Scandinavian brands are driven by design

As I wrote in my recent newsletter which some of you have received, I’d just come back from my holidays in Sweden and Finland. Besides going from one island to another on the way from Stockholm to Turku, I also spent some time discovering local brands.

As far as my funky brand spotting goes, the first thing that caught my attention in Stockholm was the abundance of design-focused shops selling everything to do with design. Design furniture, design lamps, design toys, books about design -- the buzz word of my entire shopping experience was design. But not just any sort of design -- it was all about Scandinavian design.


Before taking off on holidays, I published a Funky Brand Interview with the manager of The Cube by Electrolux -- a stylish restaurant in Brussels, built as a temple to the brand values of this Swedish company. An important feature of this restaurant is that it was built in the best traditions of Scandinavian design -- the latter being one of the sources of inspiration for Electrolux which prides itself about its Nordic roots.


All of this made me think that the notion of Scandinavian design played a very important role for many companies from that region, and I wanted to find a proof of my hypothesis.


And bingo, my own observations about the role of design for Scandinavian companies were proven right. It is absolutely true that design plays an important role in branding strategies of many Scandinavian companies.

An interesting study I can recommend in this respect if you're interested in the subjects of country branding and country of origin is Nordic brands towards a design-oriented concept by Ana Roncha (( Journal of Brand Management (2008) 16, 21–29 )).


Having looked into the brands of 3 companies -- BoConcept, H&M and IKEA -- the author of the study concludes that the notion of Nordic design plays to the advantage of these companies as an overarching aspect which signals, above all, quality. Nordic is a signal of country of origin (here, rather, region of origin) which by itself has a certain set of brand associations. In the minds of those people who purchase brands which have associations with "Nordic" or "Scandinavian", these notions stand for:

  • good design
  • functionality
  • superior quality.

As you can see, Nordic has a direct association with design. Furthermore, Nordic design or Scandinavian design has a further layer of associations, which are:

  • ergonomics
  • use of natural materials
  • simplicity mixed with a sometimes edgy approach
  • innovation.


All excellent brand qualities to communicate to your customers! This is why H&M, IKEA, Electrolux and others are smart to use the country brand associations in their positioning and brand communications. In other words, the concept of Scandinavian, or Scandinavian design, serves as a meta-brand which gives positive perceptions to the products it is attached to.


Yet another good example of a great Scandinavian company built around design is Biomega. I've published a Funky Brand Interview with the bicycle brand Biomega before. Watch a video with the brand's creator Jens Martin Skibsted here, in which he talks about the role of design:


London Design Festival 2010: Jens Martin Skibsted from Dezeen on Vimeo.

So, if you live in one of the Scandinavian countries and want to build a company, consider an idea which has to do with design, and you'll have a whole set from positive brand associations right from the beginning.

For my other articles on meta-brands and country branding, here are some of the previous posts I can recommend:


Country branding: Belgium

Philippe Starck gives a boost to photo booths

Events as brands: Paris Fashion Week

How "Made In" labels influence purchasing decisions


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