Imagine, if you will, that historic moment in time. The place is Sweden. The moment is the brand birth of one of the world’s most famous icons. It’s the place I would ‘most like to have been in another time’. It is the creation
of IKEA.

Why should this be so significant a moment in history to marketers and why would I make it the key focus of an article such as this? My response is that it is one of the most perfect examples of branding, because any examination will soon discover its simplicity and its beauty as a tool of awareness.

The name IKEA is an acronym for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. This mouthful is derived from the founder’s name, Ingvar Kamprad; the name ” Elmtaryd” (the farm on which he was raised) and ” Agunnaryd“, the nearest village. It is no more complex than that. It did not tell a detailed story. It did not convey the company’s function as ‘The Swedish Furniture Company’ might have. It was not pretentious and it did not try to do all the things that brands are so unreasonably expected to do. Its design was and is just as uncomplicated and in its attempt to be nothing more than ‘less’ it demonstrated that you can become ‘more’.

IKEA is a great reminder to all business that a name and a design are not supposed to do anything more than offer a ‘sign off’ and support memorability. Small businesses want brands to do it all. They believe that a brand needs to tell people what the company does; what they sell; who owns it; inform on how old it is; advertise its products and tell consumers how well it treats them when they buy. That is a heavy responsibility for any icon! And by way of presenting a rationale to derail such thinking, I offer the following explanation: If a company selling potatoes calls itself, The Wall Street Potato Company. It tells the world it sells potatoes – certainly but…? It also appeals to only those people who want to buy potatoes at that moment of time. So you likely visit it when you need potatoes. Or will you? Maybe you’ll just pop around the corner?

Let’s call this company ‘TATS’ just for fun. Sparked by your natural intrigue and to discover what ‘TATS’ actually do you’ll need to visit the store as you pass it. You are soon exposed to their huge variety of potatoes accompanied by recipes and food ideas. Potatoes you never knew existed; products you have never tried before. Suddenly you’re buying potatoes you had no inclination to buy when your curiosity started you on this adventure visit. The brand created curiosity; curiosity created desire and you became sales active. At that moment you also experienced, the smell of the brand, the sounds of the brand, the behaviour of the brand and importantly you didn’t have to be told to buy – you discovered a new experience. Nobody sold you… you just bought because you wanted to.

I understand that people will now be defending their position by stating that a lot more than branding was present in this example. They are absolutely correct and that’s my point. A name and a brand can only do so much. It’s lazy to think otherwise.

If your brand does it all, you need to start again. Mystic, ambiguity, intrigue – all are magnificent elements of a great logo. They create curiosity which in turn stimulates buyers to discover for themselves who you are; what you sell; what you stand for and why you exist. It’s an entrance way, a portal and if you make it an ordinary experience you’ll quite rightly be relegated to the ‘also rans’ by consumers and buyers.

It does us all well to remember that McDonalds is a farm; a farmer; a Scottish name; a kilt; a clan; a toffee; a jam and a shortbread. It literally means ‘Son of Donald’, others will tell you its a fast food chain! Funny that?