Norway: An umbrella brand for Norwegian industries
Former Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce president, Axel Blom, speaks on Norway’s new branding strategy
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, www.innovationnorway.no, 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. visitnorway.com, 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 / visitnorway.com; Stavanger, oil platform. Photo: Anders Nielsen/Innovation Norway; Bourbon Orca 2. Photo: Harald Valderhaug