Det danske Hedeselskab (literally: “the Danish Heath Society”), an association whose commercial green sector activities generate an annual turnover of more than 2 billion DKK, has asked Stagis to help develop and revitalize its brand. First thing we did was to conduct an ethnographic mapping of the organizational identity of Hedeselskabet in order to establish an extensive knowledge base from which to develop the future brand strategy and visual identity of the association.
Using organizational history as a short cut to reinventing the brand
Mapping the identities of businesses is an ever eye opening task. Our ethnographic exploration of the history, identity and practice of attests to the huge potential for present day strategy development that organizations may find by reflecting on their past.
The founding myth
Most Danes have heard about Enrico Mylius Dalgas and about Hedeselskabet. Many associate the two with the defeat in the war of 1864 (in which Denmark lost large areas of land in the southern part of Jutland to Prussia) and with the poetic lines:
”For hvert et tab igen erstatning findes; hvad udad tabtes, det må indad vindes.” (For every loss recovery may be found again; what was outwardly lost shall be inwardly gained”).
For long these lines have been ascribed to Dalgas and, accordingly, his strong aspiration to cultivate the Danish heath has been seen as motivated by a nationalistic intent to recover the farmland lost in war. However, the lines were not written by Dalgas but by the poet H.P. Holst – and not until years after the founding of Hedeselskabet.
A model of the cultivation technique promoted by Hedeselskabet in order to recover the heath lands.
Serving a higher purpose
Dalgas indeed wished to recover and utilize the heath lands of Jutland by planting windbreaks and shelterbelts in order to create a milder climate and prepare the soil for cultivation and to this end he founded the association Det danske Hedeselskab. But while Dalgas’ agenda gained public momentum in the wake of the recent loss of farmland in the war, Dalgas was also – and perhaps even mainly – motivated by a concern for the hardship of the moorland peasants and by an urge to use modern, scientific knowledge in order to make farming easier and more effective and productive. Thus from the outset the activities of Hedeselskabet were scientifically and socially motivated – not merely economically. They served a higher purpose, so to speak – which might also explain why Hedeselskabet was founded as an association and not as a commercial company.
A share in one of the planting companies of Hedeselskabet. At the right a small plaster sculpture of Enrico Mylius Dalgas, founder of Hedeselskabet.
Today Hedeselskabet is still organised as an association. By paying an annual membership fee everyone who wish so may become a member and thus influence how – and by whom – the association and its businesses are run. The association has full ownership of several ”green sector” companies with a total annual turnover above 2 billions DKK. In line with the history and tradition of the organization the companies – the largest of these being HedeDanmark and Orbicon – offer their service and advice in relation to nature, climate and energy issues.
Looking for a purpose
However, while the business aspect of Hedeselskabet is doing good and growing steadily, the association – which started it all – could profit from a revitalization. As part of the ethnographic mapping of Hedeselskabet we have conducted multiple in-depth interviews with staff, management and members of the association and its executive committee. The interviews show a longing for a more clearly defined purpose and direction for the future activities of the association – and a longing for communicating better and more effectively with the outside world. Thus, it might be fruitful to revisit the original purpose of the association.
The line of CEOs who have been in charge of Hedeselskabet through the last 148 years.
A new beginning?
Our interviews show that Hedeselskabet has a huge potential for reinventing itself by revisiting its own organizational history and heritage. The association started out with a public call for aid in support of the noble cause of recovering the Danish heath lands in order to ameliorate the lives of the small time peasants and ensuring the food production of the country. With the recent appointment of Lars Johansson as CEO, Hedeselskabet yet again finds itself with an engineer officer at the helm (Enrico Mylius Dalgas was trained as an engineer officer in the Danish armed forces in the 1850’es and he worked as a highway engineer for a large part of his life). Thus in several ways, today seems an apt time for Hedeselskabet to make a new beginning and reinvent itself in the eyes of the public.
Developing brand strategy and new visual identity
At the heart of the authentic identity of Hedeselskabet lie the aspiration, the will and the skills to work for a cause of common good. The interviews we have conducted shows that this aspiration is still very much alive today – and is widely shared among employees, members and management of Hedeselskabet. Next step, then, is to translate this strong, and historically founded aspiration into a common, contemporary vision of common good. We at Stagis look forward to partake in developing a new brand strategy and visual identity for Hedeselskabet and thus help the association and its subsidiary companies to create value for its members, customers and for society at large.
Tilbage til rødderne?
Stagis er blevet bedt om at hjælpe Det danske Hedeselskab med at revitalisere forening og forretning ved at udvikle ny brandstrategi og visual identitet. Hedeselskabet er en forening med ejerskab over flere virksomheder, der indenfor forretningsområderne natur, miljø og energi har en årlig omsætning på over 2 mia. kroner. Stagis’ første skridt i udviklingen af Hedeselskabets brand var en kortlægning af foreningens autentiske identitet – og her viste det sig, at der findes et stort potentiale for strategisk udvikling i at genbesøge foreningens historie og oprindelige formål.