The image of Sweden abroad.
What do others know about us? Is the picture of Sweden in the heads of foreigners the image we want them to have? And is that image the result of Swedish lobbyists or historical performances of Sweden as a country?
The issues above and others were discussed at a seminar in July arranged by the Council for the Promotion of Sweden (Nämnden för Sverigefrämjande i utlandet). Swedish Minister of Trade Ewa Björling was there, as was British policy adviser, author and researcher Simon Anholt. One of the problems Sweden seems to have in establishing a clear image abroad, is that it has no one strong symbol to carry its name. We have, in other words, no Eiffel tower. Sweden is weak in culture and has no famous universities. What our country is famous for is good governance – but that doesn’t really create a strong visual. Of all foreign countries, Sweden has its strongest fan base in Germany. Nordstjernan recently wrote about Germany’s love affair with Sweden and it’s fair to say Sweden is idolized in Germany. Idolized and admired as a country that stands for clean nature, gender equality and welfare. Germany and Sweden also share cultural and historical roots, and that might also play a part.
Sweden in America
The image of Sweden in America is also positive, but not as strong, it is clear that Sweden is fairly insignificant to most Americans. In general it is seen as a progressive country, which can sometimes be used as an interesting example. Much focus during the Gotland seminar was on how Sweden is to be branded, but the British expert on nation branding, Simon Anholt, doesn’t feel branding is necessary when it comes to Sweden. Anholt used the example of two types of country brands: The functional and the decorative. Germany, according to Anholt, is a country that typically symbolizes a functional image. “This is where you want something done,” he said. Italy, on the other hand, is pure decoration. “This is where you want to spend your honeymoon.” Where in this mix is Sweden? According to Anholt, Sweden has the privilege of being a bit of both. It is both a place for culture and technology as well as a place for clean nature and strong industry. And this, Anholt says, has nothing whatsoever to do with nation branding but of decades of strong economy, good welfare, peaceful relations with nature and Sweden’s famously generous attitude towards poorer countries. Sweden, according to Anholt, is so great it can actually market itself! What do you think?
The Council for the Promotion of Sweden (Nämnden för Sverigefrämjande i utlandet) consists of: Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry for Enterprise, Energy and Communications, Visit Sweden, Swedish Trade Council, Invest Sweden and the Swedish Institute. For more info, see www.si.se, www.swedishtrade.se, www.investsweden.se, www.visitsweden.com