Nor­way: An um­brella brand for Nor­we­gian in­dus­tries

For­mer Thai-Nor­we­gian Cham­ber of Com­merce pres­i­dent, Axel Blom, speaks on Nor­way’s new brand­ing strat­egy

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - text by Ezra Kyrill Erker

Many around the world would prob­a­bly sus­pect Nor­way of be­ing a pro­ducer of high qual­ity prod­ucts but would be hard-pressed to name a sin­gle Nor­we­gian brand. For the in­ter­na­tional con­sumer, neigh­bour­ing Swe­den, Den­mark and Fin­land each prob­a­bly pro­duce more name brands that come to mind. Yet de­spite the lack of recog­ni­tion Nor­we­gian prod­ucts and ser­vices are all around us in Thai­land, from telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions to paints, seafood and mar­itime ser­vices, as well as be­ing ac­tive in the au­to­mo­tive, agri­cul­ture and bank­ing in­dus­tries, among oth­ers. To tackle the short­fall in brand recog­ni­tion, the Nor­we­gian Govern­ment through In­no­va­tion Nor­way is em­bark­ing on a de­sign strat­egy that will make Nor­we­gian in­dus­tries more recog­nis­able: Through stark lines, fixed an­gles and pre­scribed shades of grey, aqua­ma­rine and red, as well as an evoca­tive ar­chive of stock pho­tog­ra­phy, Nor­way it­self be­comes a brand, with the tag line “Pow­ered by Na­ture”. Clus­ters and sec­tors can use it for in­dus­trial fairs and con­fer­ences; the logo, tem­plates and la­bels can be com­bined with in­di­vid­ual com­pa­nies’ sym­bols and trade­marks to be­come col­lec­tively iden­ti­fi­able. In­no­va­tion Nor­way rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Bangkok, Axel Blom, sat down with the Re­view to ex­plain the con­cept’s ben­e­fits and po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tions for Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies in Nor­way and abroad, as well as for the Nor­we­gian tourism in­dus­try. “Brand­ing is a dif­fi­culty for Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies,” Mr Blom says. “Very few brand names are known, so there is a need to raise aware­ness of Nor­way and Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies and to try to build an um­brella brand which will be eas­ier to be recog­nised abroad, and to use this um­brella brand in all con­cepts in and out­side of Nor­way, es­pe­cially in clus­ters, such as in the mar­itime clus­ter and the en­ergy and en­vi­ron­ment sec­tor. That’s where you see the ap­pli­ca­tion right now.” The In­no­va­tion Nor­way of­fice in Thai­land works pre­dom­i­nantly in the en­ergy and en­vi­ron­ment sec­tor but also with ma­rine prod­ucts such as fish and seafood, Mr Blom ex­plains. The Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia of­fices typ­i­cally work with oil and gas and the mar­itime sec­tor, which are very im­por­tant for Nor­way in those coun­tries and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“Brand­ing is a dif­fi­culty for Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies,” Mr Blom says. “Very few brand names are known, so there is a need to raise aware­ness of Nor­way and Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies and to try to build an um­brella brand which will be eas­ier to be recog­nised abroad.”

“The brand­ing con­cept is rel­a­tively new,” he says. “I’d say about a year and a half old. I don’t think any in­di­vid­ual com­pa­nies have used it yet; it’s more for use on a clus­ter ba­sis. In­di­vid­ual com­pa­nies will typ­i­cally want to use their own brand, and I don’t see a prob­lem with that. These are typ­i­cal pan-Nor­we­gian ini­tia­tives, and we need to build aware­ness of the brand­ing in Nor­way be­fore we can start ap­ply­ing it in­ter­na­tion­ally.” The con­cept is strict in terms of de­sign, an­gles and colour. The an­gle must match the de­gree of the mid­dle stroke of the N in Nor­way. Colours com­prise four ac­cept­able shades of aqua­ma­rine blue, solid red and grey. Let­ter­ing can be white, black or two tones of grey. It

