Posts tagged ‘Netherlands’


Ikea tries to shut down its biggest fan site, showing us how the company thinks within

17.06.2014

In an age of social media, you would think it was the most stupid thing to try to shut down the biggest online community you have.
   Ikea has done just that, on IP grounds, against Ikea Hackers, by getting their legal department to send Jules Yap, its founder, a cease-and-desist letter after her site had been going for eight years. In that time she had sent customers to Ikea, after they were inspired by the new ideas her community had on doing new things with Ikea furniture.
   There are arguments that Ikea could have been liable for any injuries sustained from the “hacks”, but that’s daft. Are we really that litigious as a society, prepared to blame someone for something we ourselves freely chose to do? Ikea has instructions on how to build their furniture, and it’s your own choice if you are prepared to go against them.
   And eight years is an awfully long time to bring a case against someone for trade mark usage, rendering this claim particularly weak.
   There are other Ikea-hacking websites and Facebook pages as well—so it’s even dumber that Ikea would go after one with such a huge community, a website that has an Alexa ranking currently in the 20,000s (in lay terms: it has a huge audience, potentially bigger than that of Ikea’s corporate site itself in Jules’s country, Malaysia).
   Jules says that she has to take down the ads as part of her settlement for being able to retain the site—ads that simply paid for her hosting, which she might not be able to afford to do any more. (Some fans have offered to host for free or provide new domain names.)
   The Ikea Hackers logo doesn’t look remotely like the Ikea one, which would readily imply there was no endorsement by the Swedish company.
   Therefore, Ikea’s statement, on its Facebook, holds very little water.

Vi Àr glada för det engagemang som finns för IKEA och att det finns communities runt om i vÀrlden som Àlskar vÄra produkter lika mycket som vi gör.
   Vi kĂ€nner ett stort ansvar mot vĂ„ra kunder och att de alltid kan lita pĂ„ IKEA. Det Ă€r viktigt för oss att vĂ€rna om hur IKEA namnet och varumĂ€rket anvĂ€nds för att kunna behĂ„lla trovĂ€rdigheten i varumĂ€rket. Vi vill inte skapa förvirring för vĂ„ra kunder om nĂ€r IKEA stĂ„r bakom och nĂ€r vi inte gör det. NĂ€r andra företag anvĂ€nder IKEA namnet i kommersiellt syfte, skapar det förvirring och rĂ€ttigheter gĂ„r förlorade.
   DĂ€rför har Inter IKEA Systems, som Ă€ger rĂ€ttigheterna till IKEA varumĂ€rket, kommit överens med IKEA Hackers om att siten frĂ„n slutet av juni 2014 fortsĂ€tter som en fan-baserad blog utan kommersiella inslag.

Essentially, it uses the standard arguments of confusion, safeguarding its trade mark, and—the Google translation follows—‘When other companies use the IKEA name for commercial purposes, it creates confusion and rights are lost.’
   This can be fought, but Jules elected not to, and her lawyer advised against it. It’s a pity, because I don’t think she received the best advice.
   On Ikea’s Swedish Facebook page, some are on the attack. I wrote:

I would hardly call her activity ‘commercial’ in that the ads merely paid for her web hosting. I doubt very much Jules profited. But I will tell you who did: Ikea. She introduced customers to you.
   While your actions are not unprecedented, it seems to fly in the face of how one builds the social aspects of a modern brand.
   The negative PR you have received from this far outweighs the brand equity she had helped you build. It was a short-sighted decision on the part of your legal department and has sullied the Ikea brand in my mind.

   This won’t blow over. It’s not like politics where people are disinterested enough for all but the most impassioned to retain memory of a misdeed. (For example, does Oravida still mean anything to anyone out there?) Ikea is a strong brand, and mud sticks to them. Some years ago, I met a woman who still had a NestlĂ© boycott in place after the company’s milk powder incidents of the 1960s. And all of a sudden, Ikea’s alleged tax fraud (see here for the SVT article, in Swedish) or the airbrushing of women out of its Saudi Arabian catalogue come to mind. They’re things most people forget, because they go against the generally positive image of an organization or Ingvar Kamprad himself, until there’s some misstep from within that shows that things are rotten in Denmark—or in Sweden, as the case is here. Or is it the Netherlands, where its company registration is?
   Brands are, in particular, fragile. I have maintained for over a decade that brand management is increasingly in the hands of the audience, not the company behind it—something underpinning my most recent academic paper for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing. We all know that there must be as much consistency between the views of the brand held by the organization and those held by the public. The greater the chasm, the weaker the brand equity. Here, Ikea is confirming the worst of its behaviour done in the name of its brand, all for the sake of some euros (I won’t say kronor here)—meaning the consistent messages are not in clever Swedish design, but between what it’s doing in this case and what it allegedly does in Liechtenstein.
   And since the foundation that controls Ikea is technically not for profit, then it’s a bit rich for this company—accused of tax avoidance by calling itself a charity—to be calling Jules’s activities ‘commercial’. It is hypocritical, especially when you bear this in mind:

In 2004, the last year that the INGKA Holding group filed accounts, the company reported profits of €1.4 billion on sales of €12.8 billion, a margin of nearly 11 percent. Because INGKA Holding is owned by the nonprofit INGKA Foundation, none of this profit is taxed. The foundation’s nonprofit status also means that the Kamprad family cannot reap these profits directly, but the Kamprads do collect a portion of IKEA sales profits through the franchising relationship between INGKA Holding and Inter IKEA Systems.

