Influencer Interview #7 The word on Nordic Youth according to Em Wahlstrom

Youth expert Emelie Wahlstrom from MTV Brand Solutions on Stockholm

I haven’t done an Influencer Interview in a while so I thought I’d touch base with

Emelie Wahlström, a youth marketing expert from MTV’s Nordic ad agency, Brand Solutions.  She’s got some really interesting perspectives on what makes Nordic youth tick and the differences between the countries youth.

What are the main tribal differences between Nordic youth from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden?

There’s some general differences that apart us.. To start with, Fins love huge VIP-tags, to drink in their trillion saunas and to head bang their long hair.

Danes wants to go full retard – travel to Roskilde festival and get piss drunk, naked.

Swedes aim for stars and success, wanting to move to New York, are big followers of the jante law, maintains traditions such as crayfish parties and candy only on Saturdays.

Laziest of us four, is the Norwegians, who relies fully on their oil and the money that comes from it (yes, you can read my jealousness between the lines). Working 5 hours/day and still piss rich, moving to Sweden for the “pulse”. The only country in the Nordics not part of the European Union.

What are the main youth subcultures emerging at the moment? Similar or different from the rest of Europe/Western countries?

The love of brands and what role they play in their lives is quite interesting to me… Europeans are slightly less brand focused than US youth. “Self-made” is huge in the Nordics even though they expect brands to enhance their lives and play a pivotal role for exceeding their possibilities. The huge difference is probably not between the US and Europe though, but among Asian youth who really believe that they depend on brands for succeeding.


Friends before family is a huge thing, especially in Denmark and Sweden, I believe that’s going to grow even bigger.


I guess this is a common thing; but young people ARE the media, and they are well aware of it. This has become really clear in regards to the blogosphere which is huge in Sweden and Norway. The sales results that can be measured after co-operations between brands and bloggers is huge. You would think that the social broadcasters have less impact than your closest friends (according Nielsen US research) but I beg to differ.


How would you describe Nordic Youth in a word? Explain

Connected. Simply constantly online, being offline causes anxiety.

Who are the main  ‘influencers’on  Nordic youth – celebrities, parents, others?

The young ones who has succeeded. Nordic youths want to be high achievers, and they are a pretty self taught generation. Today, they are more concerned about having a good career than they are about being popular and having sex… Today, knowledge is cool, and the ones who succeeds and earns a lot of money gain not only huge respect, but inspires a lot. Examples; Robyn, Jon Olsson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Søren Kongsgaard and many more. And as I mentioned above, friends is definitely the new family.


What are the big issues affecting young people in the region?

Mainly, I’d say it’s the stress for success.


It’s finding out what you want to do, earn big money. And, finding the fast lane for it. The economic recession of course affected youth last year, but it seems like hope is back on track in the Nordics. Especially compared to Germany, where there’s a total of 20% unemployment, and only 5% of German youths have high hopes for the future. Still, the new big thing for young Swedes and Danes is to move to Berlin.. eager to be unemployed??


Which brands are young people most interested in engaging with and why?

The brands who are relevant and useful to them and who offer conversational capital. Let me give you Nike as an example, who we’ve created an MTV Brand Solutions campaign for this autumn. We were asked to reset Nike Running in the minds of young ppl, and they wanted to join the conversation. The idea was built on the subway system in Stockholm – which has a lot of emotional traction among the target group as it defines who you are. Are you red? Green? Blue? Each section of the city had a color and an ambassador who engaged youths to join, and take over the streets. Concept: Run anywhere in the world, each kilometer is one credit. Color your blocks or steal the streets of your rival. The online application was synced with Facebook, meaning that you in real-time shared not only your distance and pace, but which blocks you colored. Each post was therefore “tailor-made” by the user and became “new news”. This enabled a lot of buzz and a huge engagement since you became a part of something bigger – with the ability to make a change for your team.


Is the super high levels of digital connectivity amongst Nordic youth affecting their interpersonal ‘face to face’ skills at all?

Oh yes. And definitely when it comes to interaction with companies. I’ve experienced examples of this, where only 1 out of 2000 youths would prefer to be contacted via telephone instead of e-mail. So not only “face to face”, but their whole personal sphere. They want to take the control. This also makes it easier for youths to speak about difficult things with friends, being hid behind a screen. I believe that that has implication about their relations and their whole social skills.

What do brands need to know about Nordic youth when they’re looking to start a conversation with this audience?

They want to take part.

You only have one chance, so embrace it! Make it relevant, useful and allow them to participate. Keep in mind that success comes when your communication connects them with each other, not just with your brand.