Cold, rainy, remote yet remarkable: How the Faroe Islands has embraced its ‘disadvantages’ to grab global attention

50,000 people.

Dramatic and beautiful.

But it’s hard to get there. And when you do, it’s cold and wet pretty much all year round.

When it comes to tourism, Føroyar, or the Faroe Islands, know that there’s no point in copying other countries’ tactics to encourage visitors. It’s had to think creatively and turn what others may see as ‘disadvantages’ to their advantage.

Ty Van Haren on Unsplash

The 18-islands archipelago is located in the middle of the North Atlantic between Iceland, Norway, and Scotland. It has made this remoteness a central feature, marketing itself as “Unspoiled, Unexplored, Unbelievable”. And, unlike most tourist destinations, chasing numbers isn’t their aim either. They want to attract visitors who share their values of exploring, sustainability and valuing culture.

As global trends are showing that people increasingly seek experiences above passive tourism, the Faroes are positioning themselves as a unique destination for those want something truly different.

Visit Faroe Islands is extremely disciplined in its approach, using the 50,000 inhabitants, and occasionally other creatures, to bring the archipelago to life. It’s about place and people. Their campaigns highlight the nation’s people as much as they show off the dramatic scenery. And that’s a powerful combination when it comes to tourism.

FROM STREET VIEW TO SHEEP VIEW

Their campaigns make a huge feature of their remoteness, and use globally recognised cues which we’ll all understand. With Sheep View, they celebrated the fact that Google Street View hadn’t mapped the country. Playfully putting a 360° cameras on top of some of the 80,000 roaming sheep to take people beyond the streets and onto the hills.

Almost everyone knows that Google’s mapping projects reaches practically everywhere, and this campaign was a creative and shareable way to underline how unexplored and unspoilt the Islands are.

NO GOOGLE TRANSLATE? WE’LL DO IT OURSELVES

The Islands’ language, with only 50,000 faroese speakers, is also lower down another one of Google’s priority list. So what do you do when your language is ‘too small’ for Google to translate it? You do it yourself.

Who needs Silicon Valley when you’ve got 50,000 live translators? This fantastic partnership from Visit Faroe Islands and Atlantic Airways turned another ‘disadvantage’ on its head, connecting anyone in the world to a Faroese resident who would personally translate for them.

This also grabbed attention globally — showcasing the country, its people and their beautiful language in a memorable way.

COUNTERINTUITIVE CAMPAIGN

Well before Coronavirus pandemic forced a near-global tourism shutdown, parts of the Faroe Islands closed to visitors, albeit for just a weekend. Not for disease prevention, but in the name of sustainability and guardianship.

They’ve been leading the way when it comes to embracing a specific area of experience tourism: voluntourism.

Closed for maintenance, open for voluntourism was announced with an official statement by the Prime Minister, putting a call out to people from around the world to apply to visit.

100 volunteers, selected at random from around the world, worked with locals to maintain some of the most popular pathways and tourism locations, and we could all follow their work on social media.

It was about much more than repairing some paths. The campaign created a sense of scarcity. To turn down visitors gives a very statement. It says something important about the values of the place and its people. It says that they value their land, that it’s a place so special that’s worth protecting. Who wouldn’t want to visit that?

REMOTE-CONTROLLED TOURISM

And finally their latest project — a Covid-era campaign that’s being broadcast globally on Facebook Live.

While the rest of the world tells you not to visit, the Faroe Islands have done something different: Remote control-tourism. They’ve invited you to tour their country by remote-controlling the movements of a local resident from the comfort of your own sofa.

The local hosts, armed with a helmet-mounted camera which broadcasts live to Facebook several times a day will take you walking, hiking or kayaking. You can tap left, right, forward, back or even jump to direct their movements. You can even guide a helicopter trip via remote control.

As they broadcast, they’ll also talk to you about their what you’re seeing and interact with comments and question on the live discussion thread — a mashup between Super Mario and a traditional walking tour. It surprisingly compulsive viewing.

THE LIKEABLE UNDERDOG

The Faroe Islands haven’t completely torn up the rulebook of what makes great communication. Their proposition and campaigns conform to many of the principles of the classic story ark: A likeable underdog, facing adversity or disadvantage, being brave and bold, and succeeding against all odds. A country that makes you want to root for it because it shares its vulnerabilities.

When ‘ignored’ by the large global companies, the Faroes decide to do it themselves. They’re not only clever campaigns to grab PR attention through quirkiness — they actually does much more. They say something about the Faroese people — their outlook and their inventive and playful spirit. They point to a country that innovates, that’s internationalist, while grabbing attention to show off the archipelago’s spectacular sights.

CONSITENT CREATIVITY

‪The Faroe Islands team consistently create innovative ideas to promote their nation. They grab global attention from very modest spend.

Individually they’re clever campaigns. Together, they bring a clear brand proposition to life in a consistent and disciplined way, showing that the Faroe Islands are different — ‘Unspoiled, Unexplored and Unbelievable’.

The internet and social media can be a great leveller when it comes to marketing.‬ And Visit Faroe Islands have adapted to use it more effectively than almost any other country. It has an even more powerful impact when creativity and social media is partnered with effective international PR.

Yes, they use social media well. Yes, they’ve got a slick PR operation, but more than anything they have creativity and braveness. And it’s this braveness that is increasingly attracting people to visit a group of windswept, damp islands in the middle of the North Atlantic.

Cover Photo: Faroe Islands / 2nd photo:Ty Van Haren on Unsplash

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