To celebrate 250 years of free speech and encourage tourism, The Swedish Tourist Association gave the country its very own telephone number.
The Swedish Number is open to anyone around the world. When people call +46 771 793 336, they are connected to a random Swedish citizen (who has signed up to help) and can chat about any subject – from politics to culture, women’s rights to entertainment and all things Swedish.
The campaign has already received more than 170,000 calls from 186 countries. It also generated more than 9 billion impressions, and $146m of media value with zero media spend. Obviously its proved to be a very interesting way to inspire interest into the Swedish tourist market. They had an aim to make people curious about Sweden and make them discover parts of the country off the beaten track. They want to inspire travel and outdoor activities in Sweden and their members also help run facilities like hotels and hostels. It’s a little bit like the National Trust in the UK. They also want to educate people about the Swedish mentality, behavior and culture.
Being a small country I think Sweden identified with the fact they don’t get many opportunities to be featured in international press, or have access to funding to buy media space like others can do either. This an idea that was able to resonate and generate interest across the globe so effortlessly without any spend behind it. This may have been sparked by the fact it was culturally inspired by the 250th anniversary of the Swedish Press Act, which stated that all citizens in the country have the right to free speech. Approaching the issue this way they didn’t address only a specific part of Sweden or solve a specific problem. They made answering the phone for Sweden a national movement.
In an age of every developing technology and media platforms, I think this is a beautifully considered campaign that flipped everything on its head. It broke through by making the digital interaction analogue again. People can talking badly about places and express their opinions so effortlessly on social media whilst they hide behind screens. You call because you’re curious, and you pick up because you’re interested. I also think it was an extremely brave move to relinquish control in this situation. They handed the reviews over to the public, and let them say whatever they wanted to the callers. But in doing so they empowered people to express their views genuinely, and it obviously inspired fantastic results. Just because technology is everywhere it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Big ideas like this can still break through without it.