Here in Norway we have a chocolate called Freia Melkesjokolade (milk chocolate), and to me - as a person interested in national myths, this sweet delight is very interesting. Let me tell you why, and also tell you a little bit about Norwegian nationalism while I'm at it. So here we go!
Earlier today I was riding the subway here in Oslo, and I noticed that Freia has a new ad campaign up. Probably their most mythisizing one ever. (Is that even a word? It is now, and I coined it, and you get to pay me royalties.) Now, their slogan is "et lite stykke Norge" or a little piece of Norway to my international readers, and their latest campaign takes this quite literally. The boards show a small secluded plot of land, with a text explaining why this particular plot was chosen by a named individual. This is good advertising for two reasons, and they both relate to mythic aspects. What Freia does is that they're creating an emotional truth. First because it relates to their slogan, but more importantly because it gives access to someone's personal emotional experience (by proxy) and links it to the tangible and universal experience of eating chocolate. When you eat that chocolate you're eating someones affection for Geirangerfjorden. If you think I'm overdoing it, believe my, I'm not. I've worked with measuring the effect of ad campaigns, and that's the way ad people think. Evidently it works really well too, and the creation of myths and historical patina is probably the most used and successfull form of advertising today. Just look at what Coca Cola is doing with doc Pemberton, or Levi's move away from pure sex, to showing how their clothes were originally worn by miners. Never thought about that now, did you?
Anyway, back to Freia. In addition to building a myth of personal experience linked to a very concrete place Freia is coupling this to their tried and tested ties to national romanticism. Freia is of course the norse goddess of fertility, and the entire image of the chocolate is geared to further a romantic image.
The posters don't depict an urban scene, it's as rural as rural gets - despite the fact that only 2.1% of the Norwegian population are employed in any form of agriculture. You won't see many people with brownish skin either. The Norway we see on those posters is not relevant to most Norwegians except as fables or dreams. We might have seen it passing by in airplanes or trains, and we might even vacation there, but very few of us ever spend much time there. It's Disneyland baby.
This is a significant cultural trope, and a very potent one. One of the most important and renowned poets in Norway, Henrik Wergeland, formulated a theory that highlights the process we are witness to. Of course, Norway was under foreign rule from just after the black plague and up to 1905. Most of the time we were under Danish rule. Wergeland, and others with him, claimed that the original population in Norway and their culture had been partially suplanted by less pure danish counterparts. In particular the language and national virtues such as hospitality, democracy and courage. A typical golden age myth, which is common for most nationalisms, maybe even all. (I've written about that before. Read it.) Wergeland however took this trope further and spoke of what he called "den uægte lodning" ("the untrue solder" in English). Norway's past and future were two halves of gold ring, but the ring had been broken and soldered together with lead. This lead soldering had to be removed, and a national culture had to be reconstructed. The basis for this culture was to be found in rural areas, where Danish culture had failed to penetrate. This theory of course provided the foundation for the creation for what later became "nynorsk" - a constructed national language with radical nationalist content. Nynorsk never really took though - though it's still out there.
What does this purported age of gold have to do with Freia you say? Well, there's the obvious element in that Freia sees the rural areas as more genuinely Norwegian than the multicultural Tøyen. But there's also another fascinating aspect I've never given any thought before. Freia Melkesjokolade comes in a yellow / gold-colored wrapping. Untill a few years ago it was even wrapped in yellow paper, with gold wrapping inside. It's too good to be true.
Finally, it has to be said. Just like all the nationalists that drove our original romantic urge to become Norwegians were educated in Denmark, so is Freia Melkesjokolade's backing to be found abroad. Freia was founded and fully owned by Norwegians in the past, but by now it's long since been sold to ... AMERICANS! The irony is so thick you can walk on it... Like I said: It's Disneyland baby!
For the ad-campaign go here (I wasn't able to find any pictures of the boards):