At Volvo Car Corp., defining and communicating what it means to be Scandinavian is serious business.
The Chinese-owned Swedish automaker will hire a new global advertising firm next month that will be tasked with reinventing the Volvo brand's image, emphasizing Volvo's Scandinavian roots.
And the advertising firm will have to do so with a smaller budget than many of Volvo's luxury rivals.
"We want to make sure we can reconnect with our customers with the way that we are the only Scandinavian car manufacturer," said Alain Visser, Volvo's senior vice president for marketing, sales and customer service.
But what does it mean to be a Scandinavian car company?
Visser vaguely defined it as "we own safety and we have not communicated that … and technology."
He said Volvo has lost its "unique way" of marketing. Its communication has not reflected the brand's Scandinavian heritage.
Volvo's reputation for safety is well known. But how should Volvo reflect its Scandinavian heritage?
I understand German engineering, Japanese fuel efficiency and American pickup trucks. So I asked Visser to explain his vision for Volvo more precisely.
"It's very much an attitude element. We are not a dominating or arrogant brand. We are an understatement," Visser said. "We do not want to be equal to BMW, Audi or Mercedes. We are a 'we' brand and that is a very different way of communicating."
He said Volvo puts the customer first and wants to stand out.
"We have no ambition at all to blend in. We are a unique brand, a Scandinavian brand," Visser said. "We have the flexibility to behave differently."
Maybe Visser doesn't want to give away any secrets.
When I think of Scandinavian, I think of the Ikea store model: products that use space efficiently in a hip design for an affordable price. Volvo was the first to offer the interior sleek center stack console that efficiently used space and looked good. Other manufacturers are now copying it.
Is that's what Scandinavian means?
We'll have to wait to see.