is a chal­lenge for de­sign­ers, but stay­ing strict to the tem­plate is crit­i­cal to the ini­tia­tive’s suc­cess. The Thai­land of­fice may be one of the first In­no­va­tion Nor­way of­fices try­ing to pro­mote the con­cept in­ter­na­tion­ally, due in part to Mr Blom’s per­sonal in­ter­est in brand­ing de­sign. In his pre­vi­ous po­si­tion with Scan­di­na­vian Air­lines he was heav­ily in­volved with brand­ing, and the com­pany was at the fore­front when it came to such ini­tia­tives. “By us­ing the same brand­ing con­cept it’s eas­ier for com­pa­nies and clus­ters to get recog­nised. At In­no­va­tion Nor­way we haven’t got very far in us­ing it out­side of the mar­itime sec­tor. We have started to ap­ply it to all fairs and ex­hi­bi­tions out­side Nor­way, for ex­am­ple. For the Nor­way-Asia Busi­ness Sum­mit [April 25 to 29, 2014, in Bangkok], we have de­cided to use the brand­ing con­cept for the whole sum­mit.” Com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in the con­cept can have their de­sign­ers down­load ma­te­ri­als in English or Nor­we­gian at the web­site,­no­va­tion­nor­, in­clud­ing tem­plates, lo­gos and stock im­agery for free. Ad­vice on ap­pli­ca­tion is read­ily given. “We’re very gen­er­ous in that re­spect,” Mr Blom said, “but strict­ness in ap­pli­ca­tion of the de­sign is nec­es­sary.” Con­sis­tency in ap­pli­ca­tion is nec­es­sary in or­der to achieve ben­e­fits in the long term, but the con­cept is still in a nascent phase that will take time to be­come recog­nis­able and vi­able. “We are test­ing new ground with the ap­pli­ca­tion of the con­cept con­stantly, for in­stance we have only used it for me­dia ad­ver­tis­ing a few times and in this re­spect we need to work with the ma­te­rial to find the op­ti­mal bal­ance be­tween the com­mu­ni­ca­tion mes­sage and the de­sign con­cept. In ad­di­tion we have never built a web­site us­ing the brand­ing con­cept, but we’re go­ing to do that.” Be­ing sit­u­ated in Thai­land is no hand­i­cap in this re­gard, he said, as web de­sign in Thai­land is of high qual­ity and is of­ten avail­able at a lower cost than in Nor­way. “We’re try­ing to de­velop it for the Nor­way-Asia Busi­ness Sum­mit and see if they ap­prove our de­sign in Nor­way, and in that case they have an­other way that it can be ap­plied. We are in­vent­ing as we are go­ing along.” Mr Blom was pres­i­dent of the Thai-Nor­we­gian Cham­ber of Com­merce for six years un­til Vibeke Lys­sand Leirvåg Con­sel­van took over this year. His com­pany, Blue Busi­ness So­lu­tions, rep­re­sents In­no­va­tion Nor­way in Thai­land. The lat­ter is wholly owned by the Nor­we­gian govern­ment, with the man­date of sup­port­ing SME businesses. “In­no­va­tion Nor­way helps com­pa­nies start up in Nor­way, grow in Nor­way and when they are ready for the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket In­no­va­tion Nor­way as­sists the com­pany in find­ing new mar­ket­places and client bases and ex­pand­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally.” As for brand­ing Nor­we­gian in­dus­tries and ser­vices, the process will take time, he says, but it is nec­es­sary to make the first in­roads. “You have to start some­where. The Nor­way-Asia Busi­ness Sum­mit is a great way for us to start brand­ing it. This is a ma­jor all-Asia ini­tia­tive where the Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies will come and it can be a good ve­hi­cle to get the aware­ness out.”

Nor­way is the small­est among the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries but un­known to many it is a world leader in a num­ber of in­dus­tries such as oil and gas, mar­itime and en­ergy & en­vi­ron­ment.

