PR > Culture & Context

SPELLBOUND BY SWEDEN

PRIME WEBER SHANDWICK, Stockholm / VISIT SWEDEN / 2023

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Overview

Credits

Overview

Why is this work relevant for PR?

How do you create global media attention for a destination where there’s nothing to see?

Instead of showcasing beautiful views, Sweden tuned into a zeitgeist of mysticism to show that the unseen is more interesting than sight-seeing. Spellbound brings Sweden’s mythology-steeped nature to life in a haunting audio-experience – attracting tourists by scaring them off. By geo-locking it to Swedish forests, visitors were lured onto an eerie journey deep into the woods – and got global media to travel to Sweden for a first-hand experience. By breaking every rule of destination marketing, Spellbound earned a space in culture beyond travel.

Background

Situation:

How do you promote a destination where there's nothing to see?

Despite the growing trend of nature-related tourism, Sweden’s tourism board struggled to attract international tourists to the countryside. There was a fundamental problem: compared to Norwegian fjords, Icelandic volcanoes and other epic nature destinations, Sweden’s nature is…quite boring.

In a visually driven category, defined by sight-seeing and Instagram moments, we needed to flip the script and show there’s more to experience a place than what meets the eye.

To attract today’s travelers and media, who crave something unique, we had to out-drama competition on completely new terms.

Brief:

Create a PR-driven idea that make Sweden’s nature interesting and famous among international travelers (focus US & UK) to help grow Swedish tourism – within an extremely limited budget.

Brand objectives:

-Increase destination awareness

-Increase positive perception

-Increase intention to travel

Campaign objectives:

-Earned reach

-Engagement

Please provide any cultural context that would help the jury understand any cultural, national or regional nuances applicable to this work e.g. local legislation, cultural norms, a national holiday or religious festival that may have a particular meaning.

Supernatural Sweden

Sweden’s forests may not look exciting, but there’s hidden drama and cultural significance. The idea that nature is alive is deeply rooted in Swedish culture. Today, 1/3 Swedes believe in paranormal activity and 70% rather visit nature than go to church in crisis. 3000 people speak “Elfdahlian” – “the lost forest language” stemming from the Vikings. Swedish forests echoes with eerie stories of supernatural experiences and encounters with mythological creatures like elves, trolls and huldran. These stories have inspired everything from Hollywood to fashion trends – and are seeing a cultural revival.

Spine-chilling zeitgeist

Fantasy and horror dominate entertainment, while spiritual beliefs and practices like astrology, tarot and crystals are taking over internet communities. Niche trend “dark tourism”, where travelers visit haunted places, also reflects the spine-chilling wave.

Visual backlash

66% want an escape from visual stimulation (Spotify, 2022)

36% of daily media consumption is audio (Statista, 2020)

Describe the creative idea

There’s more to experiencing a place than meets the eye. Sometimes the most intriguing experiences aren’t based on what you see, but what you don’t.

Spellbound is the world’s first travel experience that attracts tourists by scaring them off, using audio to unlock new dimensions of traveling. While most destinations showcase beautiful views, Sweden tuned into a zeitgeist of mysticism and brought its’ mythology-steeped nature to life in a haunting audio-experience.

Co-created with iconic horror-writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, the audio delves travelers into local myths that make Sweden special – reclaiming some of the mythical creatures made famous by the entertainment industry. By geo-locking it to Sweden’s forests, it lures visitors and media onto an eerie journey, deep into the unknown.

In a time of visual overload, Spellbound leverages the booming audio media’s storytelling powers to offer an intimate and immersive experience of a place – even its darker sides.

Describe the PR strategy

There’s not much to see in Sweden’s nature. But sometimes the most intriguing experiences are not based on what you see – but what you don’t.

While Sweden’s nature might not look exciting, it echoes with spine-chilling stories of supernatural experiences and mythical creatures – stories with a cultural moment that could break Sweden into culture beyond traditional travel contexts.

Fantasy and horror dominate entertainment. Astrology, tarot and crystals are taking over internet communities. We decided to ride the dark wave and unveil Sweden’s hidden drama in a haunting travel experience.

We partnered with iconic horror-writer John Ajvide Lindqvist for authenticity, using audio for its power to bring the unseen to life. A geo-lock feature became a hook for global media to visit Sweden.

This broke every rule of destination marketing:

-Audio instead of images

-Unknown instead of the known

-Attraction by fear instead of beautiful scenery

Describe the PR execution

The haunting audio experience was created in partnership with iconic horror-writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, available on Spotify – but only in Sweden, restricted through a geo-lock.

The campaign launched with a video and audio teaser during Halloween. But just as you need to go to the cinema to see the whole movie, curious travelers had to visit Sweden to get the full experience. Global media were invited too.

The campaign was mainly PR-driven, with minimal media budget. To amplify reach beyond travel, we targeted lifestyle, entertainment, tech and news media with different angles.

A limited number of video and audio-ads ran on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Spotify and Soundcloud, plus a Vice.com advertorial.

Our campaign site showcased the best spots for the audio-experience and in-depth content about the myths and mystery of Swedish nature.

The geo-restriction was a PR hook for the launch 2022. The full audio released April 2023.

List the results

Spellbound turned category norms upside down and put stories old as time at the center of the zeitgeist. By earning a space in culture, Sweden’s nature showed up in more contexts than destinations usually do – breaking into lifestyle, entertainment, news media and beyond.

The idea earned global attention. The simple but unexpected tech-solution got some of the world’s biggest outlets to amplify our message – even sending reporters to Sweden for a first-hand experience. The content had extremely high engagement, scoring way above benchmark with up to 10 minutes reading time in some markets.

But the concept wasn’t just a PR stunt. Providing rich ground for new travel experience ideas, it turned into a business development platform for the tourism industry.

Brand

-Destination awareness +16%

-Culturally rich destination: +14%

-Travel intent: +5%

Campaign:

-Earned reach: 1.3 BN across 34 countries

-Audio completion rate: 98%

-Engagement rate on site: +144% above benchmark

Please tell us about the cultural insight that inspired the work.

Visual culture has made traveling less exciting, as nearly every corner of the world is exposed on social feeds. Travelers crave authentic connection and new experiences, but unexplored places are increasingly hard to find.

Despite this, most destination brands rely on sight-seeing and beautiful scenery, overlooking the potential of non-visual senses like sound to create engaging travel experiences and showcase local culture. Audio media is booming for its power to bring stories to life in intimate and immersive ways. As people seek relief from visual overload, sound offers a new, more emotional way of experiencing a place.

The most powerful emotion is fear, and there’s a cultural appetite for it. While fantasy blockbusters, horror TV, astrology apps and #WitchTok is new, the spine-chilling stories of Swedish forests are old as time. It echoes with stories of supernatural experiences and encounters with mythical creatures. Sweden’s dark side had potential to attract.

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