Why is the latest London Underground tubemap sponsored by IKEA? That's 1672 wall-mounted maps at stations, each with a huge IKEA advert slapped across the bottom. That's six million pocket maps, distributed between now and next March, their back covers emblazoned with a big Nordic slogan. And that's four million Oyster wallets, no longer sky-blue but Swedish yellow, being flashed across London's ticket gates for the foreseeable future. Oh very clever Herr IKEA, very clever indeed. But why? Why attempt to brand the tubemap, when your stores aren't exactly tubemap-station friendly?
I mean, for a start, why go to IKEA by train anyway? It's fine if you want a vase or a tea strainer or some votive candles, but buy anything bigger like a flatpack wardrobe or a sustainable bunkbed and you're not going to get very far by public transport. IKEA is a car-owner's furniture warehouse, located where road access is most convenient, and stuff anyone arriving without their own wheels. Anyone attempting to take the tube home with a shelving unit or sofabed is going to jam themselves between a pair of IKEA-sponsored ticket gates.
And here's why I'm really concerned about this branding takeover. The IKEA ad on the back of the tubemap lists all four of their London stores and also how to get there. And, well, the nearest tube stations aren't exactly close, are they?
» IKEA Croydon [IKEA Ampere Way tram stop] Now that's clever. Apart from a certain oxygenated phone company (and, some would argue, Arsenal football club), IKEA are the only major company to wangle their brand into the name of a London station. In this case, however, it's only a tram stop, and Croydon's tram network doesn't yet appear on the tubemap. So it's not much use advertising there for spur-of-the-moment shoppers, is it?
» IKEA Edmonton [Tottenham Hale tube station. Free shuttle bus] Aha, an IKEA at a tube station that's actually on the map. Except that this tube station is well over a mile from the store so you'll have to wait for the occasional free shuttle bus, or walk. There is a nearer National Rail station, Angel Road, but it's not on the tubemap, it's closed at weekends and it doesn't accept Oyster cards. Which is a bit rubbish really.
» IKEA Lakeside [Chafford Hundred rail station] Cheat! This one's not even in London. It's two miles outside, and five miles from the nearest tube station (which is Upminster). Sure you can get here by c2c train, every half hour or so if you're lucky, but they don't take Oyster this far out either. It's M25 or bust, really.
» IKEA Wembley [Neasden tube station] [Free shuttle bus from Stonebridge Park tube station] I love the way they call this IKEA Wembley, not IKEA Neasden. But then the store is a really grim walk from Neasden tube - long and tortuous involving dubious road crossings and a seriously mucky footbridge. Or take that lovely shuttle bus, approximately every half an hour, from the forgotten end of the Bakerloo line. It's not ideal.