IKEA hacking: A case study on design, marketing and branding strategies

Hannah Morgan Bahnsen Cooper

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis investigates what IKEA hacking is and what motivates consumers to hack IKEA products and further how IKEA may include the practice in their design, marketing and branding strategies. In this context “hacking” refers to the practice of modifying and personalizing consumer products. The research is based on findings from four interviews and conversations as well as in depth research on theories and literature within the subject. The thesis describes IKEA’s current position and strategy within design, marketing and branding, which are all closely connected to cheap production, raw materials and internal competition. Further there is a focus on affordable, self-assembly products, which can be bought at IKEA’s large warehouses placed outside major cities and short-term transactions. IKEA’s brand is found to be strong and firmly centered around founder Ingvar Kamprad’s manifest on ‘The IKEA Way.’ The thesis then explains the phenomenon of IKEA hacking as a way for consumers to embody embeddedness by modifying IKEA products to fit their personal needs. This practice makes the consumer experience ‘the IKEA effect’ and thus transforms the value of the product from functional to hedonistic. The findings of this paper further explain that the process of IKEA hacking is more important than the finished products to the hackers and that this process provides an identity of competence and creativity. The IKEA hackers can be viewed as a subcultural community in which the Internet and social media play a massive role for exposing, sharing, and connecting. With IKEA hacking, comes challenges such as companies sprouted from the phenomenon and legal issues. On a normative level, this thesis concludes that IKEA should not include IKEA hacking in their future design strategy. Instead it addresses that IKEA may include IKEA hacking in their marketing and branding strategies by implementing a more relationship-based focus and an emphasis on social integration and word-of-mouth – optimally achieved through the Internet and social media. It is further suggested that IKEA should encourage engagement in the process of hacking but not interfere with the creative process of the post-modern consumers, who are not satisfied with the available standardized products.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages112