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The Power of Creativity

‘Nation Branding’ - the idea that a country can be reduced to a single image or concept - is a fairly recent phenomenon, and guess what? It’s the Nordic region that is blazing the trail.

Evidence of the Nordic region’s incredible ability to harness ‘cool power’ is seen in FutureBrand’s 2014- 15 Country Brand Index. In the list of the top 20 countries, all of the Nordic nations appear; Sweden (#4), Norway (#6), Denmark (#9), Finland (#13) and Iceland (#15). Alright, so Japan and Switzerland made the top two slots, but what’s interesting here is that when respondents were asked to name what they thought the world’s top 10 influential cities were, not one Nordic name appeared in the results. According to the index, “countries can be usefully understood as the sum of their identity and reputation”, but it appears that being cool doesn’t necessarily translate into being commanding.

So how do the Nordics get it so right when it comes to branding? Erik Brattberg, former scholar at The Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm, remarks that the whole concept of Nordic Cool is “united by the ethos that creativity is a precious resource and from this stems attempts at nation branding."

It helps that when people think of the region, a handful of wonderfully bucolic, preconceived impressions immediately spring to mind; peace-loving principled stances, a sense of domestic wellbeing, a strong eco-consciousness (entwined with those breathtakingly arresting landscapes), an egalitarian society and an innovation-driven, tech-savvy business climate. What’s not to love?

onsider the designs by agency Neue for the new-look Norwegian passport; immediately hailed as a design classic on its release in 2014. Fusing progressive design with simplified minimalist versions of the Norwegian landscape, it captured the country’s essence perfectly. Cue Heads of State around the world screaming “Why can’t we do that?”.

Likewise ‘Brand Sweden’ designed by Swedish agency Söderhavet for the Council of Promotion of Sweden is shockingly simple, but very effective. Utilising the blue and yellow of the Swedish flag in the exact proportion and colour used since the 1600s and the textual mark ‘Sverige’, a deliberate use of the mother tongue to make a statement, the result is like a breath of fresh Swedish air - crystal clear and crisp. Note the font too, a classic mono sans-serif evoking Scandi heritage, designed by Swedish font-master Stefan Hattenbach specifically for the project.

For a region which treasures creativity above all, the results of the Country Brand Index decisively show the strength of harnessing soft power to create a reputation of international standing.

Global Brand Sweden image: Söderhavet
Norwegian passport image: Neue