I am correcting the following translation from Portuguese and I don't believe the word 'reference' is correct:

Ikea, furniture manufacturer and reference in retail, have already been called 'the company that makes the most mistakes in the world'.

I have checked the Cambridge dictionary and Oxford dictionaries, but I can't find something better than 'market leader' which I don't think is exactly what the writer is looking to say.

  • 2
    I don't much care for any of the answers. What is the Portuguese? Jan 30, 2021 at 4:12
  • FWIW, although plural verb is considered acceptable with a group noun, it doesn't work in this particular case because the designation "the company" resolves the plural/singular ambiguity in favor of singular and demands that the verb agrees.
    – Ben Voigt
    Feb 1, 2021 at 16:29

12 Answers 12


Perhaps you're looking for benchmark.

A standard by which something can be measured or judged

Inflation ... is a great distorter of seemingly fixed economic ideas and benchmarks” (Benjamin M. Friedman).

[American Heritage Dictionary]

Another good choice would be touchstone.

A standard or criterion by which something is judged or recognized.

It is a touchstone against which I measure my own political views.



An alternative to benchmark is yardstick.

That has the figurative meaning:

A standard to which other measurements or comparisons are judged.



Gold standard is an idiomatic phrase that means essentially what you are looking for here.

Ikea, furniture manufacturer and the "gold standard" in retail, has…

If someone/something is the "gold standard", then they are the leader to which everyone/everything is compared.

It is an obvious reference to the classical monetary system, which uses a fixed quantity of gold as the standard economic unit. All money is ultimately compared against gold, which serves as the standard.

I believe that is probably the closest to the original meaning, even though it is a phrase instead of a single word.

If you absolutely must have a single word, the other answers are acceptable, but I would recommend simply leader.

  • 3
    Doesn't ‘gold standard’ also imply superior/top quality — something which most others will fall short of?
    – gidds
    Jan 31, 2021 at 15:04
  • Yes, which matches well with the contrast in the original phrase: "Even the retail giant, Ikea, to which others are compared, has been called 'the company who makes the most mistakes in the world'." Feb 1, 2021 at 23:57

Such a company has become a point of reference or criterion for the other companies.

point of reference: a fact forming the basis of an evaluation or assessment; criterion (Collins)

For example you can say:

Over the years the company has become a point of reference among manufacturers of lightweight plastic products signed “Made in Italy” and a symbol of innovation and attention to the environment. (source)

However, I think that the word that really fits the bill is hallmark:

A benchmark against which others of the same type are compared (WordHippo)


MAC has become a hallmark in today's makeup world. (source)


Paragon could work here:

a model of excellence or perfection

This choice would draw a sharp contrast between their success vs. "the most mistakes".



: one that serves as a model or example: such as

  a: an ideal model



Considering you're describing the number of mistakes they make, which most people would consider to be a negative quality, perhaps a term like low bar would be appropriate?

To establish an expected, required, or desired (but ultimately constrictive) standard of quality. (source)

i.e.: You don't want to make as many mistakes as IKEA does, so as long as you're doing better than they are, as long as you "meet the low bar", you're doing alright.


You can use the expression flagship company:

The flagship of a group of things that are owned or produced by a particular organization is the most important one.

(Collins Dictionary)

Ikea, furniture manufacturer and a flagship in retail...

Usage examples:

From Corporate Branding: Areas, arenas and approaches (2015):

As Pierre Godé wrote in a submission on behalf of LVMG to the European Commission, the corporation recognizes itself as a flagship of the European LVMH ..

From: Doing Business With China: Avoiding the Pitfalls 2012:

Alibaba's core businesses included: Alibaba.com, the-group's flagship company and the world's leading B2B ecommercecompany...

  • 2
    IKEA may have a flagship store, but IKEA itself cannot be the flagship of anything, because it has no parent owner. Your examples appear to be consistent with this analysis. Jan 31, 2021 at 5:47
  • @AntonSherwood - IKEA can be the flagship company of its industry, retail business, and in that sense it compares with other companies in the same industry.
    – user 66974
    Jan 31, 2021 at 6:38
  • 2
    A flagship is only comparative within a single owner's portfolio. It can't be used to refer to a stand-out company among multiple unrelated companies or product lines (i.e. companies or product lines with different owners). Jan 31, 2021 at 7:15
  • 1
    In each of your examples, an enterprise is described as the flagship of its parent corporation, consistent with the definition you cited from Collins. If you find us some examples of a ‘flagship’ among competing entities, I'll undo my downvote. Jan 31, 2021 at 7:44
  • @AntonSherwood I get where you are coming from and it's nice remark. But I have to disagree. Company actually may be a flagship in industry. In this case, industry itself is considered as "metaphysical owner": all companies belong to industry. They may compete, but their behaviour as such is irrelevant under this "industry" umbrella. Or you may look at it as if we are just not taking the trait of (literal) flagship being a leader of fleet, but taking the trait of it being a ship all others have to look at, omitting it has to be a fleet, if you understand what i mean. Feb 1, 2021 at 10:39

Bellwether works.

: one that takes the lead or initiative : LEADER

also : an indicator of trends

Thus you could have:

Ikea, furniture manufacturer and a bellwether in retail, ...


In addition to the other suggestions, paradigm may be one word to use.

  1. One that serves as a pattern or model.
  • IME paradigm refers to an abstract concept rather than a concrete entity. Jan 30, 2021 at 0:21

Although used primary in manufacturing the term "World Class" could be used.

World Class Manufacturing (WCM)

World class manufacturing is the philosophy of being the best, the fastest, and the lowest cost producer of a product or service. It implies the constant improvement of products, process and service to remain an industry leader and provide the best choice for customers, regardless of where they are in the process.


Pivot? Landmark? I think these two fit context pretty well.

I guess word you are looking for doesn't have to (even has not to) carry a flavor of something bad/negative. Quite the opposite: phrase is build on contrast, kinda as though many companies look up to ikea as a leader/role model, it has its flaws: makes mistakes. Btw, you can even drop the noun and just say: ikea, the manufacturer, industry looks up to, *has* already been called....

What was the original word? How is it translated literally?

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