The North Norwegian Opera and Symphony Orchestra took ownership of its northern identity and used it to build itself as an Arctic brand. – That is how we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world, says NOSO Director Tor Lægreid.
It all started with a bunch of musicians in Tromsø, a similar bunch in Bodø, a non-democratic decision from the then-Minister of Culture Trond Giske about merging the two, and a very innovative orchestra model that was carefully prepared.
- To NOSO as a small orchestra, a strong brand has been essential for surviving in the longer term. We have actively used the Arctic and the fact that we live in a unique part of the world where it would not be possible to survive were it not for the Gulf Stream. In this way, we have differentiated ourselves from the rest of the world, says Director Tor Lægreid. He was the one to take the step and create something more, something bigger based on the world’s northernmost orchestra.
- Just look at Nike, where 94 percent of the corporate value lies in the brand. In Norway, we as a nation have cared rather little about branding, but rather focused on raw materials and exports. Just look at Sweden, a country that is home to a lot of major brands, a country that has spent a lot more on branding, says the NOSO Director. His background is from various positions in North Norwegian business, with more than 20 years in banking (Sparebank1) and long serving time as Chairman of the Board and Member of the Board of several cultural organisations and institutions.
It is about culture export, about selling the North Norwegian way of life, a unique lifestyle and adding an emotional value.
- We started out with a weak reputation and a rather limited core audience. We put all ideas on the table, and when the process was ripe, we took everyone to Svalbard. For what is more unique, what is more passionately ‘Arctic’ than Svalbard? If we were to create solid Arctic passion, which is exactly what our music is, then that’s where we had to go. We all had to relate to being in the Arctic region and to passion; that is essential when creating art, says the Director.
After that, the work on putting brand-building into motion commenced. Core and crucial elements were quality, relations and relevance. NOSO was to define itself on a global scale, for a global audience among other orchestras.
- We had to look at how relations were within the orchestra itself as well as how they were with those in the audience. We had to find the relevance that is needed for us to be something to someone; for people to want to listen to us. Then there are those who are always at the center of attention; the audience. Because our real employer is there, in the concert hall, despite state and county funding for the orchestra, says Lægreid.
Can strategy be heard?
The strategy was not only about embracing the Arctic. Even the shoes of each individual musician were to shine, freshly polished, with an consciousness directed towards those sitting in the concert hall. Every single person on stage were to pull his or her weight, were to be aware of the overall impression of the brand building process.
- Strategy may be heard. Relations, the creative internal relations, can be heard. This has a new and fresh feel to it, and we can tell from the international response that it has been a success. We have value-based leadership throughout the entire organizational structure; everyone is part of it, everyone contribute, and all leaders have the same leadership training. We spread the message through our musicians. We have provided employees with the opportunity to participate in marketing through the stories we tell, the NOSO Director says.
Through emphasizing the personal, through letting musicians show the way in and behind the curtains, a bond between the stage and the audience is created.
- We have trained all the musicians in digital marketing and algorithms, placed them in position and equipped them with the tools needed to participate in telling the story of NOSO. We use Youtube, Facebook and Instagram, and the musicians are responsible for showing life in the orchestra from behind the scenes, Lægreid says.
Stories are vital
The stories mean a lot to NOSO’s audience, be it a travel letter from one of their tours in the world or the pictures and brief movie shots published on their Instagram page, which has some 3,000 followers.
- There are unalterable requirements to quality in all parts. That is how we have differentiated ourselves, which has brought us out into the world. I guess we can conclude that “genuine Arctic passion” is an incredible door-opener, Lægreid says.
He tells High North News about an experience in Tokyo, Japan where they tested new technology.
- The conductor ran it all and every time it fit with the music, northern lights flowed out into the concert hall. The Arctic dimension, the Arctic starting point, is part of the global consciousness. It draws parallels to purity, to a treasure chest and unknown resources, and we must get better at using that in our strategies – we must use the Arctic to differentiate to a greater extent than raw materials and salmon. We must use the Arctic, but with a passion coming from inside, the NOSO Director says in closing.
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