From Iceland — If You Don't Burn The Goat...

If You Don’t Burn The Goat…

Published October 24, 2015

If You Don’t Burn The Goat…
York Underwood
Photo by
York Underwood

It will disappear.

Fire is the fuel for this ongoing marketing campaign. Fire and a human sacrifice, that’s what IKEA wants.

It’s a form of marketing that’s surprisingly cost effective: erect a huge wicker-man-like effigy of a “yule goat” (Swedish) and then tempt people to burn it down. You get free media coverage when it’s erected and free media coverage when it’s vandalized, at a much cheaper cost than placing an ad. Crowds will look into the hircine inferno and think to themselves, “I should get a new breakfast cart, something small. I think I would use my living room more if I had a breakfast cart. It could really brighten up my Sunday.”

I’ve been discussing various plans all week, ranging from clever disguises to trebuchets. I’ve day dreamed various scenarios that all ended with Clair De Lune playing on the stereo as my partners-in-crime gazed skyward through the rear window at the billowing smoke–cruising away safely in the getaway car.

That’s a best case scenario. Well, it’s a simple best case scenario. There could be best case scenarios that somehow tie the successful burning of the goat to thwarting an alien invasion or eradicating a straw-born pathogen that could have wiped out the entire island.

I guess what I’m saying is that it stokes the imagination. It’s effective advertising. That’s probably because this tradition in Sweden was invented by an advertising consultant in 1966, Stig Gavlén. The first year, the goat was erected at the beginning of the advent and burnt down on New Years Eve. Since then, it’s been the target for vandalism and arson. The goat was made to burn. The better angels of our nature find it hard to be heard over the voices in our head shouting, “Burn it, Burn it down!”

Everyone is in on the game. There is 24-hour surveillance and a security team. The Managing Director of IKEA Iceland,Þórarinn Ævarsson, even told reporters, “People will have to be very resourceful if they intend to ignite the goat.”

Is he saying I’m not resourceful if I don’t burn it down?

Is he saying I can’t burn it down?

This a Faustian gambit they are playing. If I were a religious man, the temptation of fire with the image of a goat would have me screaming with cross in hand, “DON’T TEMPT ME SATAN!”

And make no mistake, it is a deal-with-the-devil. If you do vandalize this goat, you will be charged or fined or both. The consequences are real. You probably won’t spend anytime in jail thanks to overcrowding, but good luck going on vacation to New York.

66°North did the same thing with its placing of expensive winter coats in glass at bus stops and look what happened. The perpetrators haven’t been caught, but the brand was in the news again, for the cost of a jacket–significantly lower than the cost of placing an ad.

That’s the other-side of this seemingly playful game. We all want to see someone get caught. Someone must be sacrificed. That way we can keep our fantasy. For you see, If I would have done it my way, I wouldn’t have gotten caught. The whole debacle would jerk-off our collective egos, all the while we wouldn’t mind checking out the scene of the crime–possibly grab the bookshelf we’ve been meaning to pick up since September.

Yet here I am talking about it.

Falling into the trap.

But if I didn’t there would be no goat.

It needs us to pay attention or it will disappear.

Who will we sacrifice this year?

Any volunteers?


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