a slang name for Shanghai and “魔性” is another internet slang similar to “cursed” in the English language which is less creepy and weirder but in a captivating way that keeps your gaze on it.

The pun, then, is replacing the “魔” with “馍”, making Xi’an the “bun city” and the campaign “bun-ny” (but not about rabbits). Also “一夹” means the motion of pressing the two pieces of bun together, but it also sounds very similar to “宜家”, IKEA’s Chinese name. This line advertises that there are now two IKEA locations in Xi’an.

Of course, the opening also includes a Xi’an-exclusive salmon roujiamo, as advertised. Selected items will enjoy discounts of up to 50% off at both Xi’an stores between 18 April and 13 May. This is also a strong push towards IKEA’s new discount and low prices strategy. The hyper-local and hyper-online campaign with the help of Little Team shows that IKEA, in its expansion, is aiming for a younger audience with its affordable prices.


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