It was an incredibly complicated undertaking. Traffic lights had to be reversed, road signs changed (some 360,000 had to be switched), intersections redesigned and reshaped, lines on the road repainted, bus stops moved, buses and trams reconfigured. And that’s before you start to consider the joys of one-way streets. Or the practicalities involved.
Like the fact that every intersection was equipped with an extra set of poles and traffic signals wrapped in black plastic which were then simultaneously removed by an army of workers. Similarly, a parallel set of lines were painted on the roads with white paint, then covered with black tape ready for that ultimate moment of synchronicity.
The communication strategy was impressive. Not only was the day named, but it also got its own logo, which appeared on everything from milk cartons to underwear. There was a televised song contest where the winning tune was “Håll dig till höger, Svensson” (“Keep to the right, Svensson”) by The Telstars.
To avoid blinding the oncoming drivers, all Swedish vehicles had to have their headlamps replaced with right-hand units. They even distributed pairs of gloves, one black, one red to remind drivers they should drive on the right as the traffic was changed.
On H-day at 4:50 am crowds of people gathered to watch as all vehicles on the road were instructed to come to a halt, move carefully to the other side of the road and wait. At the stroke of 5:00 am, following a radio countdown, an announcement was made over the radio “Sweden now has right-hand driving” and traffic was allowed to resume.
I suspect anyone would be rightly daunted at trying to do anything similar these days, especially without the everyday technological communication tools we all take for granted. Respect to the Swedes.
But aside from that technology gap, the approach hasn’t really changed that much.
We have helped clients on major transformation programmes using some of the very same tools;a simple core narrative coupled with an appropriate creative platform consisting of a name, idea and distinctive identity; a set of simple core messages implemented coherently across a range of materials and channels:and innovative and poignant behavioural cues and reinforcements to help make that change happen.
But, we didn’t make a song. Maybe next time.