The first episode of this new series which goes behind the scenes of furniture giant, Ikea, proved an interesting watch. It begins exploring the humble beginnings of the company, first started in 1943, and explores how its concept was initially received compared to now. The company had been small when they first launched the unknown concept of the customer serving themselves, however it expanded enormously as the customers became more familiar with the concept.
In the episode, we see how each component of the company’s brand identity is now highly scrutinised. The magazine cover is put before a council and can quickly be rejected if it isn’t commercial enough. In this instance, the cover that the photographer proposes is too busy, having too many people featuring in it. Similarly, a proposal put forward by a sofa designer in which the product serves a dual purpose as bed and sofa must pass a series of tests. It is clear that the company has become something of a mecca as each stage of furniture design is highly controlled and organised with every aspect of the company’s identity undergoing scrutiny.
However, it does make me wonder if Ikea has lost touch with their humble beginnings? The photographer shooting the new cover for the Ikea magazine discusses the need to have an emotional connection with the customer. The need to feature people and life.
She does have a point. Decluttering the images and making everything highly polished means Ikea could be losing their mass market appeal as an economical flatpack empire. The boost in sales for meatballs which the company profited 1.7 million from last year suggests that the furniture giant may be more of a catering empire than a furniture company these days. Throughout the episode, staff remark that many people do just come for meatballs and chips and that this is their new main selling point. However, I think what we are seeing here is that Ikea is expanding into other areas, allowing the company to become a lifestyle giant as well as a flatpack empire.