What you didn’t know about quirky IKEA product names

swedish tourism board bolmen

We’ve been told IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad decided to use product names instead of model numbers to counter his dyslexia. But I’m sure he never imagined a world of people — almost 80 years later — still trying to pronounce and make sense of his naming pattern.

No doubt, trying to decipher the names of IKEA products is part of the fun of an IKEA trip. They come in handy, including when you need to annoy your girlfriend.

But did you know that IKEA has a small team of people who name the 2,000 to 3,000 new IKEA products released every year?

In the latest clip “Why is it called that?” released by IKEA Museum, product management leader Christina Berg-Overgard revealed all the names have to go through a checklist to meet IKEA’s standards.

For a start, they have to be between four to 12 letters long. And if it features the Swedish letters “å,” “ä” and “ö”, it’s a bonus. They also can’t be a trademarked term or a family name, and of course, it has to be a “nice word.”

Some have shown that most of IKEA product names are derived from:

  • Proper Swedish words
  • Made-up Swedish words
  • First names (mostly Swedish, some Scandinavian, occasional exotic names)
  • Geographical names (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian or Finnish.)

So, my question is have they exhausted every Swedish town, city, mountain and lake yet?

IKEA product names vs Swedish tourism

On the flipside, Swedish Tourism Board is fighting back with a campaign of their own. Their argument, “A lot of IKEA’s products are named after places in Sweden. That’s a nice detail for a Swedish company, but it has caused a great deal of misunderstanding.”

IKEA product names like BOLMEN is a lake, not just a toilet brush

For instance, when people think about BOLMEN few think about a beautiful lake in Småland. Rather what comes to mind (and up on the Internet search) is a 99-cent toilet brush. Not very encouraging for tourism.

And now, they urge tourists to rediscover the originals. On the website, they list 21 names they want to reclaim. One of them is the popular KALLAX which is synonymous with IKEA’s cube shelving unit.

Unbeknownst to perhaps most IKEA customers, KALLAX is an actual place.

“It lies in Swedish Lapland, just outside the town of Luleå. Situated by the sea, this little spot is famous for its very smelly fermented herring (called ‘surströmming’ in Swedish). Every year in August, Kallax holds a fermented herring party where VIP-guests and locals celebrate together. So, take a deep breath, bring an open mind and discover the full taste of original Kallax,” states the website.

Certainly gives a different flavour to the hackable shelving unit.

Seems like it’s time to not just bring KALLAX, TOFTAN, NORBERG and BJÖRKSTA home but go experience them for real.