   The tax haven secret trust the companies use is legal, says Ikea, which is why it pays 3·5 per cent tax. I have little doubt that the complex structure takes advantage of laws without breaking them, and Kamprad was famous for departing Sweden for Switzerland because of his home country’s high taxes. The cease-and-desist letter probably is legal, too. And they show you what mentality must exist within the organization: forget the Swedishness and the charitable aspects, it’s all about the euros.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, marketing, Sweden | No Comments »


Reality TV is not everything non-ïŹction

01.01.2011

I found it very odd that Antiques Roadshow and Mythbusters were nominated for the reality TV category at the Emmy Awards. Based on the vocabulary I grew up with, these are not ‘reality TV’.
   I doubt many of us over a certain age would think of The Gong Show or New Zealand’s Top Town as reality TV. Or Britain’s Got Talent. By this token, is Top Gear a reality show? It is, after all, filmed in the real world.
   I would, however, classify the usual Survivor or The Apprentice as reality TV: shows that have very little reality to them thanks to editing and sensationalism. There should be as little scripting as possible.
   The term reality TV might stem from the fact that if you believe them, you need to get a reality check. That’s probably the easiest way to distinguish one.
   So what is the difference between what I call a reality show—to date the only one I have followed was the first season of That’ll Teach ’Em—and the rest that are based on fact?
   The term was originally given to shows that purported to show reality, as based around voyeurism. Big Brother is the archetype: the idea that you could see everything with as little editing as possible, covering a long period of time. While of course there was editing, you were invited to get a “slice of life” from observation—a bit like an aquarium but humans replacing goldfish.
   The genre extended to those that relied on heavy editing for dramatic effect. Survivor and The Apprentice are perhaps the next best known. There’s a week’s worth of footage to condense into an hour, so there’s a lot of fodder that editors can cut to create heroes and villains and play on our dramatic expectations. The Amazing Race qualifies if we use this definition.
   Where, pray tell, is there “reality” in Britain’s Got Talent and its licensed ilk? We see a performance and some background. If we argue that the background deems it a reality show, then the nightly news must qualify—it, too, provides background to a story. As does 60 Minutes. Or the Miss France telecast on TF1.
   Antiques Roadshow hardly gives us a slice of life greater than a documentary. Where is the long period of time in which we follow Jamie, Adam, Grant, Kari and Tory on Mythbusters? Should we now revise our thinking to include the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World as a reality show, as it is of a similar genre?
   For those of us who dislike the reality genre—because they take up precious time where we snobs can see some decent dramatic programming—the claiming of regular documentary and talent shows as reality TV is surely a sign that the genre has passed its heyday. If The Apprentice in the US continues its downward spiral ratings-wise, one of the biggest shows in that genre will be history, consigned to being something that was “so 2000s”.

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Posted in culture, France, interests, media, New Zealand, TV, UK, USA | 7 Comments »


An ideal surfing camera, and why we love the Saab 9-4X more

20.11.2010

My friend Gareth Rowson is now review editor for WideWorldMag.com (alongside his design practice). Here is his test of the waterproof Oregon Scientific ATC9K Action Camera, filmed while surfing at Vazon in Guernsey. I thought this was very nicely shot.

   Less well shot, but significant, is the official video from Saab USA about its new 9-4X crossover SUV, from the LA Auto Show. I spotted this on YouTube when I went to get Gareth’s video. So nice to see Saab confident and launching new models again—showing that it doesn’t always pay to be part of a larger corporation such as GM. Now part of the Netherlands’ Spyker, Saab seems to rediscovered some of its mojo—and despite the 9-4X not being built in Europe, the public seems to accept it more readily than the Subaru Impreza-based 9-2X and the GMT350-based 9-7X.
   Part of that is down to the 9-4X looking like a Saab and not a facelifted Subaru or Oldsmobile, but there’s probably more than that.

   The 9-4X is still based around a GM architecture—as is the large 9-5—so to call these signs of an Saab free from GM is not terribly fair. It’s even built at a GM plant in MĂ©xico—as the 9-7X was built at a GM plant in the US. You might even say that Saab’s products were beginning to come right under GM, even if it took them long enough—and “getting it right” was probably spurred on by crises, too.
   Our more ready acceptance of the 9-4X probably stems from three things: (a) the loyalty shown by Saab owners around the world when the brand was on its last legs under GM—demonstrating that there was far more life in the brand than the general public was prepared to admit; (b) a company with its back to the wall that was more ready to embrace decent marketing operations; and (c) its readiness to speak to its audiences through web videos and other media, something that it did not do well when it was part of GM. Being free of the negativity of GM doesn’t do the brand any harm, either.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, internet, marketing, Sweden, USA | No Comments »