Place Branding Expert Hjortur Smarason

Hjörtur Smárason


anthropologist, storyteller

Hjortur is an anthropologist with peace negotiations and conflict resolution as specialty. With a long career in marketing and innovation, both as a consultant and as a university teacher, Hjortur brings in a profound understanding of branding processes and cultural differences and has been developing methods to tackle the much more complex processes of place branding with good results.

Said about Hjörtur: “Hjörtur has a rare ability to tap into the soul of a place – into the minds and hearts of the local people – and distill the stories that capture their identity. Even more impressive, he manages to make all these stories relevant to different target-audiences. To Hjörtur, all places have stories just waiting to be told. And where there is a story to be told, Hjörtur is the man to tell it.”
Hjörtur created a brand strategy for East Greenland, one of the least explored areas in the world. The project was to create a brand strategy for East Greenland to attract expeditions, adventure tourists and semi-adventure tourists to experience one of the least explored areas in the world. Among the initiatives was a cooperation with the Metro International newspapers resulting in coverage in the newspapers in over 150 countries, reaching well over 20 million readers.
When the economic crisis hit Iceland, and during the volcanic eruptions in 2010 and 2011, Hjörtur became one of the leading communication channels on social media, providing first reaction to the crisis and relevant information to journalists, media and the blogosphere. Hjörtur provided a number of clients in Iceland with guidance on how to react to the crisis, communication with current clients as well as exploiting the media opportunity the crisis opened up.
Hjörtur was hired to work on the branding of Oslo, creating a shared vision and brand strategy for over 50 municipalities and organizations. The task wass to identify the aim of the branding exercises and the need, as well as understanding the assets of the place that the brand could be built on. The branding process consisted of a number of workshops with different stakeholders for the creation of a strategy and a communication plan. One of the big challenges the city is facing is the upcoming bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics where it needs to communicate a strong vision.
Together with Innovation Embassy, Hjörtur designs challenge driven innovation projects for cities. The citizens are engaged in a crowd sourced innovation process where they solve a common problem and co-create the future of the city. In the case of Copenhagen, Hjörtur partnered with the largest newspaper and a TV station to engage thousands of citizens in brainstorming and concept development to improve bike safety on the streets.  Bicycles acts a symbols for the quality of life in the Danish capital.