How IKEA Names Its Products: It’s a Surprisingly Brilliant Naming System

Jun 19, 2018 | Brand Naming

Ever wonder which strategy best helps a famous brand company reach consumers?

There are many right answers, but one of them is to create one that is fully personalized to you. There is much to learn from famous brands like IKEA about product branding strategy and rebranding products. How IKEA names its products is ingenious.

IKEA products stand out with their quirky brand names:

  • Docksta table
  • Ektorp sofa
  • Poäng armchair
  • Kallax shelving units
  • Billy bookcase

Each name elevates the perceived value of the object, and signals it has a distinct place in your home.

So, what is IKEA’s product branding strategy and product naming system?

IKEA’s naming system was created by Ingvar Kamprad, the company’s founder. Kamprad struggled with dyslexia, and he had trouble remembering the order of the numbers in item codes. So he swapped the numbers for names. This made it easier for him to remember each item, and as a result, he made fewer mistakes when filling out forms.

The naming system is brilliant in its simplicity and scalability. Each product is named after Swedish towns and villages, humans, and other applicable Swedish words.

The system is even cooler than simply assigning random Swedish words to products. Each category of products is assigned a specific type of name. For example, outdoor furniture is named after Scandinavian islands:

  • Äpplarö are wooden patio furniture
  • Solleron are outdoor sofas
  • Mastholmen are outdoor coffee tables

If you study Google Maps, you can find each island that the product represents.

A screenshot of a map showing Scandinavian islands as IKEA names.

To simplify its inventory and branding, IKEA uses the same product name for each of its products in all its markets. A Fartyg ceiling light is a Fartyg no matter where you buy it.

Anne Quito breaks down the naming system:

  • Bathroom items: Names of Swedish lakes and bodies of water
  • Linens: Flowers and plants
  • Bedroom and Living Room Furniture: Norwegian places
  • Bookcases: Professions and Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Bowls and Vases: Swedish place names, adjectives, spices, herbs, fruits, and berries
  • Boxes, Pictures, and Wall Decorations: Swedish slang expressions and Swedish place names
  • Children’s Products: Mammals, birds, adjectives
  • Desks and Chairs: Scandinavian boy’s names
  • Fabrics and Curtains: Scandinavian girl’s names
  • Outdoor Furniture: Scandinavian islands
  • Kitchen Accessories: Fish, mushrooms and adjectives
  • Lighting: Units of measurement, seasons, months, days, shipping and nautical terms, Swedish place names
  • Rugs: Danish place names
  • Sofas, Chairs and Dining Sets: Swedish place names

The system helps IKEA name new products quickly and efficiently, but IKEA doesn’t constrain itself by the system. They’ll break their own rules when it makes sense.

A person riding a Sladda Bike in the city while carrying a plant and various other objectsFor instance, the Billy bookcase, IKEA’s #1 selling product, is named after an employee, Billy Likjedhal. Some products have functional names, because they work better:

  • The Sladda bicycle translates to “skid” in Swedish.
  • The Krossa spice mill means to crush or grind.

So, which strategy best helps a famous brand company reach consumers? IKEA – with over 12,000 products – has created a brilliant naming system. The names are quirky and endearing, and they elevate the status of each product. The naming system is efficient and scalable, which is essential for a global brand that is naming thousands of unique products.

Moving forward: rebranding products and more

What do you think the perfect naming system for your brand is? Are you thinking of creating a product branding strategy or wanting to work on rebranding your products? Schedule a call with us to get our expert advice on the best product branding strategy!

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Jeremy Miller

Top 30 Brand Guru

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