Danish shipping and energy company Maersk Group had nearly 100 years of history as a strong, silent type before corporate brand manager Anna Granholm-Brun came along. Now the global powerhouse embraces the social media spotlight.
Maybe it was traditional Danish modesty. Or maybe it was the company’s business: shipping and oil drilling. Whatever the reason, Maersk Group has a history of keeping a low public profile. “The press would call and we just wouldn’t have anything to share or anything that we really wanted to share," says Anna Granholm-Brun (@annacbrun), the company’s corporate brand manager. “It was just, ‘no comment.’” All that has changed. California-native Granholm-Brun has been with the Copenhagen-based conglomerate for four and a half years, helping the company embrace a new social savvy. She developed the company’s first social media strategy with C-suite support and has grown Maersk’s social community to over a million fans and followers. The company has over 1.3 million likes for the Maersk Facebook page alone and often gets over 100,000 views of its corporate videos at the Maersk YouTube channel. Maersk Group is a collection of companies focused on shipping, oil production and drilling. Now listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange, the company was founded in Denmark in 1904 with a single freighter; Maersk Drilling was founded in 1972, and Maersk Oil started producing oil in North Sea that same year. The conglomerate had revenues of $60.2 billion in 2011, and today employs 152,000 people globally. In 2013, Maersk Line, the group’s shipping company, plans to launch 20 Triple-E vessels, said to be the world's largest and most energy-efficient container ships. Maersk Group is led by Ane Maersk McKinney Uggla, granddaughter of the founder. In a conversation with MIT Sloan Management Review’s Robert Berkman, Granholm-Brun explained how the company has shifted from one end of the transparency spectrum to the other, why there’s so much value in a good story, and what it took to sell social to company executives.
Maersk is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Google+, China’s Sina Wiebo and more. How did the company become so active in social media?
The Maersk brand has gone through a huge transformation in the last 10 years. We used to provide a “no comment” when the press called. We kept a low profile and didn’t market ourselves to the extent that many other companies within our industries of operation did.