IKEA creed overcomes barriers

You can say what you like about those IKEA people. God knows I have. IKEA has always struck me as the first place you go when you know your marriage is toast and you're moving out and you know the support payments in the eventual separation agreement are going to kill you financially.

You can say what you like about those IKEA people. God knows I have. IKEA has always struck me as the first place you go when you know your marriage is toast and you’re moving out and you know the support payments in the eventual separation agreement are going to kill you financially.

It’s the place to have that little chat with yourself as to whether you spring for a sofa bed, a double or a king, depending on whether you’re a pessimist, an optimist or a realist.

It will undoubtedly be the first place you go when you decide to try out those newfangled starter marriages, or move off-campus into a tiny room with your sleep-mate, which used to be called shacking up, and is sort of the same thing as a starter marriage.

But if you don’t mind choosing furniture named after people with names unlike anyone you’ve ever met, names like EKTORP and JONSTORP and TOMELILLA, you have to admit IKEA has a point or two to make, and they make it pretty well.

The new IKEA catalogue arrived on our doorstep the other day, and I was struck with the inventive and painstaking way its creators have gone about expressing the IKEA Philosophy of Everything, and overcoming predictable doubts and hesitations regarding the quality and potential hassles of going shopping for your life at IKEA.

The Big Idea, philosophy-wise starts on the cover and pops up throughout the book. It is Think Cubic! with a little orange cube drawing to remind us.

IKEA is smart enough to accept that a lot of IKEA furniture will be bought by people trying to live in excruciatingly small apartments. And the only thing preventing those floor space-strapped people from buying a lot more from IKEA is their rather pedestrian idea that furniture goes on the floor.

So the Think Cubic! pitch gets off the ground like this: If your home could use a bit more space, try this experiment. Lie flat on your back and look up. What do you see? Lots of beautiful, unused space. Now get up and look behind doors, up walls, under beds. More space!

To help you get your head around this graphically, they’ve provided a drawing of a room with the walls fallen outwards, so they’re now flat on the ground. On what was the floor space, there are only a couple of chairs, a rug and a coffee table. But bolted onto the fallen walls is about four roomfuls of IKEA shelving, cabinets, entertainment units, even folding chairs. As a final touch, an IKEA chandelier hangs upside down from the ceiling.

They follow through this notion with photographed room settings, purporting to show how you can pack an office, living and dining area, bedroom and hobby space into 150 square feet. (Try that at The Art Shoppe!)

A family of five lives happily and creatively in a 1,200-square-foot apartment. One of those starter marriage couples lives in a cozy 400. You just hope their wall studs are strong enough to support all that IKEA wall unit stuff bolted to it, holding tons of other IKEA stuff in baskets, tubs and vases from IKEA.

There are also multiple pages devoted to IKEA’s homespun, common-sense Philosophies of Everything Else. Although these are graphically a little drab, the ideas ring true.

They promise good design, function, quality and low prices. They support their promises with a lot of nice little copy hooks, like we always start by designing the price tag…our designers add their wisdom on how to marry low price with an inspired design…we buy raw materials for 100,000 chairs at a time and so on. They don’t finish the underside of coffee tables, because it doesn’t make the coffee taste better.

And on that troublesome assembly issue? We divide the work with you. Some say this is the worst thing about IKEA. On the other hand, we pay you for it.

The famous IKEA out-of-stock problem? Most of the furniture can be brought home on the same day you visit the store.

IKEA is green, too. Their wood comes only from well-managed forests. They push low energy light bulbs. Promise no child labour. Say they’ve encouraged 80% of their India-based textile operations to install water purification plants in the last 10 years.

These people telegraph that they believe in what they do, and that the masses who buy their stuff are smart people who can see why. It’s rare. And it’s kind of refreshing.

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He writes this column to promote the cause of what he calls intelligent advertising, and to attract clients who share the notion that many a truth is said in jest. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, or faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.