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Ikea cultural differences

Who? What? Where?

Ikea is a multinational group of companies, founded in Sweden in 1943 by Ingvar
Kamprad. Ikea designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture (such as beds, chairs and desks),
appliances and home accessories. As of January 2008, it is the world's largest furniture retailer.
The company is known for its modern architectural designs for various types of appliances and
furniture, and its interior design work is often associated with an eco-friendly simplicity.[6] In
addition, the firm is known for its attention to cost control, operational details, and continuous
product development, corporate attributes that allowed IKEA to lower its prices by an average of
two to three percent over the decade to 2010 during a period of global expansion. The IKEA
group has a complex corporate structure and is controlled by several foundations based in the
Netherlands, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

Ikea criticism:
Throughout time, IKEA has been criticized by many. From the popular scandal which
started with the company erasing women from the catalogues found in the Middle East, to
scandalous commercials banned in America, IKEA gathered some tough accusations. Other
examples of IKEA gaining a bad name and negative attention include : the offending behavior
towards the goth subculture by exposing the following message during a campaign: Brightens
up your grad's dorm. Unlike a creepy gothic room-mate, who can be a bad influence or even
using names of Danish places for cheap rugs, according to a researcher of the Copenhagen
Ikea in China:
Founded in Sweden, the company expanded rather quickly throughout the world so,
entering into the Chinese market was a big step for IKEA, maybe as big as their rst step abroad
when they opened the store in Spreitenbac, Switzerland in1973 (Torekull, 1998). China is

potentially a huge consumer market but it is quite a different market to what they have faced
before. First, the language is different and IKEA uses a Chinese name alongside the name of
IKEA. It is pronounced Yi Jia , similar to the English pronunciation of IKEA. The meaning of
IKEA, in Chinese, is positive and

very appropriate: IKEA translated in Chinese means

desirable for home living/comfortable home, which is regarded as a very good translation in
China. According to IKEA, IKEA is a well-known brand. The target audience is represented
by female costumers, males are also targeted, but more indirectly. Moreover, the young
population (25-30 years old) are a very important segment, as well. Regarding the campaigns
and commercials, there are the same as anywhere in the world, but with a Chinese twist, as the
old saying: think global, act local.

Glocal approach in China:

What is a glocal approach? According to the definition found in the dictionaries, the term
glocal is a combination of global and local. As mentioned before, the term incorporates
with accuracy the well-known saying: think global, act local, encouraging brands and
companies to avoid the complete standardization of their products. A standardized approach
might lead to losing the trust of the consumers or even offend them if the research isnt done
right. An important variable every brand must take in consideration is the cultural dimension.
When using differentiated advertising, one must analyze which cultural factors between
different societies make different approaches in advertising necessary, and on which of these
factors this differentiation should be based. In addition, it is important to check how the cultural
differences, which have to be taken into consideration, can then be transferred in form and
content to the advertisements. Variables which play an important role in the cross-cultural
consumer research are the values of a culture. Values are considered to be the core of a culture
(Luna/Gupta, 2001; Hofstede, 1980; 2001). Cultural values determine the perception, the
predispositions and the behavior of the members of a society (Kroeber-Riel/Weinberg, 1999;
Markus/Kitayama, 1991).

Cultural dimensions in China:

80% power distance according to this grade, the Chinese societies are not equal, although,
this inequality does not bother the Chinese, as they think it is acceptable. Individuals are
influenced by formal authority and sanctions and are in general optimistic about peoples
capacity for leadership and initiative. People should not have aspirations beyond their rank.

20% individualism - emphasizes the fact that the Chinese culture is a collectivist one.
Employee commitment to the organization (but not necessarily to the people in the
organization) is low. Moreover, personal relationships among work are almost inexistent.

65% masculinity shows that the society is driven by certain characteristics, such as: sense of
achievement, competition, success, wanting to be the best. China is success oriented and
driven. The need to ensure success can be exemplified by the fact that many Chinese will
sacrifice family and leisure priorities to work

30% uncertainty avoidance - refers to the fact that even though Chinese respect the laws and
rules, they are flexible. The Chinese are comfortable with ambiguity; the Chinese language is
full of ambiguous meanings that can be difficult for Western people to follow. Chinese are
adaptable and entrepreneurial. At the time of writing the majority (70% -80%) of Chinese
businesses tend to be small to medium sized and family owned.

