Feature: How Iceland Rode a Social Wave to Tourism Success

Published in Marketing News

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“Why Iceland’s Minor Volcano Is a Major Problem.” “Volcano Casts Cloud Over European Economy.” “The terrifying cauldron of lava and lightning that has brought chaos to our airports … and it’s STILL going strong.”

These were the headlines that brought Iceland into the international consciousness in the spring of 2010. Although the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull was less explosive than other notable eruptions such as Mount St. Helens in 1980, the ash it spewed eight miles into the sky complicated life for more than the 800 Icelanders who evacuated its perimeter.

Air traffic came to a standstill at the crossroads of Europe and North America for seven days. Media told stories of floods, air pollution, lightning storms and possible climate disruption. Rather than the glossy images of cavernous glaciers, mossy fjords or the Aurora Borealis, would-be tourists saw towers of ash and bursts of lava. Just more than a month out from the tourism season, the island nation’s summer could go one of two ways: The international coverage could either pique the interest of travelers far and wide, or the tourism industry could take a serious hit.

Within a week of the eruption, the country’s tourism organization, Promote Iceland, put out a request for proposal. The challenge was twofold: reverse the negative perception surrounding Iceland as a tourist destination for the summer and get people to book vacations immediately. The chosen comrades in arms: London-based global branding agency the Brooklyn Brothers and Iceland’s largest advertising agency, Islenska.

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