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Utilizing a Values-Based Marketing Plan to Create Buzz and Heighten Engagement

Consultant Matt Classen’s second-to-last project in Oslo before moving back to Oregon was with Hard Rock Cafe (HRC) in Oslo.

HRC was facing significant market challenges. Competition with other well entrenched establishments in a similar category were making it hard for Hard Rock to win and sustain business. A targeted, differentiated, overarching communication strategy needed to be created and implemented in order to create a buzz within Oslo that would attract the local market year round, rather than mostly tourists during a short tourist season.

In addition, HRC wanted to expand upon was it’s B2B business. This was because it had large spaces, with accompanying technology, by which to host meetings, small conferences and general business events in a casual/fun environment that other locations could not provide. It was also a higher margin business that would add much needed revenues.


HRC is a global institution with a powerful history, accompanying symbols, cultural assets and organizational values that the local competition could not match. Oslo is also the city where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually, so it is known as a center where democratic values are celebrated. In addition, Western culture is one which deeply values the freedom of self-expression, diversity and a rock ‘n’ roll attitude that drives the rest of the world to look to the West for inspiration. Finally, with Oslo being a capital city and one of the biggest oil and gas producing nations in the world, most of the world’s countries maintain a strong embassy presence there.

With these assets in mind, the over-arching communication strategy was centered around making HRC the ‘ground zero’ for the celebration of the above shared values, or a Values-Based marketing strategy. The accompanying sub-communication lines were ‘fun”, high quality food that made fresh in-house and service by professionals who embodied the values of HRC and Western civilization as a whole.

Communication Channels


Each new team member at HRC Oslo, when hired, had been told during orientation what the values and history of the organization were, as well as what made HRC so unique in a field of fierce competition. That said, the importance of these values, and how they reach deep into the psyche of the values we hold dear as individuals in Western civilization, were not effectively reinforced, much less communicated for why they are so important to the HRC brand. In order to exude the values of HRC, and thus most effectively deliver the communication strategy, the process had to start in-house first. Through an early morning team meeting, Matt presented to the entire staff, or 70+ employees (aka ‘experience co-creators’), what the communication strategy would be, as well as put it in a way so that the staff could identify with why the communication strategy was important – because it was what they fundamentally valued anyway. This presentation was very well received by the employees.

The next step was to reinforce the communication strategy through overt and subtle reminders for how the values of HRC integrated into everyday activities. Employees were asked how they could identify these values in their work with each other, as well as how they would transmit these values to customers as they came in and start-up brief dialogues wherever possible. Stories of interactions could then be shared in suitable venues.


Among the many conventional communication channels used for this campaign, the two most immediately effective turned out to be through professional B2B affiliations, as well as developing strong B2G (Business to Government) connections with members of Norwegian parliament and a variety of embassies, ambassadors and embassy staff located in Oslo.

The B2B tactic included becoming members of the American, British, German, Oslo and Irish commerce chambers. Membership meant that HRC would be able to host events for each chamber where it could then communicate the values of HRC, why this was important, and how the organization served as a representation of democracy itself. With each commerce chamber event that HRC hosted, it became clear that the Values-Based communication strategy resonated to great effect. With each event, HRC became not just another place to come for a dining experience, it became a place where businesses wanted to schedule B2B events because the values of HRC resonated so deeply among freedom loving peoples, no matter what the demographic.

With the B2G tactic, Matt created a concept called the “Embassy of Hard Rock”, where
any and all Ambassadors and their embassy staff could attend a monthly event, where politics was put aside and people could simply enjoy some food and drink under the banner of celebrated shared democratic values, which HRC represented perfectly. In the beginning, several ambassadors, as well as heads of international NGOs attended Embassy of Hard Rock events. Over the next few months, however, these events eventually became quite popular with the staff of a variety of embassies as a way to liaise with their colleagues from different nations. Matt also became friendly with many ambassadors and their staff. Once in the community, Matt became known as the “Ambassador of Hard Rock Cafe” and was invited to a variety of events that primarily only ambassadors could attend. Over time, this helped Matt to reinforce HRC as the place in town for ambassadors, embassy staff and government officials to go when wanting to have a relaxing and fun time in a familiar, less formal environment. In fact, at one point the Minister of Defense for Slovakia presented Matt with one of two medals for his work in helping to create enjoyable a space for enjoyable, relaxed interactions with government officials from around the world.

The Values-Based marketing campaign also brought significant attention from local and international news media, which created even more buzz around HRC.


During this 6-month project, the Values-Based marketing strategy achieved three distinct results:

  1. B2B revenues increased by almost 100% over all of the previous year’s B2B revenues
  2. HRC hosted two B2B events on the same day and set a record for a single day’s revenues
  3. The “Embassy of Hard Rock” concept:
    • Received local and international press attention.
    • Became a model for how HRC international could differentiate their brand in capital cities around the world.
    • Became well known within the ambassadorial network in Oslo as a place to meet and relax with colleagues and counterparts.