Thursday, May 17, 2012
The paradox of IKEA shopping: Disorientation produces contentment
I was just reading this interesting article on Inside Story, reviewing a book about the rise and rise of the IKEA phenomenon.
It's a long read, so if you don't have time to read it all, you can just read my summary below. Or skip to the bit where he writes about the IKEA cat ad (see above video), and how the cats behave in much the same way as people do when they go on an IKEA adventure. That was pretty interesting reading.
I'm no lover of the IKEA experience myself. It's way too easy to get sucked into buying lots of stuff that you don't need simply because you are forced to walk past it. What the guy says in his article is true though. The whole place is incredibly disorienting when you arrive there, but about half an hour into it, you start to work out what's what, and then wham, you "feel licensed to impulse purchase," often ending up purchasing far more than what you went there for. The idea of this disorientation producing contentment seems paradoxical, but it works.
There's some other interesting commentary in this article as well, particularly on the way IKEA encourages us to subscribe to the 21st century principle of minimalist design that tells us less is more, while simultaneously managing to convince us that more is less. If we're there to buy a sofa, for example, then the cleverly organised display it's been placed in is highly likely to convince us to buy not only the sofa but the lamp, the coffee table, and a few drinking glasses as well.
I think the main issue I have with IKEA is that it encourages home idolatry and materialism. If I could get through the shop without wanting to buy all the little extras, I think I could visit there more often. Usually, if I want to buy something from IKEA, I'll send Chris because he doesn't get sucked into the funky little displays the way I do. He dislikes it so much, he gets in and out far more quickly too.