The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Clarity Not Assumption …

So this is a few weeks old, but IKEA recently opened a store in the Middle East.

This is what happened …

While IKEA dealt with the situation with grace and self depreciation, it highlights the potential problems of different cultures – and departments – working together.

It’s all to easy to assume the designers should have read ‘same text, but in Arabic’ and worked out their job was to write IKEA in Arabic. But apart from the fact many designers believe their job is about the craft of what they’re given rather than the reason for it, language structure is hugely different in cultures and so many people feel it is better to take words literally than risk making the wrong assumption.

When I lived in China I had a shirt I loved.

I’d worn it so often, it was covered in patches basically holding it together and so in the end, I realised that if I wanted to keep wearing it, I’d have to get another one made.

Fortunately, the fabric market had loads of people who did this so I went there and asked them to make me the same shirt.

A week later I went to collect it, and what did I find?

A shirt that was identical to the one I had given them.

Right down to the rips and patches that was on the original.

In other words, I’d had them make me a shirt I still couldn’t wear.

And it was my fault.

Because when I said, “could you please make me a duplicate of this shirt”, I assumed they would get without the worn out bits … but that’s on me, not them and that’s why anyone who wants to work in other cultures or with other cultures needs to understand they have to communicate on the audiences terms, not on theirs.

16 Comments so far
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To be fair, all your clothes have patches on them so I bet they thought it was “style”.

Comment by Bazza

I think Robert’s fashion has always been a misunderstanding. Not misunderstood, just one big misunderstanding.

Comment by George

A tragic misunderstanding. Constantly.

Comment by Rob

Hilarious, but not as funny as that t-shirt you had with Mr T chains on it.

Comment by Pete

funny in a fucking horrific and culturally appropriating way?

Comment by andy@cynic

I bet Ikea will never make that mistake again. Or maybe they will, it’s a simple way to steal attention and then demonstrate how well they fix it. We know another brand that followed a similar strategy don’t we Robert.

Comment by George

Yep. And it works very well when done properly rather than superficially. I like IKEA, I think they’re very good at evolving how their brand has a role in culture … a real one, where they do things that ultimately benefits their audience and beyond rather than just saying it does.

Comment by Rob

It is amusing but it also shows a lack of collaboration between markets. Where one thinks the others role is simply to execute what they want. It’s a classic mistake and yet it continues to happen even with companies talking about their commitment to integration and collaboration.

Comment by Pete

oh youre so fucking worthy.

Comment by andy@cynic

Life imitates sitcom.

Comment by John

campbell. you could explain stuff in pictures, sign language, morse code, storybooks, films, music or theatre and id still never understand what the fuck youre on about and dont even get me started on how confused id be on why you were doing it.

Comment by andy@cynic

That just about covers everything.

Comment by DH

He’s always surprisingly concise in his hate. Ha.

Comment by Rob

its just so easy when its about you campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

Like taking candy from a baby locked in a basement.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Billy is back and as subtle as usual.

Comment by George

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