She was a young Bodenian

This morning I went back up north to my hometown Boden (click here and zoom out a bit to see where it is) to spend a week with my family. The town fights a slow war against an increasingly older demographic. This since young people, like me, decide to leave the town as soon as possible. It is a war the town is losing. The same can be said for most towns up here, and the reasons for this are many. The pace is slow, it is fairly uneventful and there aren’t any real careers to be found. At least no careers that pay well, that is, as Boden is ranked 279 out of 290 municipalities in terms of average wealth.

So what do I notice when I get off the plane in neighboring Luleå? Boden has gotten themselves an ad agency! In that corridor between the plane and the terminal, there were pictures of people from Boden, I recognized a lot of them. Those of you who have arrived at Arlanda might have seen the “Welcome to Stockholm, my hometown” stuff going on, it is basically the same idea here. The difference is that except for the few (like three or four) celebrities, it is just young people with their names and what they do, like “Anna, 19 years old. Studies to become a diplomat” and “Peter, 21 years old. Studies to become a doctor”. The title of the campaign is “Young Boden”, showing that we have some of those too.

More and more Swedish municipalities engage in place marketing like this. An example is Luleå, the big brother of Boden, who started a few years back together with Vinter Reklam. They run campaigns during summer and Christmas, when people who have moved away come back to visit. The message is “why don’t you move back?”. This is where the two campaigns differ. While Luleå chose to focus on educated people who brain drained away in order to persuade them to come back home, Boden seems to focus on people who like 19-year olds. Or something. It is not clear at this point. What is even more intriguing is that a lot of those kids don’t even live in Boden. You can’t study to become a doctor or diplomat in Boden, they probably live in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Uppsala, Umeå or other cities with large universities. This must mean that this is a campaign with the message that smart young people move away from Boden to pursue their dreams. Wave that flag high and proudly, dear hometown.

Place marketing is hard, especially when your product isn’t very good. I love you Boden, but we can’t be together anymore, regardless of your supply of 19-year olds.

/Fredric Axelsson, born and raised.

PS. For more info on place marketing done by cities up north, read my old classmates’ BSc thesis on the subject. Anton is going to be a 4M:er next semester.

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3 Responses to She was a young Bodenian

  1. Tomas says:

    That’s a nice insight. I have always been thinking about the competition among the cities under various perspectives and brain-draining is definitely one of the key issues. It is related to the net effect (snow-ball effect) when the centre of the country (usually the capital) gets more and more attractive just for the fact that everybody is arriving again due to the same net effect and opportunities related to that. That’s a big obstacle to other regions and recognizing the problem is a big step towards successful measures. And that’s already another story.

  2. fredricaxelsson says:

    Yeah, according to me, trying to change this is pretty futile. I have seen some examples of place marketing, but they all seem to be to focused on the communication. Lots of municipalities have slogans (“Advantage Boden”…) and they make glossy folders and websites and what not. The problem is that they always forget to start with the product. What can this city offer and to whom? If you don’t consider basic things such as this, you will end up with pictures of teenagers at airports.

    Boden will survive for many years more, but it will continue to be a place where the jobs you can get are at gas stations and retirement homes.

  3. Pingback: I hate my boss! an experiment | SSE 4M

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