The Viking Brand in Norway
Enjoy Your Trip: Go by Ship!
The Oseberg Ship was excavated in 1904, and followed the discovery of the Gokstad ship a few decades earlier. In the 1920s the Vikingskipshuset was built to house these remarkable finds, and they became a major draw for tourists. It is little surprise that the ships feature on marketing materials advertising Norway as a tourist destination, particularly when arriving by boat!
The Oseberg ship being excavated in 1904, with its beautifully carved stem already revealed. Photograph by Olaf Væring © 2016 Kulturhistorisk museum, UiO / CC BY-SA 4.0.
The Oseberg Ship in Branding
The iconic image of the Oseberg Ship is used in everything from Norwegian coinage to the branding of local companies. It is one of the most recognisable symbols of Norway's Viking past, and is almost as ubiquitous as the Viking helmet. There are many examples of companies using Oseberg branding in the vicinity of Tønsberg where the ship was excavated, and where the reconstruction Saga Oseberg resides.
Giving the Tourists What They Want
It is interesting that the horned helmet still plays a role in high-profile advertising, despite a high level of historical awareness amongst the public in Norway and the importance of this period of history to national identity. This may be due to the fact that the horned helmet has such an appeal as an internationally recognisable symbol of the Vikings, and it is thus perhaps intended solely for the external tourist market expecting to encounter Viking history in the capital city of Norway.
Brands Sanctioned by the Gods!
It is not only Viking history and material culture that is used to sell products, but also Norse mythology. The Norse gods seem to be particularly closely associated with luxury produts, ranging from liqueurs to jewellery. Freia is one of the most recognisable brands in Norway, and the Freia clock at Egertorget square is one of the landmarks in central Oslo. But the connection between chocolate and the Norse goddess Freyja is not an obvious one.
Evolution of a Brand
The image of the Vikings as hardy sailors at home in the elements has long been exploited, in this case through the Norwegian outdoor clothing and sportware brand Norrøna. The original painting the logo appears to reference is a famous painting by Knud Bergslien of a scene from the winter of 1206, which uses imagery typical of nineteenth-century depictions of Vikings, including their weapons. In the evolution of the logo pictured below, we see these 'Viking' elements increasingly stylised, to leave us with a simple tracing of a helmeted figure with flowing hair. For more examples of the logo as it evolved, see their website here.