Here's How IKEA Tailors Their Catalog for Places Around the World

Here's How IKEA Tailors Their Catalog for Places Around the World

Melissa Massello
Aug 2, 2017
(Image credit: Hadrian/Shutterstock)

The 2018 edition of one of the world's most widely distributed books, with a scheduled print run of 203 million copies, drops this week in stores: The IKEA catalog. Here's why it looks different, depending on where you live.

That's right, up there with the actual Bible, the Koran, and Harry Potter, the "bible" of affordable home decor reaches people in nearly every country. One German literary critic, Hellmuth Karasek even reviewed the IKEA catalog in 2015.

Thanks to a recent piece by Quartz's Anne Quito, this year we get an insider's look at the massively complex creative and marketing — even ethnographical — prowess that it takes to make IKEA's sleek, minimalist, and budget-friendly showrooms universally appealing through its 324-page catalog. A herculean production that eats up 70% of IKEA's annual marketing budget, the IKEA catalog must also be customized for 72 different regions (and various religions) around the world.

"IKEA has ethnographers who conduct field research into the domestic life of different regions through home visits, interviews and panels," Quito writes. "While the researchers' 'Life at Home' consumer insights research goes to the development of new products, it also helps catalog creators plan the content and styling of local editions."

So for 67 years, the domestic brand of the everyman (and every woman) has worked to perfect the ways in which it engages us all in the company's approachable vision of democratic domestic bliss, "creating a better everyday life for the many people", through personalization and cultural sensitivity — the latter not without its major missteps.

As Jezebel put it, "If anybody's looking for a viral project in the tradition of 'photoshops of beauty from around the world,' it just fell in your lap."

Edits to the catalog have included resizing kitchens to reflect median space sizes for different markets, or tastes in cabinet styles, while scandalous ones have included erasing women from the catalog entirely or removing same-sex couples. This year, a local IKEA even put out an all-male catalog tailored for the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. All-in, the 72 different region-specific editions require the Swedish company to spend 18 months producing the 1,400 pieces of art and 24,000 texts through an army of hundreds of creatives that include photographers, art directors, copywriters, proofreaders, prop masters, carpenters, photo retouchers, programmers, CGI specialists and more.

For the fascinating behind-the-scenes view on the production and worldwide impact of the IKEA catalog, check out the full stories on Quartz and Jezebel.

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