After a natural disaster and economic collapse, Iceland needed an unconventional campaign to revive its largest industry: tourism. The Island embarked on a multi-year social media campaign that has generated double-digit growth year over year. In half a decade, Iceland has reinvented itself. The strategy of “Inspired by Iceland” has evolved with the needs of the country. Icleand said “This is who we are and this is what Iceland is all about”.
How did they do it?
• Realised that in the lead up to 2010, 80% of visitors to Iceland would recommend it as a destination, making it the most recommended of any European destination.
• Recognised the power of word of mouth and so turned aim to fans of Iceland to spread the Island’s message.
• Let those inspired by Iceland share their stories.
• ‘Inspired by Iceland’ became an unfolding story, with each year as a chapter for the testimonial campaign that galvanised Iceland’s rebranding.
Engaging the Community via Social Platforms
• Social media push began with a national call
for chatter during “Iceland Hour” where the President gave a live TV and live-streamed internet broadcast asking the people of Iceland its friends abroad to share a story of positivity.
• Participants could compose their own stories and share through their social channels, or submit through the Inspired by Iceland website and use prepackaged content.
• Within one week, there were 1.5 million stories.
• Ten weeks after Iceland Hour, close to 22 millions stories of positivity had been shared via image, video, post and comment on Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo and YouTube.
• On the Inspired by Iceland website, visitors could see an interactive map of Iceland with pins dropped around the Island geolocating each story.
• Even celebrities such as Bjork and Eric Clapton contributed.
• The campaign grew, focusing on video to aimed at promoting Iceland as a year round destination.
• Fans testimonials proved they weren’t just leisure seekers. They were people who love stories and experiences. They wanted stories to take home. They wanted to live it.
• Iceland subsequently invited these visitors to tour the country like an islander.
• They called the campaign “Honorary Icelander”.
• Tourists on arriving received an official Icelandic passport and became honorary citizens. They were taken in by more than 1000 Icelanders (including the President).
• Tourists were brought into recording studios for live musical performances.
• They picked wild mussels with Icelandic families. • They relaxed in hot tubs alongside locals.
Enticing the Enlightened Tourist – “Ask Guðmundur”
• Launched another web based campaign in 2015 – Setting up a human competitor to Google with the “Ask Guðmundur” series.
• 7 Ambassadors from each region of Iceland,
all citizens recalled named Guðmundur, or the female Guðmunda—were recruited to answer questions from fans such as, “‘Game of Thrones’ is partly shot in Iceland. Any of it shot in the North of Iceland?”
• Curious tourists submitted questions using the hashtag #AskGudmundur on Facebook and Twitter. More than 200 video responses were recorded.
• The Guðmundur campaign, much like its predecessors, relied on volunteers, not paid actors, recognising that citizens are the best ambassadors.
The Iceland Academy
• The focus has shifted again in 2016 with the launch of “Iceland Academy”, a video series allowing viewers to earn badges for completing different courses about how to visit Iceland responsibly, safely and in a culturally appropriate way.
• Each “term” has four classes and viewers who complete it can win a field trip to Iceland to apply what they’ve learned.
• This is in response to the understanding that enlightened tourists want to understand customs, respect nature and behave in a culturally conscious manner.
• It recognises that sustainability is central to Iceland’s brand.
• “Iceland Academy” has had nearly 3 million views since its launch in February 2016 and more than 7000 people have completed courses online.
• Viewers have earned badges for avoiding hot tub awkwardness, staying safe in Iceland, travelling responsibly and understanding winter sports.
• Soon they’ll be able to prove they know how to eat like an Icelander, drive in Iceland, navigate Iceland’s festivals, capture the Northern Lights and travel farther.