Omvarldsanalys: The Swedish art of finding brand purpose

Think Hygge, but for companies.

The Swedish word "omvarldsanalys" doesn’t have a direct English translation. Plug it into an online interpreter and you’ll get results like "business intelligence" and "market research."

But as any Swedish designer will tell you, it’s really about trust, intimacy, and understanding how you fit into the world and how you can contribute to it, particularly from a business standpoint. Think Hygge, but for companies.

This simple, purpose-led approach is one of the factors that makes Scandinavian design truly great. Instead of creating with differentiation in mind, our Swedish counterparts design with purpose – from IKEA’s simple, democratic design philosophy to Niel’s Bohr’s iconic, industry-changing Tetra Pak.

Omvarldsanalys offers brands a more complete, actionable picture than the traditional customer analysis techniques many American marketers use today, and it’s helping organizations around the world connect more profoundly with consumers. 

Context is key

Omvarldsanalys entered our vocabulary at Trollbäck+Company through our Swedish founder, Jakob Trollbäck, who introduces the concept like this: "Even if a designer is fueled by the joy of creativity, you can only make really good design if you have the capacity to see your design in context. That’s what omvarldsanalys does. It gives context and prompts purpose."

Compared to typical market research and customer analysis processes, omsvarldanalys is more emotional and often more political. It seeks to go beyond matching consumer expectations–instead, it pushes, predicts, and drives behavior. It takes bigger risks by anticipating a consumers’ needs before they need them. For this reason, it can reap bigger rewards for businesses. 

Joining the conversation

So, how can American brands can leverage a more Swedish approach to finding brand purpose? There are a few examples savvy brand managers can pull from.

First, the social impact approach. Earlier this year, Nike aligned itself with Black Lives Matter and Colin Kapernick’s movement to kneel before the American flag during NFL games to protest police brutality. By joining the larger conversation around sports and social justice, Nike claimed a bold, important position for its brand that resonated with audiences around the country. In the aftermath, the iconic athletic brand reported a 5 percent stock increase, eventually earning an additional $6 billion for the company. Similar, social justice-minded campaigns have also been used this year by brands like Gillette, Patagonia and T-Mobile.

But not every brand can, or should, insert itself into political conversations – especially where the issue is not immediately relevant to the brand’s pre-existing positioning. Omsvarldsanalys is also about knowing your place and using that place to strategically make positive change through your business strategy.

Take Casper, a great example of a brand that developed its business model by looking into the overlap between its brand values and the product or service it offers – omvarldsanalys in action. Though the mattress company first got people hooked with inexpensive prices and convenient shipping, Casper has since expanded out into a much larger purpose –– to re-shape the way people think about sleep.

By tapping into the larger conversation around why so many people are plagued with the negative mental health effects associated a bad night’s rest, the brand became more than just a product, it became an answer to the endless questions of our sleepless nights, pushing the entire sleep industry to up its game when it comes to user-centered design.

How to Omvarldsanalys

First, think about the emotional impacts your brand can make in peoples’ lives. Instead of focusing on a product, or its features, focus on the connections and real-world impacts your brand can make.

Next, look at the most important conversations going on today around social, cultural, or even everyday problems that need support and signal boosting. Then think long and hard about whether or not your company can make a meaningful contribution to that conversation.

Finally, take informed, action-driven steps to enact this new purpose. Talk to people involved in whatever movement you’re hoping to address. Have them weigh in on how best your company can contribute. Instead of simply speaking out about support, think of things you can do to show it –– from partnering with advocacy groups, to sponsoring events, to donating part of your proceeds from what you’re selling to the cause.

Beyond brand

Purpose takes brands farther, allows them to expand wider, and creates a cohesive, consistent lens from which to view the world. By aligning behind an idea or a concept or an issue that’s bigger than the brand itself, we do even more than contribute positively to the world around us – we can create self-sustaining brands that are able to adapt, evolve, and adjust their strategies to the changing world around them.

Casey Halter is a writer and strategist at Trollbäck+Company. 

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