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IKEA effect: Why We Appreciate Self-Build Furniture

Relevant topics Archive, Strategy

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    By building our own furniture, we feel more competent. These positive associations are then reflected on the product and the accompanied brand.
  • Application:
    Want to boost your customers’ appreciation for the products? Make sure people can identify with the product by personalizing or constructing it.
  • By letting customers build their own products, IKEA is able to sell their furniture for low prices since construction is one of the most costly aspects of furniture. Additionally, their customers have a higher liking for the IKEA products, because they have to build it themselves. This sounds contra-intuitive: We like it when others cook for us or clean for us, so why would we prefer to construct a table ourselves?

    A Matter of Competency

    Competence and warmth are the two dimensions of social perception: We label others by estimating how competent and how nice they are. By being able to build a piece of furniture yourself, you can signal others you are competent. In other words, self-made products have the ability to signal the builder’s competency to the rest of the world. Additionally, by investing both time and effort, people incorporate this feeling of competency in their identities, leaving them with positive associations with the product.

    This is known as the IKEA effect. This effect occurs when one has put effort into building a piece of furniture, instead of having it constructed by someone else. People have a higher liking for this kind of furniture and, after building it themselves, would be willing to pay more for it than people who did not build the furniture themselves. This effect is also observable in other product including personalizable software features or ready-made batter mixes.

    Why is this such a strong effect? The answer: Because we love ourselves.

    I Love Me: Implicit Egotism

    Human beings may be obsessed with themselves. The case of Narcissus, a beautiful hunter in the Greek Mythology, taught us that people may be fixated with themselves, their physical appearance, or their public perception. This obsession with the self is called narcissism.

    Of course, narcissism is an extreme fixation on the self. However, ‘normal’ people like us also prefer ourselves and our qualities over those of others. Do you know anyone with whom you share a birthday? Or even a name? Do you like them? You probably do. Because of narcissism, we have the tendency to look for people who are similar to ourselves. When this need for similarity unconsciously drives people’s behavior, it is called implicit egotism. It is an unconscious bias caused by favoring the self over others.

    People are intuitively fond of similar others, as they remind them of ourselves. For a tiny, invisible nudge, implicit egotism can have an influence on very important life decisions: Who you marry, where you live, or what your profession is. As the name implicit egotism suggests, people are unconscious of this effect. It can shape some people’s behavior and is visible when taking large samples.

    An example of implicit egotism are sharing a birthday with someone: Common birthdays draw people closer to each other. This effect increases when you really like your birthday. There is a higher-than-random chance that you marry someone who shares your birthday - whether this is the exact date or the day in any month.

    Take Home Message

    • Finishing one’s own products increases the feeling of competence

    • People have an inborn tendency to prefer themselves over others

    • Do you want people to love your products? Let the customers put the finishing touches on the product themselves.

  • IKEA effect: Why We Appreciate Self-Build Furniture
  • Reference:

    Klesse, A. K., Cornil, Y., Dahl, D. W., & Gros, N. (2019). The Secret Ingredient Is Me: Customization Prompts Self-Image-Consistent Product Perceptions. Journal of Marketing Research, 0022243719846063.


    Further Reading

    • Love is…: Why We Love the Brands We Use Together

      Love is…: Why We Love the Brands We Use Together

      Every day, companies and brands vie for the attention of consumers. Through a consumer’s interaction with a brand’s product, this brand wants to become an inseparable part of the consumer’s life.

      But should brands focus on the individual consumer? What if a brand can become an inseparable part of the consumer’s relationships – for example, with a spouse? It appeared that brands can benefit from focusing on couples and their shared usage of brands’ products through becoming a significant part of their shared identity narrative.

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