Swedish advertising: Using disgust – Kalles Kaviar


My only up-close-and-personal experience with the very Swedish phenomenon of caviar in a tube was a week I spent in Stockholm with a French former dalliance. He loved this convenient “spray” of caviar and in fact stocked up on numerous tubes of it to take back to Paris with him.

I am pretty sure that Swedish “kaviar” – that is, some creamy pink goop that looks like pink toothpaste (yes, caviar squeezed from a tube) is a lot like Spam, poi, black licorice or mushrooms. Love/hate. No lukewarm, in-between reactions. In the case of tubed caviar, I can imagine that it would be most popular among Swedes, who seem fairly addicted to the stuff, while other groups and nationalities to whom it was offered would not enjoy it so much.

And this is precisely the theme around which a Kalles Kaviar ad campaign is built. I saw the first ad, in which a guy offers samples of Kalles caviar to bypassers in Tokyo. Their reactions are a mix of horror (as their taste buds get a hold of that special Swedish caviar-in-a-tube paste taste) and politeness (they are Japanese, after all, and cannot publicly register their distaste!).

The reactions in the next ad – set in the US – are markedly different. These people have no problem telling the guy that he basically has no right to call the samples he is serving “food” because they are so disgusting.

I have been giving this campaign considerable thought. Is this the best way to sell? Since these ads are targeted at Swedes, the audience is already … captive. Already people who like –or don’t like – squeeze-tube caviar. Is it then meant as a reminder that this brand exists – reinforcing the brand? Is it a mark of being “special” because Swedes really like something that no one else likes – engagement with the audience’s self-perception as “unique”? National pride at loving something that the rest of the world finds disgusting? A dig at the rest of the world for not having good enough taste/sense to like it? I suppose it could be interpreted in any or all of these ways.

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