Labor leads to love

The IKEA Effect

To all the Friend’s fans out there, do you remember Gladys and Glynnis?

Gladys and Glynnis are these two horrendous wall art pieces made by Phoebe (a character on Friends). Even though both the art pieces are not aesthetically pleasing, to say the least, Phoebe holds them in very high regard.

Why do you think that is?

I know Phoebe is known for her quirky and weird taste. However, one other explanation is that because Phoebe made Gladys and Glynnis, they were important and more valuable to her. 

Similar to Phoebe, when we make something ourselves, we tend to value it more. This bias is also called The IKEA effect. “The IKEA effect” was first used in a research publication: The Ikea Effect: When Labor Leads to Love. The research showed that consumers tend to value products more if they've partially created them.

Because of this effect, we are often willing to pay more for experiences requiring more effort, such as DIY candles, soaps, and furniture. I understand that the experience of making a candle on your own can be fun, but most of the time, we overpay for such experiences. The IKEA effect also works as rose-colored glasses for us. It makes us overconfident to the extent where we start loving our Gladys and Glynnis wall art. Businesses like IKEA or Build-a-Bear thrive on this effect. 

Why does the IKEA effect work?

One of the significant components of our mental health is our belief in performing well and controlling our own lives. This component is also why the IKEA effect works. For example, when we make our soaps or build our furniture, it boosts our belief in ourselves and makes us feel good. This good feeling makes us value that particular object more. 

Another reason for this bias to work is our tendency to like things that are associated with ourselves. Our optimism for ourselves is also extended to the things we own or even things we associate with ourselves. The IKEA effect might happen because our positive self-concepts spill over into the things we have made, leading us to see them as superior or more valuable.

A case study - 

One of the first case studies of implementation of the IKEA effect is not IKEA.

Even before the term was coined, the marketers realized that putting effort into something makes customers enjoy it more. This realization happened through trial and error. One such example is that of the cake mix. When instant cake mixes were first introduced into the market, they were not successful at all. It turned out that with an instant mix, the homemakers didn’t feel invested enough in the process, putting almost no value on the product. So marketers played smart and decided to involve everyone in the process. 

They changed the recipe, where the homemakers had to add eggs to the mix for it be ready. With this simple step, their sales went up, and now the market is filled with hundreds of instant cake mixes recipes!

There were other factors as well that lead to this fall and the rise in cake mixes. However, one of the significant factors was people's perceived lack of involvement in baking and lack of attachment to the product that came with it.

What can you do with this information?

Here are a few ways you can use the IKEA effect to up your marketing game - 

  1. Get people to interact with your product. One such example can be a design platform providing templates that the user can easily edit. This will make the users feel more involved and will give them a sense of accomplishment. 

  1. Give an option for the customers to customize your product. For example, many hair care brands allow you to customize your shampoo and conditioner. They let the customers pick the color, the fragrance, and the ingredients most suitable for their hair type. This helps customers feel in control which can lead them to pay twice as much!

  1. Offer experiences that are not too challenging. Make sure that your product does not require too much effort. On the other hand, if it’s too easy, the customers might not feel invested enough. Therefore find the right balance; your goal should be to leave your customers with a sense of accomplishment. 

  1. Similarly, give your customers some space for creativity. Again, research shows that limited freedom to express creativity can help customers feel ownership of the product. 

Make sure that your DIY product is like adding eggs to the cake mix. Not too easy or difficult, just perfect enough to result in a yummy fluffy cake :)

Some quick takeaways - 

  • The IKEA effect describes how people value an object more if they make (or assemble) it themselves.

  • Because of this effect, we are often willing to pay more for experiences requiring more effort, such as DIY candles, soaps, and furniture.

  • A better understanding of this effect can help you take your marketing game to the next level. 

One last thought…

Studies show that for the IKEA effect to work, three factors should be met -

  • Effort

  • Display of competence 

  • Completion

An effortful task is essential, but it will do no good if the customers cannot complete it. In a study, customers were unwilling to pay much for products that they could not put together. Even when they assembled a product but were asked to disassemble it, there was no IKEA effect.