…And a Child Shall Lead Them

June 29, 2009

circle-children

Swedes take special pride in the protection, care and development of its youth.  Its safe to say Sweden understands and values the premise that their children of today, will soon become the adults of the future who will ultimately run their country.  Swedes obviously believe in giving their young people the very best start in life to ensure successful futures among its youth population.  So it should come as no surprise that governmental policies require that:

  • New parents  get a total of 13 months of paid maternity leave and the father is required to take at least 1 month of it following the birth of a child.
  • All parents get 480 days of paid leave per child, which MUST be claimed before the child turns eight.
  • There is a abundance of organizations that offer support services to help and protect the rights of Swedish children including a organization, Friends, whose mission is to stamp out bullying in school.
  • School is basically free for all children

Swedish children, like most of the countries inhabitants, boast a high levels of Internet usage and engagement. It has been noted that Swedish children surf the internet as much as they watch TV, if not more often.  With two of the nine million people in Sweden being under the age of 18, I believe it makes perfect sense for any brand seeking to use social media to promote their products or services plan to strategically target the youth of Sweden in their efforts.

Many can arguably agree that children can be quite influential to their parents likes, dislikes and interests.   Even if  a brands product or service is not necessarily geared towards children, there can still be profound value in marketing to the youth.  Popular social media sites that Swedish children frequent  such as Facebook, lunarstorm, skunk.spray and hamsterpaj can be used to promote topics on everything from best travel destinations for soccer enthusiast to best ways to keep your pet environmentally friendly.

The children of Sweden obviously matter greatly in their culture.  Brands that seek to invoke engagement and peak the interest among Swedish youth will certainly appeal to the masses as well….And inevitably, those youth grow into adults who become and loyal supporters of the brand.

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Going mobile with video in Sweden

June 28, 2009

Swedes love to share files. One blogger for guardian.co.uk claimed in December of last year that the country “could be considered the world’s unofficial home of internet piracy.” But a copyright protection law that went into effect in April landed file sharing website Pirate Bay founders behind bars and put a major dent in P2P activity, sending overall Swedish internet traffic tumbling by a whopping 33% overnight. Many feel that fear of being caught illegally sharing files will irrevocably change the nature of the web experience there. 

The CEO of a Swedish ISP feels “if this pattern keeps up, it means the extensive broadband network we’ve built will lose its significance.” This may mark the beginning of the end for illegal P2P in Sweden, but I don’t see it as likely that social media participants and infrastructure will now sit idle. May I suggest (based on the limited research done) that there is a timely opportunity for companies wanting to build their brands in the social media scene in Sweden. The idea should be obvious enough…provide high-quality sharable content (with a creative commons license) to fill the gap left by illegal P2P. 

One area in particular to focus on in the next year or two is the mobile arena. Sweden is a leader in mobile broadband already and will soon have a lightening fast 4G network. “We are now going to build the next generation of mobile networks and change the rules of the game for the Swedish mobile market,” said the CEO of one of the mobile companies involved. 

Perhaps more than anything else, fast mobile networks allow for a superior video experience. It’s worth remembering the first viral campaign using high quality video in the hard line environment to imagine what can be done in the wireless arena. In 2001, BMW posted a series of short-format web movies created by famous “big-screen” movie directors (you can watch them all here). Each featured actor Clive Owen driving a BMW automobile. Action or humor was used to advance each plot, but the car was the real story and the movies were essentially long-format ads. The campaign garnered huge word of mouth by email (this was pre-YouTube and social networking) and BMW succeeded in sharing their message of high-performance, luxury and safety. The high-quality video format, production value and “you gotta see this” plot-driven approach were noteworthy and made it go viral.

The same characteristics should garner significant attention when introduced into the mobile environment, as they did eight years ago in the static setting. The major difference now is cell-to-cell (and social networking) would replace email as the viral connection medium. My recommendation for a corporate social media strategy in the Swedish market (and elsewhere where 4G is rolling out) takes advantage of the new mobile bandwidth to deliver hip, plot-driven HD video to tap the public’s demonstrated interest in sharing entertainment content.

A campaign could stop there and be successful. But to really leverage the benefits of 4G in Sweden, a company should create a stockpile of modular vignettes (that could optimally be constantly expanded) and be dynamically assembled to create customized and on-demand videos based on the specific location of a cell user, let’s say in Stockholm. Some outdoor advertising (billboards, public transport shelters, etc.) might be needed to get users to pull content for the first time. The idea here is to deliver “location contextual” video…that’s the power of 4G! A cell phone’s GPS data might be used to identify the correct geo-targeted video components to be assembled once the user is connected to the download server. 

