Culture

Sweden reclaims Ikea product names: 'Bolmen, more than a toilet brush'

Dear Ikea, Sweden wants its names back.

Olle Kirchmeier/Visit Sweden

"Bolmen," Sweden wants you to know, is more than just a toilet brush. It's a sparkling, forest-lined lake in the south of the country known for clean water, boating, swimming and kayaking. Yet thanks to the wide reach of Ikea, where many products borrow their names from real-life Swedish sites, most people probably know Bolmen as a bathroom cleaning set.

Don't get me wrong. As far as toilet brushes go, this one has a nice, sleek design. But the Swedish tourism board wants the other Bolmen to come to mind when people hear the word. It's launched a new marketing campaign called Discover the Originals that's reclaiming those weird Ikea product names for the places they belong to. 

"Toftan, Ektorp, Voxnan, Hemsjö, Kallax... these are all wonderful places in Sweden. Yet most people associate these names with waste bins, sofas, bath towels, block candles and shelf systems," the tourism board says. 

The campaign focuses on 21 destinations, from Viking monuments to castles, silver mines to charming villages. Among the spots highlighted is Mästerby, which beyond being a handy step stool is a historic site on the island of Gotland that marks a 1361 battle between Swedes and Danish invaders. Then there's Järvfjället, a Lapland location of hiking and cross-country skiing trails (or an office chair that comes in dark gray, blue and beige). And Toftan, a town that's far more picturesque than the Ikea trash can that shares its name

toftan

Toftan is definitely more than an Ikea waste bin. 

Mikael Svensson/Johnér

The Discover the Originals campaign includes extensive background information on each destination, as well as ideas for things to do and places to stay. That's probably a good thing, since a web search on many of the sites pulls up Ikea products ahead of all other results.

"It is definitely time for some of the places whose names are used for some of our most popular products to also get some attention," said Ikea, which is not involved with the initiative. "They have earned it, to say the least. It is also a very fun initiative that helps spread the story behind some of our product names."    

The campaign definitely has a winking spirit, and even nods in appreciation to the ubiquitous multinational company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture and home accessories.  

"In Sweden, we are proud of Ikea and in a way you can say that they helped us make Swedish places world famous through the names they borrowed for their products," Nils Persson, chief marketing officer of Visit Sweden, said in a statement. "Now we want, with warmth and a twinkle in our eye, to show the originals behind the product names and invite the world to discover the whole of Sweden." 

At a time when worldwide tourism has taken a hit from the pandemic, the suggested Swedish destinations look extra inviting. Be sure, of course, to check any COVID-related travel restrictions before getting up off your Ektorp couch.