The value of cheap furniture
I went shopping recently at IKEA and it reminded me just how clever, together and Scandi cool IKEA is, so I spent some time looking at what drives their brand, their products, and the culture.
First up though a word about the headline. I am of course referring to 'values’ and not ‘value’, and ‘inexpensive’ and not ‘cheap’, but a headline that reads ”The values of inexpensive furniture” seemed to lack a certain zing!
OK, so what’s clear about IKEA is that their values shape literally everything they do.
It is said that the values of the brand – togetherness, simplicity, respect, and cost consciousness are in fact the values of Älmhult, the birthplace of its founder Ingvar Kamprad. Älmhult is also the first place in the world to have an IKEA store,and at the time of writing, Santiago, Chile, the last.
In between, there have been some 464 stores opened in 61 countries, and those values have played a fundamental role in shaping the brand and helping IKEA become the world’s biggest furniture maker.
Let’s take a look at the value of cost consciousness; on the surface not that exciting a value, until you look a little deeper and see how fundamental it has been in shaping the brand.
If you have ever shopped at one of their stores, and I guess most of us have, you’ll know for the larger items you need to go and grab a trolley and load up your flat-packed furniture yourself. This, of course, means you do the work that would normally be done by an employee, and so this delivers a saving that is reflected in the cost of the item. It also means that a great deal of IKEA’s products can fit in your car and so avoid the need to pay delivery charges.
The whole idea of flat-packed furniture was popularised by Gillis Lundgren, a catalogue manager for the firm who, in the early days of IKEA, when tasked with taking a table to a photo shoot, had to take the legs off to get it into the back of his car. This got him thinking about how much easier it would be to ship their products if everything was flat-packed. Not only would it substantially reduce transportation costs, it would also reduce the labour costs as much of the assembly would be done by the customer and not the employee.
This commitment to cost consciousness shaped how IKEA expanded and is very present in today’s IKEA. Its furniture uses as many common parts as it can, and it limits the number of significant design changes in each range to ensure it can use many of the same processes and materials to manufacture them.
Take for example table legs, many of which are now hollow and filled with a cardboard honeycomb that delivers strength, reduces the amount of wood required to make the item and so reduces its weight and its cost. (This also supports the brand’s wholehearted commitment to the environment – which reflects another of its values, that of respect).
So, by embedding the value of cost consciousness into all its business practices, tied to its vast scale, means we can all expect to buy furniture from IKEA that is remarkably good and remarkably inexpensive – the value of values!
For more brand adventures and useful insights into brand strategy follow my Instagram account @thebrandarrow_
I regularly speak at conferences, business schools and facilitate workshops on the subject of brand strategy. I’m also the author of the award-winning book ‘What’s Your Point?’ which can be purchased from Amazon.
 Clarke L. “IKEA: Corporate Culture of the Heart”. 6Q Blog. Available at: https://inside.6q.io/ikea-corporate-culture-of-the-heart (Accessed: 14 April 2019)  List of countries with IKEA stores. Available at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_with_IKEA_stores (Accessed 15 Dec 2022)  Bhattarai A. “Ikea has changed the way we think about furniture”. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/01/28/ikea-has-changed-the-way-we-think-about-furniture/?utm_term=.9b45174380cf (Accessed: 8 July 2019)  Gillis Lundgren”. The Sunday Times. 2016. Available at: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/gillis-lundgren-j0xtwg80l (Accessed: 5 July 2019)  “Ikea is a more than just somewhere to buy convenient flatpack furniture - it’s a design goldmine”. The Telegraph. 2018. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/interiors/ikea-just-somewhere-buy-convenient-flatpack-furniture-design (Accessed 17 July 2019)”