Two cents blog

How Sweden continues to disrupt itself

by Paul Cornwell on 24 May 2017

Digital disruption seems to slip into many conversations these days when marketers are considering their future plans.

“Will our category get disrupted?” they ask themselves.

“Could someone ‘do an Uber’ in our industry and how would we react?” they ponder on.

Of course, the answers are, “yes most likely,” and, “yes they probably could, but by then it might be too late.”

Category after category is being transformed through digital disruption. All you have to do is take an established business model and turn it on its head like Uber did. Like Netflix did. Like Amazon did.

There’s lots of discussion about the businesses that are most susceptible to disruption, but what about the ones that seem most protected?

Let’s take tourism as an example.

Yes, you might be able to automate a booking system like AirBnb, but you couldn’t really digitise the travel experience… could you?

Step up, Visit Sweden. The country’s national tourism body just disrupted their category by listing the entire country on Airbnb.

AdWeek explains;

At nearly 173,000 square miles, the country of Sweden is a little bit bigger than your average apartment or mountain house. But true innovation knows no physical or virtual boundaries, and the official tourism group, Visit Sweden, proved that point this week by listing the entirety of Scandinavia’s largest country on Airbnb. Curious globe-trotters with a penchant for fresh air can explore everything from the Smygehuk Headland at Sweden’s southern tip to the northernmost monuments of Three-Country Cairn, where Sweden meets its Norwegian and Finnish neighbours.

Allemansrätt, which roughly translates to “the right of public access,” is an established part of Sweden’s constitution allowing both locals and visitors to access any land (with the obvious exception of private residences) within a certain distance of a “dwelling house” or farm plot.

“This right enables the Swedish people to experience nature and enjoy the beautiful Swedish wildlife,” said Visit Sweden U.S. manager Jenny Kaiser. “In Sweden, we have everything from high mountains to deep forests, from beautiful archipelagos to quiet meadows. Now, together with Airbnb, we welcome everyone to come to Sweden and, through freedom to roam, share our wonderful nature.”


As amazing as this latest campaign is, this isn’t Visit Sweden’s first rodeo.

The Swedish Number‘, which chooses a random Swedish ‘ambassador’ to handle every call to the number, promoted the Swedish Tourist Association and won a direct Grand Prix Lion for WPP agency Ingo at Cannes in 2016. Since 2012, Visit Sweden and the Swedish Institute have also run ‘Curators of Sweden‘, a program managed by local agency Volontaire that hands over the reins of the official @sweden Twitter account to a new citizen every week. In February, Adweek talked to one particularly sharp young man who used his time in the hot seat to address and correct a newly elected President Trump.

This is a brilliant example of innovation, creative thinking and pushing the boundaries of what traditional tourism marketing is.  Hats off to the ‘Sweden on Airbnb’ team.

No doubt many tourism authorities around the world think they’re doing a great job embracing digital opportunities. They’re running social media campaigns, using Augmented Reality and some VR but are they really rethinking the potential of truly disrupting their own business?

There’s a question in this for all marketers too.

And it’s not, “Will my business get disrupted?”

It should be, “When will my business get disrupted?”

Followed by, “Can I disrupt it first?”

Something to think about.


Paul Cornwell is a Managing Director at BCM

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