Other factors that could influence the dynamic assembly and make the video even more customized could be that day’s weather (another location contextual variable pulled from a weather feed and then used to select rainy or sunny clips) or any information the company has on that specific user from previous interactions offline or online (for example, women see actresses and men see actors). The more the video could match the user’s actual real-time experience, the more it should resonate and build a connection with the brand.

Companies could even use a variation of the practice of product placement in the dynamic videos. An actor in the location contextual video might walk into an existing store where they would buy the company’s product. It would be part of the plot, but deliver a sales message at the same time. This promotional aspect is completely optional, however.

The core strategy is to create engaging videos with relevant storylines…videos that individual mobile users would want to watch and share with friends and family in their mobile or social networking circles. 

Gregg Rapaport


Substance Behind the Style

June 28, 2009

se2009euAs global environmental and sustainability awareness grows, we can and should turn to countries like Sweden to learn from them and model best practices. In the past, they have shown a willingness to further their environmental efforts beyond their borders, partnering with countries such as China on environmental issues. In just a few days (July 1), they will take over the presidency of the European Union (EU) for a six-month term, further expanding exposure to the country’s environmental platform on the world’s stage.

I love my Saab, thoroughly enjoy my semi-annual pilgrimage to IKEA and have been known to drool over Electrolux appliances. And like many women of my generation, I have also done my fair share of singing along to Swedish pop. But for all my consumption of Swedish goodness, I did not know much about the country’s stance on the environment and sustainability until recently.

They’ve been busy.

I was struck with how much Sweden has invested in sustainable development, not just in terms of resources, but in terms of ensuring its policies and public outreach reflect the government’s stance regarding the environment. While much of the world has only recently focused significant attention on figuring out how to handle environmental issues and implement sustainability practices, the Swedes have been at it for more than half a century. Sweden seems to be well on its way to accomplishing an ambitious agenda to meet very specific sustainability goals.

eq objectivesIn 1999, the Swedish Parliament adopted 16 Environmental Objectives (EQOs), on which the country’s environmental policy is based, along with 72 interim targets. According to the government’s Environmental Objectives Portal, “the idea is to be able, by 2020, to hand over a society in which the most serious environmental problems have been solved.” (The date is 2050 for climate change.) The portal provides details on each of the 16 objectives, along with a progress report discussing additional actions needed to reach the goals. The report also discusses obstacles identified.

Named one of the top 5 tech hotspots in the world by Entrepreneur magazine in 2007, Sweden is a sophisticated, tech savvy country with a deeply rooted environmentally and socially responsible conscience. With Sweden’s penchant for technology and early adoption, there seem to be opportunities for brands to use social media to reach consumers there.

According to Swedish website The Local, “Sweden’s communication with the rest of the world is also changing. The country’s official website… has strived for increased interaction and transparency through a series of bold steps” including live-fed, no-delay comments at one point, in addition to blogs, RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook. The Local adds that over 80 percent of Swedes are regular Internet users, and 70 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds browse the web regularly. Politicians have also been using social media to communicate with voters and constituents. Twitter is slowly catching on, with Swedes making up the 15th largest group of Twitter users worldwide.

Given its deeply ingrained social conscience, however, companies should remember to look at their track record on social and environmental issues before treading on Swedish soil, and remember the role of social media as tools in their overall marketing and communication strategy.

And if they need a reminder of the country’s abiding passion for the environment (and hints for areas to explore), they should only look at the Swedish government’s sustainability blog for a few quick facts:

  • Svante Arrhenius (1859–1927), winner of the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1903, discovered the greenhouse effect. As early as the 19th century, he produced calculations that anticipated global warming.
  • Swedish meteorologist Bert Bolin (1925–2007) was the first to chair the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2007, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel peace prize, which Bolin shared with Al Gore.
  • In 2007, Sweden beat the world recycling record. Eighty-five percent of all glass bottles and aluminum tins were returned.
  • Sweden tops the green shopping list, at least in Europe. In a recent study by the European Commission, 40 percent of Swedes said they had purchased an eco-labeled article over the past month. The EU average is 17 percent.
  • Interest in organic food is steadily increasing. In Europe, the organic food market is growing 5–7 percent a year, and even faster in Sweden. In 2007, two of the largest food chains in Sweden reported rises of 18 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
  • Sweden is ranked eighth in the world in terms of ecological farmland, which now comprises over 7 percent of its total acreage.
  • Sweden is one of the few industrialized countries to have reduced carbon emissions. Between 1990 and 2006, these declined almost 9 percent. Over the same period, the economy grew 44 percent.

