Why Denmark is suffering a branding crisis (and what can be done about it)

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Justin Cremer - [email protected]
Why Denmark is suffering a branding crisis (and what can be done about it)
Business leaders say Denmark needs to be better at branding its positive aspects. Photo: Ty Stange/Copenhagen Media Center

A new report from the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) shows that Danish brands are virtually unknown outside of Denmark and that the problem will hamper the nation’s ability to attract the brightest young minds from abroad.


In a survey commissioned by DI, 2,500 young people from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and China were asked to identify Danish companies. Only one in seven were able to name a single Danish firm and only one in 20 could identify two or more Danish brands. 
Lars-Peter Søbye, the CEO of consulting group COWI and the chair of DI’s ‘global talent’ board, said the lack of familiarity with Danish brands is a blow to the country as a whole. 
“If Danish companies and Denmark are unknown, it becomes more difficult for businesses to attract the talent from abroad that they need. They will simply not be as competitive,” he said in a DI press release.
DI, which has frequently bemoaned the tone of Denmark’s immigration debate as a hindrance to attracting top international talent, said that the nation risks losing out on the imported workforce it needs. 
“If we do not act on this, we risk that Denmark will have a shortage of highly qualified employees. Shortage of staff is bad because there is then a risk that manufacturing and growth will migrate to places where manpower can be found or that businesses will simply avoid Denmark altogether,” Søbye said. 
The DI-commissioned survey also asked young students and recent graduates which countries they could see themselves living and working in in the future. There, Denmark placed just 14th out of 20 nations. The United States was the clear winner, with 28 percent of young people saying they would consider moving there. 
Denmark trailed Scandinavian neighbours Sweden and Norway and was one of the lowest-ranking European countries on the list. However, when the young respondents were asked about cities, Copenhagen placed a respectable eighth, topping regional competitors like Berlin and Stockholm. 
The survey also found that 63 percent of respondents had an overall positive opinion of Denmark, compared to just two percent who viewed it negatively. Around 13 percent said they were too unfamiliar with Denmark to have an opinion. 
Despite its scattered positive signs, Søbye said that the survey results indicate that Denmark needs to develop a national branding strategy to attract young internationals. 
“Denmark and Danish companies have so many great things to offer, but what use is that if none of the people we are trying to reach know about them?” he said.
He said the country should do more to highlight the elements that make Denmark appealing, like its work-life balance, generous welfare system, low crime rates, flat company hierarchies and easy access to nature. 
“We have to treat Denmark as if it were a business: draw up a plan, invest in it, follow up on it, adjust it and measure our results,” he said.
Christian Kurt Nielsen, the managing director of recruitment firm Mercuri Urval, backed the call for a new national branding strategy. 
“As a company and as a politician, you could start by asking yourself why a student high-flyer from China should choose Denmark and not Canada, for example,” he said.
DI said that in the first months of 2017, it would present a strategy for how Denmark can better compete for global talent. Further results of its global survey can be found here (in Danish).


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