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Written by Julian Stubbs | Stockholm
on March 19, 2012

More fury, which isn’t exactly a core Scandinavian trait, has broken out again over Stockholm as The Capital of Scandinavia. Headlines in national newspapers across Scandinavia have appeared raising the debate once more. This time the Norwegians have accused the Swedes of being too ‘kaxig’ a Swedish word that means arrogant. Exciting stuff.

 

Well I hate to break it to them but it was an Englishman who actually helped the Swedes become a little more ‘kaxig’. I was heading a small and good team that was responsible for developing the positioning back in 2005, so it’s rather interesting that it’s taken the Norwegians seven years to actually get worked up about it. Apparently this all came to a head a week or so ago down at MIPIM, the very large real estate conference held every year in Cannes in the south of France, where the Norwegians registered their un-happiness about it. Most real estate events tend to be accompanied by vast quantities of free food and drink, so I can imagine that after a few glasses of chilled bubbly and heated discussions, a food fight broke out and the herring started to fly. Now that would be one smelly food fight.

When we originally developed The Capital of Scandinavia work, the Danes were not exactly over the moon about it either. I had a Danish radio show ring me up and they wanted a comment. They asked me if we shouldn’t have asked permission first of Copenhagen before launching the campaign. I replied that that would be rather similar to Pepsi calling up Coke to ask permission to run an advertising campaign. Probably wouldn’t happen would it. However, I was told sometime later by a good friend, who happens to be a Dane, that the Danish unhappiness with The Capital of Scandinavia positioning had more to do with the fact that the Danes hadn’t thought of it first. But the truth is, even if they had, they couldn’t have used it even if they had wanted to. Copenhagen, fine city though it is (and the Danes do make the best bread on earth), would just not cut it as the true Scandinavian capital. Nor would Oslo which, despite being a place I really love visiting, feels more like a large friendly town than a major city. However, when in Oslo recently I did manage to buy the most expensive round of drinks I’d ever bought. The cost was more like the deposit on a small apartment.

Stockholm is the natural centre point of Scandinavia. It’s the most dynamic business region, culturally the most vibrant and geographically at the very heart of Scandinavia. Now here I have to apologise to the Finns – sorry Finland – but most of the rest of the world includes you in Scandinavia even if technically it should be defined as the Nordic region. Check any large international tourism website and it normally includes Finland in Scandinavia.

Simply put Stockholm has taken a positioning that it can rightly own. This isn’t to be confused with developing a simple slogan or tagline. A good tagline is just the creative execution that gets the core idea across based on a strong and viable positioning. BMW has claimed to be The Ultimate Driving Machine for over 35 years (being consistent and persistent in branding counts). It’s not just a slogan. It’s the creative expression of their focus on a single aspect, even a single word, when it comes to the BMW brand. Driving. If you want a real drivers car, that’s what Beemers are all about. It’s a positioning that’s helped build one of the most powerful car brands in the world.

Now we all know Scandinavia is not a country – so Stockholm as The Capital of Scandinavia is a hypothetical situation in reality. However Stockholm is the most important place for business and tourism in Scandinavia – full stop. It’s a strong and clear positioning statement.

Part of the function of a good positioning is to stake out a territory that you can rightly claim as your own. To do that you need to make a clear statement. Producing wishy washy bland generalisations just isn’t going to cut it. In doing this you will also probably tread on the toes of a few competitors and get them excited. Are Copenhagen and Oslo competitors? Of course they are in many respects when it comes to tourism and inward investment. However they are also close and important partners in the Scandinavian region as well and by working together they can help grow and advance the entire region.

As for being kaxig, or arrogant, that is something I wouldn’t advocate. However being confident is right and Swedes can sometimes be a bit too modest for their own good, so I’m proud of the fact that an Englishman has helped them stand out a little more.

Personally I’m just a bit worried that the next time I visit Norway they might not let me in.

P.S. If you want to read more about the branding of Stockholm and destinations my book Wish You Were Here goes into more detail. It's available on: Amazon USA

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Julian

Member UP THERE, EVERYWHERE

Stockholm, Sweden

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