The Viking Brand in Denmark

Danish souvenir magnet featuring a horned helmet

Danish Souvenir Magnet

(c) TBirkett. CC BY NC

A National Brand

The Viking brand is common to all Scandinavian countries, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in Denmark, with its wealth of Viking sites, its developed Viking tourist trail, and a keen sense of its maritime history. (erroneously-horned) Viking helmets and ships feature extensively in all souvenir shops, often in combination with symbols of Denmark as a modern nation: here expressed with a flag and elsewhere with a map, despite the fact that Denmark looked very different in the early medieval period.

Viking Life-Saving Equipment

Viking Life-Saving Equipment

(c) Erin Sebo. CC BY NC

An International Brand

There are many Danish brands with an international reach, and Vikings play a prominent role in representing Danish companies abroad, from the somewhat ironic Viking Life-Saving Equipment, with its slogan "we protect and save human lives all over the world" to Saga Shipping and the ubiquitous Bluetooth logo - named after the Danish king Harald Bluetooth, who claimed on the Jelling II runestone to have "won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian". The logo you see on your phone or computer is a ligature of the runes h and b in the younger futhark: a truly globalised Viking brand. You can read more here

Bluetooth logo

Viking rye bread

Viking Rye Bread

(c) Ciara Ní Riain. CC BY NC

Thor Brewery (Thor Bryggerierne ) in Denmark

Thor Bryggerierne Advert

(c) Selina Ali Cisneros. CC BY NC

An All-Encompassing Brand?

As in Norway, the Viking brand turns up in some unexpected places, including in the naming of food products, alcohol, and even as the name of a Danish brand of cigarettes. In fact, we have received half a dozen different examples of Danish beers or breweries named after the Vikings or the Norse gods. 


Viking Cigarettes

The Vikings drank ale, but it would have been rather different to the lagers that are often named after the Vikings (hops were a late medieval import), and they certainly didn't know of tobacco! Thor Bryggerierne (with its logo pictured on the side of a train here) was named in 1873, so this example of branding is not a new phenomenon. However, the use of the Vikings in branding beers probably has more to do with the popular modern perception of Vikings as enthusiastic drinkers, rather than any association with historical brewing in Denmark. The origin of this preconception about the Vikings is a story in itself!

Below you can see a range of Danish products and companies represented using the Viking brand. More examples can be seen on the map here.

Holger Danske: The Protector of Danes

Holger Danske (Ogier the Dane) is a character first mentioned in the eleventh-century Chanson de Roland, who later becomes a major Danish antagonist (and later supporter) of Charlamagne in French romance. According to popular legend, he is sleeping below Kronborg Castle with his beard growing, waiting to save Denmark when it is in peril: for this reason, a Danish resistance movement in WWII was named after Holger. Along with the historical Harald Bluetooth, he is an example of a personality being used in branding, from pipe tobacco to playing cards.