May 19, 1999

I went to IKEA today and was strong enough to resist the impulse buys and instead spent most of my time just admiring the ways IKEA works its marketing magic.

If you have ever been to IKEA you know that the building is divided into two parts. The first part is comprised of the showrooms where you see IKEA's furniture in their natural settings - in simulated bedrooms, living rooms and the like. As you walk the designated path through the showrooms you are supposed to make notes of the names and the numbers of the pieces that you are interested in and remember how all the accessories were placed so satisfyingly in the mock rooms.

The majority of the store is this display portion. It's so large that they strategically place a cafeteria at the three quarter mark where you can buy fine Scandinavian open sandwiches (but sadly, no pickled herring). You will need the nourishment because at the end of the shopping path is the second part of the store: the warehouse. This is where you match the numbers on your notepad and where you collect the large, unadorned boxes of disassembled furniture from the rows of boxes on end.

IKEA is a great place to learn the difference between reality and marketing. The warehouse is the real store. The showroom is the marketing.