Apparently, Swedish furniture retailer IKEA has systematically applied Danish names to doormats and carpets, while keeping Swedish names for more expensive items of furniture. If this pattern of naming is systematic as claimed, then it is hard to see how it could be accidental or inadvertant. If the pattern was accidental, we should expect IKEA to issue a hasty apology for any unintended offence caused, to Danes or to others. Instead, IKEA went on the offensive, with a spokesperson allegedly saying:
“these critics appear to greatly underestimate the importance of floor coverings. They are fundamental elements of furnishing. We draw worldwide attention to Danish place names with our products.”
Whatever the perceived justification, insulting your customers can never be great marketing. One of the features of colonialism is a lack of appreciation for the feelings of the colonized. Hundreds of years of condescension are manifest in those three sentences. Danes have every right to be offended.
UPDATE (2008-03-17): Spiegel Online have now retracted their original news story (the retraction is at the same address as was the article), although it is not clear from this retraction that either the original allegation against IKEA or the quoted response from an IKEA spokesperson are inaccurate. Here is the text of the retraction of the news story by Spiegel Online:
‘Is IKEA Giving Danes the Doormat Treatment?’In the article originally published at this address, SPIEGEL falsely reported that Danish researchers Klaus Kjøller and Trøls Mylenberg had conducted a “thorough analysis” of the naming conventions at Swedish furniture maker IKEA. In fact, Kjøller was approached by a journalist from the free daily Nyhedsavisen who had inquired about why apparently inferior IKEA products had been given the names of Danish towns.
Kjøller answered the question, but says he was very surprised by the “extremely exaggerated” article that appeared on the cover of Nyhedsavisen the following day, which would later get picked up by other media in Denmark and abroad, including SPIEGEL ONLINE.
“The story sounds good, but it unfortunately isn’t true,” Kjøller told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Monday. The author of the article and the editorial staff failed to contact Kjøller prior to the publication of the article.
SPIEGEL ONLINE strives to adhere to the highest standards of reporting and apologizes to its readers for the error, which we deeply regret.
– The Editors
UPDATE 2 (2012-09-14): Yet, it seems, IKEA does indeed have a naming policy in which different categories of products are given names from a particular category of real-world places and objects. Finnish place names are used for dining furniture, for instance. In this schematic, it seems that carpets are assigned Danish place names. This is certainly not inadvertent, but deliberate. Why were these products assigned those particular names?