Much like Norway and Denmark, Sweden has a high quality of life compared to most other countries in the world. In fact, they’re great in environmental quality, civic engagement, education, work-life balance, health, and income, among others. And to celebrate 250 years of free speech and encourage tourism, The Swedish Tourist Association and Stockholm-based agency INGO gave the country its very own telephone number. If you call the Swedish Number at +46 771 SWEDEN (+46 771 793 336), the number will connect callers from around the world with random Swedes who have signed up to be de facto ambassadors for the country.
It’s worth noting that the random Swedes who pick up the phone have received no training whatsoever; they’ve been given no instructions about what to say when you call — or perhaps more to the point, what not to say. The Swedish Number allows you to talk to a random Swede about anything you’d like — northern lights, meatballs, fashion, politics, whatever.
Creating the Swedish Number
The idea behind the campaign is all about giving people a completely uncensored view of Swedish life.
Swedish Tourist Association CEO Magnus Ling explained, “In troubled times, many countries try and limit communication between people, but we want to do just the opposite. We are making Sweden the first country in the world with its own phone number and giving our fellow Swedes the opportunity to answer the calls, express themselves and share their views, whatever they might be.”
A switchboard supports all incoming calls to the Swedish Number 24 hours a day and will randomly connect each call to a Swedish ambassador who’s downloaded an app to participate. The key factors The Swedish Tourist Association dealt with were getting enough Swedish people to download the app so they could answer the phone and then getting the world to call with no media budget. They knew it wouldn’t be easy but felt so strongly about the idea that they decided that one way or another they would make it work.
“If we’d had 10,000 calls then we would still be reasonably happy. But it took off in a way that we never expected.”
Call and connect with a random Swede
Back in 2012, another tourism company, VisitSweden, launched a somewhat similar campaign online. It gave the country’s official Twitter handle, @Sweden, to ordinary Swedes and more or less let them post whatever they liked. As you would expect, from the start there were problems with provocative posts, but they don’t call Twitter the hate machine for no reason. Eventually, the country was convinced that transparency had more upsides than downsides and stuck with the “Curators of Sweden” program that continues today.
You can learn more about the campaign in the video below and try it out for yourself at +46 771 SWEDEN — just remember that international rates apply.
Let us know your thoughts on the Swedish Number campaign. Is it a clever way to experience the country or is a disaster waiting to happen?