Brand Story of IKEA – Designing stylish furniture

Waste of resources is a mortal sin. ~ Ingvar Kamprad

The brand I am writing about is known for its innovative and stylishly designed flat pack furniture. Yes it is IKEA, the largest furniture retail chain with more than 300 stores globally.

Ikea Logo

The early years of IKEA


Founded in Älmhult, a place surrounded by dense forests in Sweden in 1943, by 17-year-old entrepreneur Ingvar Kamprad, who started with selling pens, wallets, picture frames and watches at reduced prices, Ikea became an amazing success story in post-war European business.

The name IKEA is formed from the founder’s initials (IK). The letters E and A stand for Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd, the farm and village where he grew up.

Ingvar Kamprad quote

IKEA’s initial journey was not without hurdles. When furniture was introduced into the IKEA range, competitors felt threatened by the low prices of quality furniture and so they forced the raw material and furniture suppliers to boycott IKEA. To stay in business, IKEA started designing its own furniture. The company bought raw material from new suppliers in Denmark and Poland, and created its own exhibitions.

Incidentally, the concept of flat packs and self-assembled furniture, for which IKEA is widely known, came into being accidentally when one of co-workers removed the legs of the LÖVET table to fit it into a car and avoid damage during transit.

Coming up with creative responses to difficult problems, IKEA developed an intuitive way of doing business, and invented new ways of dealing with logistics, sourcing and retailing. Many of these innovations are now industry standards.

Different designs in different markets 

Ikea Living Room furniture
Living Room furniture

In the 1980s, IKEA forayed into new markets such as USA, Italy, France and the UK. The size of beds, closets and other furniture used by people in the US are larger than in other places. So the products were tailored to suit the local needs of the US customers.

In contrast, when IKEA started its retail operations in China the late nineties, it created functional, modular solutions that could fit into small Chinese apartments.

Though its prices were low in Europe and North America, in China the prices were comparatively higher than the average prices charged by the local stores. The higher than average price point proved to be one of the biggest barriers for Chinese people to purchase IKEA products.

Though IKEA has been sourcing products from India since the last 28 years, it is only now that the global furniture retail giant has identified Hyderabad to open its first India store. Though IKEA has launched its ‘Make More In India’ initiative to boost things, yet the rollout is expected to be slow.By starting to produce locally in a number of factories built in China and by increasing local sourcing of materials, helped in lowering the prices. Additionally a change in positioning was adopted. Whereas IKEA was targeting the mass market in other parts of the world, in China they realized the need to target the young middle-class population, with higher incomes and exposure to western sensibilities. With the use of Chinese social media and micro-blogging website Weibo, IKEA targeted the urban youth of China.


The IKEA way 

What makes IKEA so different is its distinctive work culture with a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to problem-solving that is strongly reflective of the Swedish culture. 

Collaborative working is stressed upon, hierarchy is not emphasized, mistakes are seen as part of learning, and co-workers (as employees as called) are encouraged to come up with frugal, cost effective solutions. IKEA recruits its co-workers based on their values and beliefs, rather than only on the basis of experience and skills.

Want to work here? Well, first assemble your chair !!!

Ikea Interview
Shared on Twitter by @yochum

In 2013, IKEA made a cultural faux pas when it removed the picture of a woman from an catalog in Saudi Arabia in a bid to localize their advertisement. In Thailand, some of IKEA’s product names did not augur well with the customers, and were changed subsequently.

Learning to be sensitive to cultural issues, IKEA has cultivated an environmentally responsible image, and claims to use sustainable raw materials. With the goal of improving customers’ everyday lives, the brand launches around 2,000 new products each year.

After it launches its store in India, it will be interesting to see how we Indians take to the do-it-yourself concept of IKEA.

Image credit: Website of IKEA (

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  • author's avatar

    By: Somali K Chakrabarti

    Hi there ! I am a management and leadership coach and a ‘çlinical blogger’. Well, that’s what my family & friends call me now ! Here, I tell stories of different brands, how people relate to the brands and the values, beliefs and emotions that they associate with the brands. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

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11 thoughts on “Brand Story of IKEA – Designing stylish furniture

    • June 30, 2015 at 1:48 am

      The organisation culture and adaptation of their marketing strategy in different markets has been a subject of B school case study Maniparna.

  • June 30, 2015 at 5:57 am

    I had no knowledge of this brand . Your well written story gave me the exposure to the OD and organisational culture
    of the IKEA from the land of Alfred Nobel and Nobel Prize ..

    • June 30, 2015 at 8:22 am

      Yes they say that the organizational culture stresses on collaboration and is very different from other MNC culture.

  • June 30, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Totally a new brand for me. I have no idea about this. Thanks for the information.

    • July 1, 2015 at 9:26 am

      Ikea is a global furniture giant but since they don”t yet have a store in India, many people do not yet know about it. Ingvar Kamprad is one of the richest people in the world and is known as the frugal billionaire.

  • July 2, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    One of our favourite place. They also have free play and activity area for kids of specified size. Not surprising that they have fixed the lower and higher heights of the child who could be allowed in and not age. The place is well staffed. It allows the parents have hassle free shopping. The other attraction is their self service dine in restaurant with primarily Swedish food.

    The origin of the name and other marketing details are interesting information.

    • July 2, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      Thank you for adding this bit of information about allowing kids in the play and activity area as per their height instead of age. Which country are you referring to?

  • July 3, 2015 at 10:47 am

    The success story of IKEA is fascinating and love the amount of research your pour into the brands. Commendable. Sometimes, a small mistake can turn into a big idea.

    • July 3, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Thank you so much Vishal. It is heartening to know that you find the posts interesting and informative. 🙂


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