Can Social Media Help Bypass Advertising Regulations in Sweden?

June 28, 2009
Do not accept jars from this bear.

Do not accept jars from this bear.

As technology and Internet usage booms throughout the world, with more people using social media tools and going online for most aspects of their life, I always find it interesting to see how other countries stack up on time spent online. Upon researching social media in Sweden, I found the following fact on the official Website of Sweden:

“Young Swedes surf the internet as much as they watch TV. More than one in four 12- to 15-year-olds watches TV at least three hours a day. Just as many spend as long surfing the internet. Half of all five-year-olds and one in five three-year-olds have browsed the internet. Children aged 12-15 prefer to chat online, while 9- to 11-year-olds are more interested in playing computer games. The most popular game is The Sims. The most popular chat rooms are: http://www.facebook.com, http://www.lunarstorm.se, http://www.skunk.spray.se, http://www.hamsterpaj.se.”

Upon researching further, I found that Swedish children spend 4 hours more online than children in other countries (9 hours vs. 5 hours). Based on the countries surveyed, only Brazilian children spend more time at 13 hours. The relevance comes from further learning that “Sweden banned all TV advertising during children’s prime time in 1991. Furthermore, commercials featuring characters children are familiar with are prohibited until 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on weekends.”

So why does this matter? Because advertisers are missing out on a great opportunity to target children to sell their products, the possibility is opened that they could start turning to social media to reach children, who in turn will either buy the products or ask their parents for them. In other words, Facebook, LunarStorm, SkunkSpray, and Hamsterpaj can run strong targeted advertising campaigns on social networks to ensure that more children’s eyes are reached in a new way to compensate for the lost TV viewing.

For example, 25-year-old Swedish toymaker Playsam is new to Facebook, but is well-known to Swedes. They could begin advertising and reaching out more with their products. Playsam toys are pretty expensive, so a child isn’t likely going to ask his or her parents for a Playsam toy, but seeing ads for the toys could still help drum up business by

Playsam. These will remain on your shelf as "heirlooms"

Playsam. These will remain on your shelf as "heirlooms"

getting stuck in children’s minds, which in turn leads them to tell their parents. Or the parents could be targeted online as well. Brio toys can do the same thing.  This toy company has been around since 1884 and has a good Website where you can order their products, but showing ads on hamsterpaj could again reach new eyes, just as traditional TV commercials would. Of course, this business opportunity isn’t limited to toys. Food, clothing and technology companies can all use the popularity of the internet to their advantage. Facebook already has targeted ads that run on users’ profile pages. These ads change based on your information and discussions. Often they change based on your IP address as well. So while Brio might not be able to put up an ad during a rerun of Bamse (the bear in the picture above), it can appear when the usual Bamse viewer logs onto Swedish Facebook.

Imagine the fun!

Imagine the fun!

It does not appear that there is legislation regarding this type of targeted online advertising, meaning that the opportunity exists for companies to reach their audiences in a new way.

As a side note, while Swedish children spend a lot of time online, in a reversal of roles, one article stated that Swedish children are concerned about their parents’ web habits, feeling that they spend too much time online and view “inappropriate material.” All in all meaning that there is near unlimited possibilities for companies to hawk their wares in Sweden to youngsters and grown ups alike.


Sweden’s Social Networking Syndrome

June 28, 2009

Kid computer

Opportunities are plentiful brand online in the Baltic region; Sweden is one of the most productive users of connectivity.  Brands should consider respectfully and creatively influencing the 2 million people under the age of 18, who are active online users.  Many children start early in this progressive country with “half of all fire-year-olds and one in five three-year-olds have browsed the internet.” Children 12-15 are actively chatting online. If brands are considering what differentiates the Swedish market from others in Europe with social media usage, it is important for brands to focus on providing more local content rather than international content but the social network doesn’t have to be local as witnessed by Facebook dethroning the Swedish social network.   

Lunarstorm was once considered the Sweden’s social media behemoth and media darling.  In 2005 B.F. (Before Facebook), Lunarstorm was perhaps the largest online community with 1.2 million active members in Sweden. This audience was largely comprised of 90 percent of the country’s high school students, who spent over 25 minutes while suffering this on-line community.  Today, the average time spent of Lunarstorm 7 to 9 minutes.

Alexis

In 2008, Lunarstorm traffic dropped by 50% compared to the previous year with just under a half million unique web user.

Facebook has kidnapped the Swedish youth as the leading social media network.  The social network site has held Sweden hostage with average person with nearly 24 minutes time spent surfing the site.  In March, the number of Facebook users in Sweden has almost doubled Lunarstorm’s active member at its peak with 2,097,840.  From December to March, Facebook participation increased by 23.6 percent.


