The Ikea Effect: Is there Value in DIY?

The Ikea Effect: Is there Value in DIY?

  How does delayed gratification play into business?? And what do cupcakes and “DIY” (do it yourself) furniture have in common? All of us at one time or another have bought things that have required assembly. Granted, some experiences are more gradifying than others but regardless of the hassel of assembly – once complete, there always seems to be a sense of accomplishment. Dan Ariely, describes this delayed sense of gradification theory in his new book, The Upside Down of Irrationality. “He dubs this sense of accomplishment “The Ikea Effect” and notes that this is the principle that first caused early versions of cake mix in the 1950s to sell poorly. It turned out that cakes were a highly personal item, and no self-respecting housewife at the time could buy those mixes and feel like she was making the cake. The fix, it turns out, was pretty simple. The powdered eggs in the original mix were removed, and the new and improved versions asked you to add eggs, milk and oil yourself. The result; all of a sudden the sales of cake mix took off.” Historically, what is even more interesting is the story of the Mid-Century Designer “Kem Weber” who was really the first to pioneer the idea of DIY furniture in the 1930’s. Kem Weber’s Airline Chair was designed to be packed in a cardboard container and assembled by the customer. According to Professor Christopher Long of the University of Texas at Austin, 1939 was one of the last years when Weber’s work was considered avant-garde. “Weber was among the best known designers in America at that time, and certainly very well known in California,” says Long. But for the new crop of designers like Charles and Ray Eames, he says, “Weber would’ve been an old fuddy-duddy. They were a whole generation younger—he would’ve been old enough to be Charles’s father.” Still, adds Long, “It’s probably the first example of a piece of furniture sent home in a box that was intended to be put together by the consumer, it was revolutionary,” he says, “absolutely revolutionary.” Especially when you consider that Ikea was not founded until 1943, and did not rise to international retail prominence until the 1960s and ’70s. You can read more about Weber at: Collectors Weekly: In an age of all-in-one types of solutions and one-button technology, the idea that there is a value in consumers earning satisfaction from using a product may seem counterintuitive. As Ariely’s book and research shows, the act of earning our enjoyment actually multiplies that enjoyment immensely. Is there a lesson here for small business? Perhaps in our quest to offer simpler all-inclusive types of products and services, we might still learn something from Kem Weber’s Airline Chair and Ikea’s model of delayed gratification. How might our customers actually appreciate our products or services more if some assembly were required? Posted by: Jill Mendoza

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