The Ikea Effect

Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the Ikea Effect. Though it’s been around for a while, I’ve only recently really started thinking about it, and how it relates to the larger landscape of product design and marketing. 

The Ikea Effect is the bias that we place on products and things that we “partially create.” It’s why consumers actually tend to value their Ikea products more, after putting them together, than other products that don’t require any assembly.

When people discuss the Ikea Effect, it’s often about over-valuing crappy furniture. That’s part of it. But what if the Ikea Effect could be used as a tool to make people hold onto their goods longer? 

Patagonia encourages its customers to have their pieces of gear repaired with their Worn Wear program. Red Wing preaches the art of boot care. My guess is that these small acts of going and getting a favorite jacket stitched-up, or oiling up one’s boots, adds some personal value for that item.  

I know from my own experience that just replacing the button on a shirt makes me value it more. It’s strange but true. Because I’m likely replacing buttons on a favorite shirt, there’s an added bit of ownership and love layered into it that piece. 

But how can we instill this trait into other products, not just crappy furniture, to avoid throwing so much stuff away? 

I’m honestly not sure, but what we do know is that companies, like Patagonia and Red Wing, that have figured it out are not only doing a good job of reducing waste, but they’re also helping customers value and take care of their products. 

That’s powerful for brands, and for the greater good. 

*For more about the Ikea Effect check out:
TED: What makes us feel good about our work?
Harvard Business Review: The “Ikea Effect” When labor leads to love.