Aimfor interviews Nils Persson, CMO at Visit Sweden. Among other things, Nils shares what he thinks about the marketing of the future, why the "genuine" is on the way back, the challenges of marketing Sweden as a product and his best tips for the CMOs of the future.
Nils Persson became interested in building websites early on. His combined interest in technology, design and communication was like a perfect recipe, and when Nils started, few people were involved in web development. Despite this, his career is taking off in the banking world. With his interest in the web in his backpack, he became a web manager, which meant that he could follow his great interest. He remained in the banking and finance sector for ten years. He has since worked with online dating at Spray, where he was also a manager, worked in the electricity and energy industry and at Telia's innovation hub Division X. Today, he has been working for some time as CMO at entire Sweden's marketing company Visit Sweden.
Nils explains how it is different to work in an organization where the product is not a SaaS product, a service or consulting hours but a country:
– The image of Sweden and the destination Sweden is moving slowly, but Visit Sweden operates in an internationally very competitive market where a lot happens and moves quickly. Then it is essential to strengthen and drive those parts and take advantage of the stability. It makes it easier to be more agnostic about the channels you choose. Otherwise, you get stuck in a mindset where you need to catch on to trends. Clubhouse is a good example where people went crazy and quickly wanted to capitalize on the hype. An important question to ask, however, is what actual value it adds. Quality is crucial, and the content must be authentic and genuine. Running a channel costs money and resources.
– Visit Sweden has basic financing, which differs from ordinary companies. We haven't been affected to the same extent as many others, simply because we don't have any budgets involved in the usual sense. What has changed, however, is that 97% of the target group we previously targeted lived outside of Sweden. During the pandemic, we were tasked with marketing Sweden to Swedes. It helped us in an industry that had previously been relatively stable cyclically.
"Many want to work purpose-driven today, but the big challenge is spelt authenticity"
With a few turbulent years in the bag where the tourism industry has been greatly reduced due to the pandemic, things have now started to turn around in most parts of the world. We will get into what challenges there are when the product you are going to market and sell is an entire country. Nils elaborates:
– It's a lot about image and video content, which is important when creating a destination. A small country in the north which, in comparison to the USA, Spain, Italy and Greece, has quite small budgets to deal with. We need to find intelligent ways to be relevant and reach outside our follower bases.
– As a travel destination, Sweden could be a more fast-moving consumer product. For many, travelling here is expensive, even if the krone's exchange rate is currently favorable for many. Those who travel to Sweden are often a bit older, and you have other destinations to explore before you want to discover Sweden. So for us, it's a lot about navigating the landscape where the target group is - that's the biggest challenge. It is also challenging to find good and creative formats, as well as to make the decision when it is time to add or remove a channel.
The trends ahead
Nils thinks it is interesting to reason about the recession and when it is expected to turn around. His subjective view is that they may have exaggerated how much we were affected. Above all, he believes companies need to be more courageous when it comes to daring to invest in marketing in tough times. He explains:
– Call it scouting or hoping, but we may dare to push through and invest in marketing even during more challenging times in the future. I hope for a renaissance for the brand. There has been talk about purpose-driven marketing for a long time, but if we just talk about why I lose it, it has to be in the basic idea. If you lose authenticity, it has to come from within. Patagonia works purpose-driven, but it feels like what they do is engraved in their DNA. The genuine must be there from the beginning. I hope that the quality and authenticity increase.
– I heard on P1 a few months ago that a report from the UK showed that physical novels and books had the best sales in fifteen years, so they were not bought digitally. LPs have had a resurgence.
Finally, Nils shares his best tips for future CMOs, or for those who are completely new to their role.
– You should be honest and ask yourself what role you should have in the company. It is, of course, different what type of company you come to and where they are in their corporate journey. If you are going to take over as CMO for the first time, my main advice is to learn the company from the ground up: understand the business, the target group and the whole. Formulating a strategy will otherwise be very difficult, but building a marketing organisation will also be much more challenging.