The International Branding of the Nordic Region is the focus of this research insight and case study, based on a recent article published in the academic journal 'Place Branding and Public Diplomacy'. In the article, Johannes Magnus presents the intriguing case of the Nordic region's initiative to brand itself internationally, requiring collaboration among many different stakeholders and concerted action across country borders.
- How five countries and three autonomous territories are collaborating for joint region branding;
- The approach to strategically brand the Nordic region;
- Whether the branding strategy for the Nordic region can be considered a success;
- What it takes for region branding initiatives to be successful.
Johannes, what motivated you to write this article for the journal Place Branding and Public Diplomacy?
Back in 2013 the Nordic Ministers for Cooperation had commissioned the Secretariat to the Council of Ministers to explore the idea of setting up a joint Nordic strategy for international branding of the Nordic region. Bodil Tingsby (former Head of Communication in the Nordic Council of Ministers), Jesper Schou-Knudsen (former advisor at the Nordic Council of Ministers) and myself were appointed to create a pilot study, which later led to the first-ever strategy for branding the Nordic region internationally.
Which are the key insights from this project?
The work with the pilot study and the strategy was extremely interesting, due to the projects uniqueness of being the first attempt to strategically brand the whole Nordic region: five countries and three autonomous territories. The work gave us important insights how to brand the region.
First of all, it was important to identify and coordinate the Nordic brand architecture, and to outline how all the sub-brands, such as ‘New Nordic Food,’ ‘Nordic Noir,’ and ‘the Nordic Model’ are interrelated. While similar brand architectures are primarily used in the private sector, this approach is also applicable to the challenges in a diverse region of different national narratives.
Establishing a strong brand architecture allowed the Nordic countries to minimize intra-brand competition and encourage involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the brand-building process.
Secondly, using the term ‘The Nordic Region’ as a unified concept enabled each country or player to refer to characteristics that do not apply specifically and individually to Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Åland, the Faroe Islands or Greenland. For example, the brand could emphasize being part of a strong region with a population of 25 million and a large and diverse range of industries and culture—not to mention a varied and fascinating natural environment—and all the opportunities that arise as a result thereof.
Thirdly, the strategy is overarching, and includes all political sectors and industries.
The Nordic region is a complex mixture of elements, many of them intangible: ‘soft’ aspects such as feelings, mental associations, perceptions and emotions. It is the intangible aspects of the Nordic brand that make it so valuable and desirable, because the brand is emotional by nature.
Also, what binds the Nordic countries together is what generates sufficient strength to attract the interest of the outside world. After years of close and successful collaboration, we in the Nordic region take our common areas of strength for granted. Nevertheless, it is important to express the common strengths we feel we have in relation to the outside world. The region branding strategy establishes what we are and how we want to be perceived among audiences outside of the Nordic region.
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