So I’ve clearly got a love/hate thing going on with Ikea. You’ll remember that I commended the Swedish giant for offering one of the original ‘classy’ food court experiences with real cutlery, glasses and dishes instead of disposables. Then I changed face and accused Ikea of facilitating unnecessary consumption with its shoddy furniture that values style over quality and durability. After spotting this ad in today’s Metro, I’m thinking me and Ikea might have to break up – for real this time.
While I appreciate that Ikea needs to sell stuff to keep in business, this ad encourages unnecessary consumption. Relying on a tactic known as perceived obsolescence (further explanation of this concept is owed a future post), Ikea wants you to buy a new couch not because you need one but because you want one. In fact, you didn’t even know you wanted a new one until you got that gosh darn Ikea catalogue! It doesn’t even matter if there’s nothing wrong with your soon-to-be-curbed couch – the motivation to get a new one is based purely on desire and keeping up with the Joneses’ or the Kardashians – whichever you favour. Ikea wants us to believe that our current couch is obsolete regardless of whether or not it still serves its function. It’s obsolete because it’s not brand spanking new.
And Ikea doesn’t suggest you donate your “old” couch or maybe try reselling it on craigslist – that would suggest it still has value. No matter how great your current couch is, Ikea’s new catalogue has better ones. And whatever shape your current one is in, its better off in the trash.
The problem with Ikea, in particular, perpetuating this type of wasteful behaviour is that it’s a company that is simultaneously promoted and perceived as environmentally-friendly. Ikea is one of the only places where I can take my light bulbs and batteries for recycling. Each individual product lists environmental features. All their products are shipped in flat boxes to save on transportation. Heck, they’ve even got an “e-wheel” to help their designers consider the environmental impacts of each product throughout the entire life cycle (don’t get me started on the e-wheel – it’ll have to be a topic for another day). It really seems like they’ve thought of everything – they’re doing the best they can!
And yes, Ikea is probably doing a lot more than many other similar companies towards reducing their environmental impact. But no matter how much post-consumer content they use in their cardboard boxes or how many light bulbs they recycle, the most beneficial thing they could do for the environment is to build quality products that are designed to last. So until they start building Malm dressers to last a lifetime (or longer!) and encourage me to love them for just as long, the only thing I’m going to trash is my love affair with Ikea.