Hidden Localization Lessons at IKEA

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What in the world did we do for inexpensive, “high”-design, build-it-yourself furniture before IKEA?

What in the world did we do for inexpensive, “high”-design, build-it-yourself furniture before IKEA?

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  • 1. Hidden Localization Lessons at IKEAThis article was originally published on the Acclaro Blog.Category: Documents, "Spot" on Language, WebsitesWhat in the world did we do for inexpensive, “high”-design, build-it-yourself furniturebefore IKEA?Before 1985, when IKEA opened their first store in the States, dorm roomseverywhere were littered with “bookshelves” made out of planks of wood and concreteblocks. Now, instead of going to the lumber yard, millions head to IKEA to for flat-packed everything — kitchen cabinets, desks, sheet sets, lamps, glasses, decorations,and yes, even pet beds.IKEA is in nearly 40 countries; they are the true masters of product naming,multilingual packaging, and labeling and pictorial instructions.Product NamesNeed a toilet roll holder? Why not the MOLGER ($2.99 in wood) or the GRUNDTAL($4.99 in stainless steel)? Sometimes, a name (and note they are always one word)will also be a series – so the MOLGER series also includes a plethora of other items forthe bathroom such as a step stool, soap dish, shelving unit, or a mirrored hook rack.In IKEA people may be tongue-twisted or even giggling due to a name. However,there is a very precise logic to every single one of the over 12,000 products theyproduce. When you walk into IKEA, you walk into, well, Sweden — and get a veryquick Swedish language and geography lesson.Each piece of furniture is placed into a category, and each category has a designatedsection of the language or geography assigned to it.For example:Children’s items: Mammals, birds, adjectivesPage 1: Hidden Localization lessons at IKEA Copyright © Acclaro 2012
  • 2. Bookcase ranges: OccupationsGarden furniture: Swedish islandsChairs, desks: Men’s namesThe Swedes, being cordial neighbors, also include Norwegian, Danish, and Finnishplace names in their naming conventions. So, not only may your Swedish boyfriend benamed Fredrik, but your IKEA desk may be named that as well.Multilingual Packaging and LabelingIKEA has to translate their packaging and labeling into nearly 30 languages. Half ofSweden must be helping with this task! Yet, IKEA does it with ease. For NorthAmerica, items are routinely in English, French, and Spanish.If the product’s packaging has the space and is sold farther afield, IKEA may includeeven more languages. Clothing and linen labels are a veritable listing of the UnitedNations.Space, manufacturing restraints, and laws often dictate how many languages youhave on a label. To save precious space, IKEA and many other manufacturers oftenuse ISO symbols. These are very common in Europe and are becoming more commonPage 2: Hidden Localization lessons at IKEA Copyright © Acclaro 2012
  • 3. in North America. So, now you not only speak a little Swedish thanks to IKEA, youalso speak a little “ISO symbol” as well.Pictorial InstructionsOkay, you bought your flat box at IKEA and now you have to assemble it. A little likeLegos, but perhaps not as fun. Make sure not to throw out the instructions, really, asthese will help you, even if you don’t speak Swedish, or English, or Spanish orCroatian. In fact, with IKEA instructions, it’s rare to find any language on them at all.Page 3: Hidden Localization lessons at IKEA Copyright © Acclaro 2012
  • 4. It’s all pictures. The pictorial instructions are the most “universal” that you are likelyto find for any retailer in the world.This saves IKEA a ton of money (they need only print one set of instructions for eachproduct; no need for translation either) and logistical headaches. It may also drive younuts and literally drive you back to the store for help. But hey, where else can you geta stylish desk named after a Swedish man for $99.99?Thanks for shopping at IKEA and come again soon! Hej då! ("good-bye!" in Swedish)About Acclaro: Acclaro is an international translation and localization company thathelps the world’s leading brands succeed across cultures. We translate websites,marketing campaigns, documents and software to give clients an authentic voice inkey language markets. North America: 1-866-468-5106 Worldwide: +1-914-468-0222 www.acclaro.com sales@acclaro.comPage 4: Hidden Localization lessons at IKEA Copyright © Acclaro 2012