PR Parlay for Swedish Politics

June 28, 2009

sweden_general electionAs political public relations strategists place their bets on outreach plans, we’re finding the plan must be a parlay linking together both traditional and modern outreach practices. The ultimate success of these plans are dependent on both practices winning together.

As the 2010 Swedish general elections are approaching, more and more emphasis is being put on building political party brands with communities. Popular parliament parties such as The Moderates and the Social Democrats have engaged in social media outreach and are leading political pr strategies in Sweden, however; there is still no formal political social media communication strategy in place for any Swedish political party.

Social media outreach is quickly becoming a matter of state as Swedish parliament is branching out from typical campaign strategies and adopting social media to build on their pr portfolio strategies.

The Picks.

The picks for the linked strategy include both traditional and modern outreach strategies. While digital strategies will help parties build communities online, in-person engagement and traditional outreach is still a necessity.

The Odds.

Win-win. Win-lose. Lose-lose. If one assumes that the success of each single plan is a coin flip and is expected to pay out at 1:1, the true payout should instead be 3:1, a substantial difference.

The Payout.

The benefit of this parlay of a political outreach plan is that there are much higher payoffs than executing one strategy over the other since the difficulty of winning with one strategy it is much higher.

Creating a political brand using both on and off-line strategies will equip each competitor with the ability to engage communities using an array of media. The strategy will be not to use these digital strategies – but to actually engage and build online communities through social media.

At the conclusion of the 2010 Swedish general election, it will be interesting to measure the value of each plan – plans encompassing a parlay of both traditional and modern strategies – and plans that encompass only one strategy.

The end result will help pr strategists across the globe determine which plan worked most effectively in Sweden and leverage lessons learned for future elections in Sweden and around the globe.


Recession Woes? Answer: Sweden.

June 28, 2009

Couple giving two young children piggyback rides smiling

Through my research and study on Sweden, I came across some information that I found very interesting.  As of this past December 2008, Sweden loosened its labor migration laws to allow for anyone from any country to be able to work in Sweden.  Sweet!  And, to top that off, Sweden is one of the few major countries with a sound financial system and public finances (not to mention the advantages of their national currency, the krona) remaining strong even through the current economic crisis affecting the United States, and in turn, the world.  Both Sweden’s minister for finance Anders Borg and professor of political economics at the Stockholm School of Economics (Handelshögskolan), Tson Söderströmare, are optimistic about Sweden’s financial future particularly during these hard times.

With the high unemployment rate only getting bigger every month in the United States (currently at 9.4% totaling 14.5 million Americans), Sweden’s newly revised labor migration laws for foreigners couldn’t come at a better time.  Although uncertainty surrounds the topic of when the recession will end, it is clear that it will continue to worsen before it can get any better.  Catherine Holahan from MSN’s Money Blog claims that the recession will end two months after unemployment reaches its peak; passing the 10% mark.

Part of what makes Sweden such an financially strong country during the current economic crisis is the krona.  Sweden never joined the euro, instead opting to stick to its national currency.  As reported by Jonas Fredén in the Business section of the Sweden website, “As demand for Swedish products falls, so will demand for the Swedish krona. The price of the krona, the exchange rate, then drops, making products cheaper for foreigners. And that brings demand back up. This automatic exchange rate cushion helps soften blows from abroad.”  Additionally, as reported on the same site which cites its source as the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness rankings, in regards to technological readiness (the “ability of businesses and households to adopt new technology”), Sweden is the number one global leader.  They must be doing something right.

In short, if you’ve lost your job, want to change jobs, are experiencing a salary freeze, or if you’re just plain sick and tired of the effects of the recession here in the US … go to Sweden!  I’m not promising a recession-free country with lollipops and candy canes, but I can guarantee:

  • At least 5 weeks of paid vacation (and if you get sick during your vacation, count it as sick, no problem!)
  • At least 13 months of paid maternity leave (Dads, what the hey, take 1 month!) … and don’t feel rushed, carry it over for up to 5 years.
  • Free massage at work (this should be a world-wide policy)
  • Simplified tax forms
  • Free child health care
  • Up to 60 days of paid leave per year to take care of a sick child
  • Child allowance up to age 16
  • Housing allowance for young people without children
  • Housing allowance for families with children
  • And more…

Pretty cool, huh?  So, really, what’s so bad with Socialism?  Maybe Swedes are on to something.  Jon Stewart seems to think so in his clip on The Stockholm Syndrome.  Check it out.