IKEA irritates the Danes

DISCUSSION TOPIC:  Translating Retail Success Across National Borders


There is yet another potential impact of importing and exporting that retailers are now starting to consider. Boasting 273 stores attracting some 583 million customers each year, IKEA, for example, needs to be aware of what people think and feel.

Both The Independent and The Daily Telegraph in the UK reported that Danish customers of the Swedish shop are less than happy with what’s being offered for sale or at least with what the products are called.

IKEA’s products tend to have names rather than numbers, a situation that has recently caused complaints from customers in Denmark, historically a rival of IKEA’s Swedish-based empire. According to The Independent, complaints have been made about some of the names chosen. Apparently those with Danish derivation are used for some of the retailer’s less salubrious, or lowly, products such as doormats, rug linings and toilet seats, for example.

Discussion questions:  Is the IKEA Danish experience unusual in the arena of global marketing? Where do retailers go to acquire the cultural education required to open without incident in new international markets? Is there are retail company or brand that you think best epitomizes how to go about expanding globally?

My post:

International expansion of brands and retailers always creates the potential for cultural missteps.  IKEA did not purposely named their products with names that would offend Danes.  Using names for their products vs. numbers requires them to either use different names in different countries, or choose to not care if one country has an issue with a name that is fine everywhere else.  

When a retailer or brand expands into a different country (or even a different state) it is incumbent upon them to do some due diligence in the new location, particularly regarding marketing and branding methods.  It would not have been a significant issue to rename a few of the IKEA products for the Danish market if indeed some of the names are offensive.

Examples of brands and retailers who have expanded globally effectively include McDonalds and DFS Galleria.  McDonalds offers key products like the Big Mac worldwide, but then adds menu items that relate to the local populace.  DFS Galleria, the Hong Kong-based purveyor of luxury brands in gallerias and airport duty-free locations throughout the Asia Pacific region, pays close attention to how each nationality communicates and shops.  In-store signage, associate language skills, and marketing efforts all support this.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist




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