De­spite the reach of Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies in Thai­land such as Jo­tun, Te­lenor, Wal­le­nius Wil­helm­sen Lo­gis­tics and Yara, in terms of recog­ni­tion Nor­way still lags be­hind its neigh­bours. “Den­mark and Swe­den have a bet­ter spread of in­ter­na­tional brands. Den­mark has tra­di­tion­ally been ex­cep­tion­ally good at de­sign and brand­ing, the Dan­ish fur­ni­ture in­dus­try is an ex­am­ple of this. Swe­den with its large in­dus­trial base also have a num­ber of well reco­ginsed brands. Nor­way is the small­est among the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries but un­known tio many it is a world leader in a num­ber of in­dus­tries such as oil and gas, mar­itime and en­ergy & en­vi­ron­ment..” Fel­low EFTA mem­ber Switzer­land has al­ways been good at brand­ing, es­tab­lish­ing a rep­u­ta­tion of qual­ity, he says. In Mr Blom’s field of avi­a­tion, Swis­sair was one of the first to fo­cus on its brand recog­ni­tion. SAS like­wise did re­search on global im­pres­sions of Scan­di­na­vian prod­ucts, and key terms that came out of it in­cluded “mod­ern”, “in­no­va­tive”, and “in­for­mal”. This brand ma­trix helped SAS po­si­tion it­self on the in­ter­na­tional arena. Even with­out the logo, Mr Blom says, people could recog­nise the com­pany lit­er­a­ture by touch and feel. Brand Nor­way should like­wise evolve into a recog­nis­able force. “We need to start see­ing Nor­way as an um­brella brand that is recog­nised as such when we ap­ply it. We need to be strict in or­der for the brand to be rec­og­nized as well as the at­tributes it stands for: high qual­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity, be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. This is a com­pletely new con­cept for Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies.” Mar­itime, oil and gas, en­ergy and en­vi­ron­ment clus­ters will adopt it con­sis­tently for fairs, ex­hi­bi­tions, sem­i­nars, Mr Blom says. The con­cept has its ori­gins in a brand­ing sys­tem de­signed for the Nor­we­gian tourism trade which has used the de­sign, in­clud­ing the slo­gan “Pow­ered by Na­ture”, since 2007. Nor­way’s tourism web­site, www. vis­it­nor­, has won sev­eral awards for tourism web­site de­sign. Use in the brand­ing of Nor­we­gian in­dus­try will have the sec­ondary ben­e­fit of pro­mot­ing Nor­way it­self, though, as a na­tion and as a travel des­ti­na­tion. For lo­cal use, the “Pow­ered by Na­ture” slo­gan has been trans­lated into Thai lan­guage and script. “We’re try­ing to get more Thais to go to Nor­way. At the mo­ment it’s mainly a des­ti­na­tion for those who’ve been to Europe, say two times. Third time’s to Nor­way. The draw? It’s a coun­try pow­ered by na­ture.” Well heeled Thai vis­i­tors are at­tracted by the com­pet­i­tive prices of lux­ury goods and scenic side trips such as buf­fet

lunches on Ice­landic glaciers. Help­ful in the tourism re­spect will be Nor­we­gian Air­lines’ new ex­pan­sion into Thai­land. “It’s the first in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal low-fare op­er­a­tor be­tween Europe and Thai­land, and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see the com­pany’s im­pact on Nor­way’s tourism in­dus­try in the fu­ture.” Mr Blom says. In­no­va­tion Nor­way re­mains a key com­po­nent of Team Nor­way, rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try’s in­ter­ests abroad. “Ev­ery coun­try’s Team Nor­way usu­ally con­sists of In­no­va­tion Nor­way, the Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Nor­we­gian Em­bassy in ad­di­tion to other gov­ern­men­tal sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tions.” These bod­ies co­or­di­nate closely to pro­vide a team re­sponse to the va­garies of the mar­ket­place, eco­nomic or po­lit­i­cal tur­bu­lence and iden­ti­fy­ing pan-Nor­we­gian is­sues and short­falls, such as the one of how to cre­ate brand recog­ni­tion for the na­tion’s in­dus­tries.

In­no­va­tion Nor­way’s Thai­land team mem­bers Axel Blom and Yanin Srathong­noi at Na­tional Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Fair in 2012 show­cas­ing Nor­way-branded ex­hi­bi­tion ma­te­rial

Clock­wise from above: Solvorn in lus­ter. Photo: Erik Jør­gensen / vis­it­nor­; Sta­vanger, oil plat­form. Photo: An­ders Nielsen/In­no­va­tion Nor­way; Bour­bon Orca 2. Photo: Har­ald Valder­haug

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