87% pragmatism - means that it is a very pragmatic culture. In societies with a pragmatic
orientation, people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time

24% indulgence - Societies with a low score in this dimension have a tendency to cynicism
and pessimism. Also, in contrast to indulgent societies, restrained societies do not put much
emphasis on leisure time and control the gratification of their desires

Cultural dimensions in Sweden:

Opposed to the percentages in China, Sweden has different values.

31% power distance - shows that power is decentralized, as opposed to China. Sweden
inclines towards equal rights and empowerment of the population.

71% individualism - shows that individuals are expected to take care of themselves, where
personal relationships are based on mutual respect and advantage and family has little
influence on the social life.

5% masculinity - means that Sweden is a feminine society where balance, support, creativity,
nourishment and equality are very important aspects in life.

29% uncertainty avoidance - shows that schedules are flexible, hard work is undertaken when
necessary but not for its own sake, precision and punctuality do not come naturally,
innovation is not seen as threatening.

With a score of 53% pragmatism, Sweden doesnt seem to express a clear preference on this

A high score of 78 in indulgence indicates that Swedish culture is one of indulgence. People
in societies classified by a high score in indulgence generally exhibit a willingness to realize
their impulses and desires with regard to enjoying life and having fun. They possess a positive
attitude and have a tendency towards optimism. In addition, they place a higher degree of
importance on leisure time, act as they please and spend money as they wish.

Analyzing the coomercials/ads:

Taking into consideration all the aspects of the cultural dimensions mentioned above, I
will analyze two IKEA commercials, one from Sweden and one from China. I will describe from
the cultural prism the differences found in this two ads.
Let us take the first commercial, specifically the one that takes place in China. This
commercial is gentle, soft, focused on family. According to Hofstede, family is very important in
this culture, individuals tending to be collectivists. China is a We culture, opposed to Sweden,
where individualism has a very high score.
Being inclined to move rather slowly, small changes are the key words used in many
Chinese commercials. Using these words, IKEA promotes the importance of partnership in the
future, as well as the importance of sticking to the routine and respecting your family. Moreover,
the center figure in the ad seems to be the father, the masculine figure, the woman being less
empowered, as opposed to the Swedish commercial where the woman is the center of the
Relating to the masculine/feminine dimension, I can say that in the first commercial,
there is a clear path towards masculinity as it symbolizes the sense of achievement. On the other
hand, the creative and funny approach used in the second ad, highlight the feminine
The Swedish commercial places the woman in the center of the attention, in an original
and funny way. You can see and understand the low percentage of uncertainty avoidance due to
the fact that punctuality, rules and precision are not present. However, the Chinese commercial
reflects a family spirit, where responsibilities, respect and rules are mandatory, as they are
needed to control a family.
The sense of fun, positive attitude and optimism are perfectly recognized in the second
ad, as the woman herself loses the sense of time, but that does not stop her to quickly respond to
unwanted situations and be spontaneous. She thrives, being able to be both a sexy, empowered
woman, as well as a mother/nanny whereas the Chinese ad displays high context cultural values
by expressing emotional feelings.

Chinese advertising seems to be softer, the commercial has a more humble feel to it, it
does not shock (in comparison to the Swedish one), it provides friendly home furnishing
solutions which can educate the consumer.
Being very different in approach, these 2 ads adapted to the preferences of the customers.
Chinese are not as open minded as Europeans in terms of thinking out of the box. This Ikea
commercials are an example. Often, Chinese commercials rely more on soft sell appeals,
displayed collectivistic values, and exhibited high context culture values. Since the existence of
the human race, family is probably the most fundamental social unit and it is playing an
unusually significant role in the Chinese culture. Compared with the Swedish ad, the content in
this Ikea commercial is more ambiguous and indirect. It focuses more on the feelings and
emotions of the audiences, which would elicit affective responses including warmth and
inspiration by experiencing a loving family relationship.
Concluding, I must state that Swedish culture is more open minded, centered on the
feminine, fun, out of the box approach using sense of humor to guide the viewer through the
journey of buying IKEA products, as opposed to the Chinese culture, who is centered on the
emotional part of the message transmitted, using love and affection as the key ingredients to
touch the consumers.