The key to IKEA.

Both the flat pack and the Allen key are important features of the quite revolutionary idea of working together with your customers. Intelligent people who realise that if they help out a bit at the end of a long production and distribution process, they can only win. They get a sustainably produced piece of furniture with good function, quality and design, at a really low price. But what’s the catch? Well, you probably know the answer already.

In the early days, a lot of customers were frustrated and confused the first time they got home and opened their IKEA flat packs. Even with the included Allen key, many struggled to understand the sometimes complicated assembly instructions. Add a bit of hunger and time pressure to the mix, and things were not going well. But as time went by, IKEA got better at simplifying assembly and clarifying the instructions, which improved customer relations a lot.

Facsimile of IKEA assembly instructions in Swedish for armchair, explaining how to use the Allen key.
Crystal clear, right? Assembly instructions for ROBIN HOOD, armchair 1968.
Opened IKEA flat pack seen from above containing the parts for a piece of blond wood furniture.
Now your part of the work begins.

Seeing the potential

IKEA did not invent the Allen key, but could see its huge potential even in the 1960s. It was a clever little tool. Could it perhaps revolutionise the furniture industry? You rarely need a toolbox to put a piece of IKEA furniture together. It’s usually enough with one small, yet powerful, tool. The Allen key and the flat packs make it possible to keep prices down without compromising on form, quality or function.

Flat packs take up less space, making them far cheaper to transport from the factory to the store, and on to your home. So instead of the factory charging to put a chair together and then sending it off in an unnecessarily large parcel, you do part of the job yourself. You simply invest a bit of your time, and enjoy a lower price.

Facsimile of IKEA ad with close-up black and white photo of frustrated man biting on an Allen key.
“Loved and hated for 30 years.” – We know. But together we’re saving money, remember? Norwegian ad campaign, 1993.

Take home and put together instantly

In the 1960s, being able to take something home and put it together the same day – from a baby’s cot to a whole kitchen – was quite a sensation. Before, you might have to wait for weeks or even months. “We do half – you do half,” as IKEA claimed in its advertising. And, “We make furniture and send it out in flat packs. You groan a little and put it together!”

Nowadays, people are far more comfortable working together with IKEA. And it really is about working together. IKEA works with its suppliers and does the designing, manufacturing, packing and distribution to the store. And customers buy the furniture, drive it home, get a bit stressed and put it together. Together is key!