Ikea Simply Quietly Killed Its Well-known Catalog. It is a Good Lesson in Emotional Intelligence
After 70 years, hundreds of millions of copies and countless hours of inspiration for armchair interior designers, Ikea has done the unthinkable:
It has decided to kill its beloved catalog.
“Over the years, it has become an iconic and popular publication, and reaching out and inspiring many people around the world has been a key success factor for IKEA,” the company said in a statement.
“But times are changing. IKEA has become more digital, more accessible, and offers new ways to connect with more people. Customer behavior and media consumption have changed, and the IKEA catalog has been used less.”
[We have] therefore made the emotional but rational decision to respectfully end the successful career of the IKEA catalog, both in print and in digital form – and to look to the future with excitement. “
There’s a lot to unpack here … but four words stand out noticeably:
Ikea called this an “emotional but rational decision”.
In this simple sentence we find a brilliant lesson in emotional intelligence that any business can learn from.
Emotionally but rationally
The decision to close the catalog was not an easy one for Ikea.
After all, Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, put together the first catalog himself in 1951 and sent 285,000 copies (all in Swedish). At its peak in 2016, Ikea distributed 200 million copies of the catalog in 32 languages and more than 50 stores.
According to Ikea, customers have drastically changed the way they shop, and interest in publishing has waned since 2016. With Ikea.com’s global online retail sales reportedly up 45 percent in the past year alone, the company continues to focus on digital strategy – including an ever-improving corporate website, a range of apps, and social media.
There is also an interesting caveat in this story: although Ikea specifically stated that “the beloved IKEA catalog as we know it today will not be continued” …
… a catalog for 2021 was still being produced.
While this catalog is currently only available digitally in the U.S., the company says the printed version will be available in stores later this year. (In Canada, customers can still have a hard copy mailed to their personal address upon request.)
The whole point is: the company could change their mind at any time and bring the catalog back in the future and just change their sales model. That way, they would likely save millions in printing and postage costs, while at the same time creating a desire for the “new” version of the catalog.
So what can you learn from Ikea’s “emotional but rational” decision?
Times keep changing. So, while you are emotionally attached to the way you have always done things, you need to look closely at the facts.
It is worth asking yourself the following questions:
- Are there any initiatives or processes that are currently hurting your bottom line but that you fear or do not want to cut out?
- How can you change things in ways that improve – while also capturing the spirit of what made things great before?
- And finally, can you make a change while leaving an escape clause?
Emotional intelligence is not about taking emotions out of the equation. It’s about finding a balance between logic and emotion because you need both.
So if you want to keep your business moving, check out a page from Ikea’s playbook …
And make your decisions emotionally but rationally.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.