#144 Norway not amused by 7-Eleven?
Scandinavians are definitely not prude, and they do have a sense of humor. Nonetheless, Norway – the country that’s ranked among the happiest nations globally – may not have appreciated 7-Eleven’s most recent attempt at being funny and socially responsible. In an ad campaign across Norway, 7-Eleven proclaimed “Welcome to Norway” and “Welcome to the Land of the Midnight Sun”. The images used in the campaign show picturesque scenes of Norway magnificent fjords or, in one case, a young, blonde, smiling couple in traditional Norwegian national dress. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, except that the subtitle on the posters read “Welcome to the Land of Chlamydia”. In TV ads, 7-Eleven elaborated ““Norway. Land of the fjords, the mountains, the midnight sun, and chlamydia. Norway has one of the highest rates of chlamydia in Europe. Visiting from abroad? Protect yourself against the locals! Get your condoms at 7-Eleven.” It is a fact that with 488 cases per 100,000 population, only the UK, Sweden, and Denmark have more cases of the sexually transmitted disease, but it’s still inconceivable how the ad would be appealing to either visitors or residents of Norway? Tourist boards across the nation who are dedicating their entire existence to the attraction of foreign guests weren’t exactly delighted. The organization Visit Norway has slammed the campaign by saying that it portrays Norwegians as ‘uncouth, lewd, sex-mad people’. 7-Eleven may have applied some logic in designing this campaign and while it may actually increase impulse buys and help raise public health awareness, it probably wasn’t good for long-term brand building in Norway. Then again, some people might say that all press is good press.
July 11, 2018 @ 3:15 am
Wow! That is an epic marketing fail on so many levels. While I’m sure there is someone with a dark sense of humor and very sarcastic somewhere deep in the bowels of 7-11 marketing, that advertisement was more suited to a bad standup comedy routine than an advertisement. Humor in particular does not translate perfectly across cultures, so it was a risky move from the outset but insulting to everyone regardless. It’s campaigns like these that reveal the importance of having a diversified workforce in terms of international experience and hiring local talent before moving into a new market. Diversity means that you have at least some internal checks so perhaps someone stands up and says that type of humor could be viewed as insulting. However, hopefully 7-11 can use this as a teaching point. This may be an opportunity for the marketing department to assess company culture. Is there room for disagreement? Are employees encouraged to speak up and play devil’s advocate? Is dissent welcome? Furthermore, this at least speaks to the need to gather data on ads. The move into Norway was expensive, and it could have probably been saved by spending a bit more on a focus group instead of cutting corners.
July 15, 2018 @ 9:25 pm
It’s known that the Scandinavian inhabitants are one of the happiest people in the world. But you cannot assume that such a country accepts and laughs about every kind of joke which is made at their expense.
In my opinion it depends on the joke. In general, there are good topics, bad ones and also taboos, that nobody talks about because they feel ashamed. Norway has a low uncertainty avoidance and therefore the inhabitants are also more open minded and maybe not that old-fashioned, nevertheless is it ok to make a joke about a country where a negative fact or in this case also a taboo theme is spread across the country’s borders?
In my opinion it is true that it ruins the country’s reputation and 7-eleven went too far.
September 20, 2018 @ 5:04 pm
Being Norwegian by marriage, this topic caught my eye. Of course I had to go and find the commercial to see what the fuss was all about. I have to say that the ending was a little surprising. I can only imagine the reaction to those seeing it for the first time. The first part of the ad, speaks to all the things that Norway should be proud of in its beautiful scenery. The ad made an attempt to be funny at the end, speaking to tourists, and warning them to protect themselves from the locals. If I were a tourist, I wouldn’t be watching TV, but rather seeing the beautiful fjords. But did 7-11 go too far?
7-11, now a Japanese held firm is run by a CEO who formally ran GameStop with a corporate motto to be the leader in convenience. There is a lot to think about in that mashup alone. As I think about the type of people or the market that 7-11 caters to in the US, I see young people. Did the advertising agency pick the right group to market? Certainly. Does Japanese culture deal differently with such private issues? Perhaps.
7-11 used a local agency to create the social media and outdoor billboard ad. One would assume that this agency would be keen to local sensitivities. Is the issue that the ad appears to be a tourist ad, but is really a public health care message? Was 7-11 attempting to make light of, or bring light to a growing health issue in Norway? Either way, it seems like a cheap shot at selling a product. No matter how you feel about the ad, one truth still holds – even bad press is good. The ad went viral, the people of Norway are talking about it – laughing or angry – so the ad agency came through for 7-11. The people of Norway may not like the approach that 7-11 took, but if their goal was to sell condoms, I’m not sure any advertisement would have been acceptable. People don’t want to talk about buying condoms any more than they want to talk about sexually transmitted diseases. It was a bold choice by 7-11. It may have worked.
March 28, 2019 @ 12:29 pm
As the post (and also Natalie in the comment above) suggests, it can be argued that “any press is good press”. However, I think this ad crossed the line. It resembles populism in politics: trying to grab attention with provoking statements.
Even though I think it’s acceptable to use provoking methods in marketing (not so much in politics) it should never be at the cost of being humane. Therefore, I don’t see how anyone could think this ad was a good idea. It’s clear that Norwegians won’t like it since it’s the same as if I put an ad up in the US that states something like: “Welcome to the US, the nation of freedom and school shootings. Get your bulletproof vest now at 7-11, you can find them right next to the textbooks”.
What was missing here is emotional intelligence from decision makers at 7-11. We talked about marketing fails in this course when we learned about product readiness. However, in this case, there was a lack of Corporate Readiness as well since there was a clear lack of understanding the culture. Unfortunately it was not the issue of not understanding the Norwegian culture but culture in general. I’d even go as far and say it’s stupidity that was the problem.
March 31, 2019 @ 10:41 pm
This is by far probably one of the worst marketing campaigns I have ever seen. First of all just because Scandinavians or Norwegians are considered the most happy and humored group of people does not mean that they will laugh at any type of humor, especially disrespectful humor. I know for a fact if this ad was released in the United States people would react in a similar fashion. After reading these blogs weekly I am starting to question the type of marketing managers intentions and liability. Although they backed their ad with valid facts and “awareness”, it doesn’t make the campaign moral and stereotypes/labels Norwegians in a negative light. There are other companies that might get away with a campaign like this one, that presents itself in a more mature fashion and is an actual condom brand, but still may be considered offensive.
June 25, 2021 @ 10:10 am
Chlamydia? Really? I mean how…how could this happen? And who should this ad address? I’ve never heard of such a bad marketing strategy! Yeah, sure it is an eyecatcher first, but it really overshoots the limit. Some people in Scandinavia have this disease and for them I think…it won’t be funny when they see this advertisement…it is just an embarrassing situation. In 2018 I visited Thailand and there you will find a 7-eleven on every corner. There the commercials are completely reluctant and minimalistic without such awkward slogans. It is just a small store where you can shop snacks and essential groceries.
In my opinion Norway does not need such a campaign…they are one of the most beautiful countries in the world and they could easily win visitors with their magnificent lakes, fjords, humorful people and their hospitality.