A flying start with BI Norwegian Business School

For the first episode of The Native Podcast, we’re joined by Anette Skott, Marketing Manager at BI Norwegian Business School, and one of the brains behind their incredible Flying Start campaign.

The viral campaign promised to take all the hassle out of studying abroad for one student. How? By introducing that student to everyone on campus, by making a TV documentary about them and even making them the face of their own drink.

In short, by giving them a flying start!

This interview is a fascinating peek behind the scenes of an award-winning campaign that caught the attention of people across the globe. We talk about how the idea for the campaign came about, how BI plan to follow it and, if you listen carefully, you’ll learn all about the power of dugnad.

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Show notes

You can follow Anette on LinkedIn. Find out more about BI Norwegian Business School on their website or on Twitter.

BI is Europe’s second-largest business school, with 20,000 students and 50% of the domestic market share. In short, they’ve got the home market sewn up, so the flying start campaign was all about international recruitment.

The problem for BI is, simply, competition. There are 15,500 business schools in the world. And, when international students start looking, they tend to focus on the US and the UK. It was time to put Norway on the map.

The idea behind the campaign – which was Anette’s first major one for BI – was to see if they could remove the hassle of moving abroad for one student.

“We really believed in the idea, even though it was crazy!”

A key part of the campaign – and probably the bit you’re already familiar with – was its excellent viral video.

BI targeted specific users in four countries – Germany, Sweden, the US and the UK – but it ended up being viewed in 200. The video was so popular that YouTube initially got suspicious and temporarily suspended their account!

“Going viral was the goal, but it’s so hard to predict how people are going to look at this and interact with it. We didn’t have any expectations when we actually launched it, we were just so exhausted!”

Aside from it being brilliant, the video got such a flying start of its own (lol) thanks to dugnad – a Norwegian term that doesn’t really have a definite English translation. Anette describes is as everyone helping each other to achieve a common goal.

Internal buy-in from the start of the campaign was crucial for its success. Anette’s team got departments on board from the beginning, so they knew what was happening and understood what the school was trying to do.

“It was so important to have them cheering for this the whole way”

BI hoped that the campaign would get them 10 applicants – they ended up with 3,000!

It then took a while to find the right student, but they managed eventually. That student was Emma.

With Emma selected and ready to join BI, that meant the school had a lot of promises to keep. Anette’s team actually had to re-watch their original video to make sure they ticked everything off!

But, tick everything off they did. The campaign cost roughly £160,000 all-in – £80,000 on the video production and about the same in media spend. This included delivering on all those promises.

“Every good idea has a volume button – you can scale it up or scale it down. We could have done it cheaper”

As an added bonus, a 20-minute documentary about Emma aired on German TV – one of BI’s initial target markets.

“Emma is quite the celebrity in Germany now!”

The campaign also taught BI a lot about how to market Norway itself. Many of the students who saw the initial video started Googling Norway, but were faced with scary results; a cold, dark and expensive country.

BI hadn’t realised quite how much of an issue these things were for international students, so have since started to tackle them with a series of videos on how to cope in Norway.

Anette’s top three tips for creating a campaign that will turn heads and get people talking

1. Really do your homework on your target group, market position…everything!

2. Talk to your students, involve them in the planning of your campaign

3. Make use of the volume button and decide if you want to scale up or down


This section is how we end every episode, with some quick-fire questions to help us get to know our guests a little better.

5 apps on your phone you use the most

Spotify, Endemondo, Sleep tracker, Uber, Vips (Norwegian money transferring)

4 celebs you’d love to invite round for dinner

Barack Obama, Joanna Lumley, King Harald Of Norway and Robert Wright

3 words to describe what it’s like working at BI

Busy, challenging and so much fun

2 places in the world or big events you’ve never visited but would love to

Himalayas and Lofoten (north Norway)

1 social media channel you love more than the others


Find out more

You can follow Anette on LinkedIn. Find out more about BI Norwegian Business School on their website or on Twitter.

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The Native Podcast is hosted and produced by Dave Musson, our editor-in-chief.

Our music is by Broke For Free and is used under Creative Commons.

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