Written by Julian Stubbs | Stockholm
on January 21, 2024

Has the world fallen out of love with the Swedish brand?

Unless you've been living on planet Zog for the past few years, you'll have noticed the significant media attention on Sweden grappling with a rise in gang-related crime. This has posed a challenge to its longstanding image as one of the safest and most peaceful nations on the planet. Prominent media such as The Economist, CNN and the BBC have extensively covered the subject. The Swedish government has made managing the situation a top priority. 

The rise in gang-related violence, previously concentrated in vulnerable urban areas, has now expanded to involve quieter communities. Authorities suspect the orchestration of some incidents by criminal leaders based in other countries, adding a transnational dimension to the issue. The impact is significant, with over 300 shootings more than 50 of them fatal and more than 140 explosions in 2023.

The latest data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reveals that Sweden currently has one of the highest per capita gun death rates among European countries for which statistics are available. In a notable shift over recent years, Sweden has surpassed Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia in terms of gun-related deaths per 100,000 population. Presently, it stands as the second-highest in this category among European nations, with populations exceeding one million, trailing only Albania. This represents a significant change from its 14th-place ranking in 2010, highlighting a concerning trend in the country's gun-related mortality rates.

As reported in The Financial Times, Ulf Kristersson, the Swedish prime minister, offered his diagnosis for the unprecedented violence, directly blaming “irresponsible immigration policy and failed integration”. 

“I cannot over-emphasise the seriousness of the situation,” added the leader of the centre-right Moderate party. “Sweden has never seen anything like it before. No other country in Europe is seeing anything like it.”

How has this affected the Swedish Brand?

Looking at the business and commercial impacts of these social issues is also interesting. Has the Swedish brand been impacted by the rising crime and gang-related issues?

The Place Brand Observer (TPBO), an organisation that looks at the competitiveness of places in terms of inward investment, tourism and recruitment by compiling data from various indexes, still sees Sweden as relatively strong at the moment.

To look at just some of their sources, the Global Soft Power Index 2023 by Brand Finance has Sweden securing the 11th spot, sitting below Italy (9th) and the UAE (10th). 

The Anholt-Ipsos Nation Brand Index (NBI) calculates its ranking based on averaging the scores of six different factors: exports, governance, tourism, culture, people and immigration, and tourism. According to the NBI 2023 ranking, Sweden secured the 10th position, a drop of just one position since 2022.

Sweden, classified as a high-income country within the European regional group, currently holds the 9th position in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2023. 

The Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking Tourism Edition 2022-2023 places Sweden at the 29th position globally. Regionally, Sweden continues to hold the 15th position, sitting behind Norway (13th ) and Ireland (14th). 

In the Good Country Index, Sweden currently holds 1st position overall, with notable sub-factors such as Science & Technology (15th), Culture (13th), International Peace & Security (39th), World Order (9th), Planet & Climate (2nd), Prosperity & Equality (1st), and Health & Wellbeing (2nd). The country has maintained its 2022 positioning.

Finally, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index 2023, Sweden ranked in the dark blue zone (9-10 range) with a 9.39 out of 10. This is higher than Denmark, which scored 9.28, and Ireland 9.13, but lower than Norway, which scored 9.81.

These are obviously just a few of the indexes and reports available, but despite the bad press so far, Sweden seems to be holding its own. 

But the billion kronor question is for how long?

stockholm capital of scandinavia

Valentine's Day Seminar: Has the world fallen out of love with the Swedish brand? 

To look at this important topic from a business perspective, a short valentines day seminar will be held in Stockholm on February 14th, aiming to discuss and debate the implications of the rising crime rate on Sweden's global image and reputation.

To what extent are the problems impacting the nation's image and reputation as a safe and peaceful country, and more significantly, how does it affect aspects such as business, inward investment, tourism, and the recruitment of international top talent?

A panel of experts, including specialists in place branding, marketing, and business, will give their thoughts on the impacts on various aspects of the Swedish brand. 

Stockholm-based British broadcaster and producer Maddy Savage, who has two decades of experience working for the BBC and other high-profile global media, will be the moderator for the session. She will be putting attendees questions to the panel in a special Place Branding Question Time special seminar.

Full details for this event are available here. 


VENUE: GT30, Grev Turegatan 30, Stockholm

DATE & TIME: Wednesday 14th February.

Registration opens at 15.30. The session is scheduled to commence at 16:00 and will conclude at 17:15, followed by snacks and drinks.

Register by clicking HERE to attend in person or watch the streamed session. 

The event will take place in central Stockholm. Capacity at the venue is limited so register early. However the event will be streamed online as well. 

About the author Julian Stubbs: 

Julian Stubbs is an international brand strategist and writer, who has worked on the branding and marketing of various international brands, organisations and places such as Technicolor, the Hollywood movie brand, The Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo and the city of Stockholm, Sweden.

He has worked extensively marketing places and destinations, including Hamburg, Basel, The Netherlands, and notably Stockholm as "The Capital of Scandinavia," among others. His first book titled 'WISH YOU WERE HERE' details this work for Stockholm as well as some of the major issues place brands face. 

In January 2011, Julian founded UP THERE, EVERYWHERE, the pioneering global cloud-based agency, and under his guidance, it has evolved into one of Sweden's leading marketing agencies with a growing global client base.

Julian identifies himself as a Liverpool FC supporter first and secondly as a proud European who has his home in the beautiful city of Stockholm, Sweden. 

More on Julian here

Julian Stubbs-2

Article Sources 

The EconomistThe Guardian (UK), Financial Times & The Place Brand Observer 


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