Denmark’s sexy brand image takes a beating
October 2nd, 2009
The senior operations director for tourism agency Visit Denmark stepped down after a promotional video made to encourage international tourists to visit Denmark was released online and then criticised heavily by the media. The video tells the story of an attractive new mother whose baby is the product of a drunken one-night stand with a foreign tourist. She is in search of the baby’s father due to the fact that she is unable to remember his name or nationality because she had been too intoxicated. The video has caused backlash, as it is perceived to send out a negative message about the nation, unprotected sex and promote promiscuousness.
Behind the news:
We can’t believe the people behind this video set out to put Denmark on the map as a sex haven: the prime place in the world where promiscuous foreign men will enjoy free sex with loose local women. Denmark is one of the most respectful countries in the world of women’s rights, and is a strict enforcer of equality in all areas of public and private life.
This is an inside cultural joke gone horribly wrong. In Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, making fun of oneself and one’s image is very common in advertising, and seen as a stylish, ironic way to avoid a direct “hard sell”. Some Scandinavian commercials use this cultural trait, and say exactly the opposite of what they mean in order to gain sympathy.
Visit Denmark probably means to convey something like “yes, we know you think Denmark is all about loose sex, and we don’t mind to poke fun at ourselves and even darken the picture. And that’s what we’re all about and why you should come: we’re unpretentious, fun, relaxed.”
A classic instance of “export marketing” gone wrong: not taking global perception into account, using an inside cultural reference as a global message, being misunderstood and instead of getting people’s sympathy, reinforcing the worst possible stereotypes of your brand.