Ikeas brand reputation

At least one global Swedish brand has a brand reputation greater outside its home country than within.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, Swedes are often surprised at the brand reputation of Ikea in the United States:

In the Bay Area, home furnishings megastore Ikea is a retailing phenomenon, with long lines of customers and a popular buzz as a place for inexpensive but fashionable merchandise.

It’s another story in its home country of Sweden….

“In Sweden, you don’t brag about buying things at Ikea,” said Marie Soderqvist, chief executive of United Minds, a Swedish consulting company. “A home only furnished with Ikea products is seen as impersonal, a bit of a bad job.”

…Swedes in the United States are sometimes surprised by the Ikea mystique.

“In Sweden, going to Ikea is like going to the supermarket to buy paper towels in bulk. But in (America), Ikea is a wonder of super design,” said Barbro Osher, the Swedish consul general in San Francisco….

For its part, Ikea acknowledges the differences in perception.

“In Sweden, we are so present and visible that we are seen as an everyday thing…,” said Clive Cashman, Ikea’s chief U.S. spokesman.

Ikea…is a global brand…180 stores in 23 countries, with .5 billion in annual sales. Ikea has 22 locations in the United States…and 14 in Sweden…. In the Ikea world, U. S. sales are second, beaten only by German sales. Sweden comes in fifth.

In the United States, Ikea makes the most of its image as an exotic Swedish store. It keeps the Swedish names on all its products and is famous for the Swedish meatballs served in its in-store restaurants.

“They have much more of a Swedish image here than in Sweden,” said Stig Hagstrom, a Swede who lives in the Bay Area.

Keying-in on and understanding cultural differences is key to the success of any global brand. Understanding the emotional motivators behind consumer behavior is critical to an understanding of cultural difference and brand perception, in framing the competitive context by which a brand moves through the world, from culture to culture, through market to market.

IKEA understands this context. It is an understanding that creates a global brand, rather than one viewed narrowly as Sweden’s low-end home furnishings merchandiser.


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