How being a big fish in a small pond can backfire

Jensen’s Bøfhus learned last month that having the law onside won’t necessarily keep the mob at bay

Jensen’s Bøfhus may have won its trademark case against the owner of Jensens Fiskehus at the Supreme Court last month, but it suffered a crushing defeat in the court of public opinion. 
Its rabid nature on a social media battleground revealed an entrenched Danish distaste for big business, the ‘big guy’ and anything tainted with the audacity of individual success. 

Fighting on the sites
Over 112,000 people joined a ‘Boycott Jensen’s Bøfhus’ Facebook page (which last week disappeared after an unknown party conned the 17-year-old founder into giving him the admin rights!) where the comments ranged from the vitriolic to the naive.  

For example, on a similar page, one commenter likened the larger chain to the “mafia” for choosing to take legal action, whilst another commenter suggested “our justice system has failed and parliament must 

One review website,, had to temporarily restrict users from submitting reviews. 

It explained on its site that they “clearly did not relate to the buying experience, but were personal or political expressions”, and that some users had “encouraged others to write negative or positive reviews not based on actual buying experiences”. 

Different to the US
Dr Debbie Quackenbush is a Copenhagen-based psychologist who has also lived, worked and studied in the US.  In her experience, there are subtle differences between the way successful corporate entities are perceived in Denmark and the US.  

“There is a little more distrust in Danish society towards bigger businesses,” she told the Weekly Post.

“You see this a little more than in other countries – particularly the US. I think there is definitely more of a tendency to root for the little guy against the big guy.”  

Backing the underdog
According to Tore Kristensen, a professor in the department of marketing at Copenhagen Business School, the furore caused by the Bøfhus vs Fiskehus case reveals some significant characteristics about Danish consumer behaviour.  

“I think they have more sympathy for the little guy, fighting the giant and ‘the system’,” he told the Weekly Post.

“All the talk of big business, tax shelters and exploitation of workers – [for example] workers in Indian textiles – scares them.  The basic values of human scale, simplicity, harmony, neighbourhood – the small guy who tries to make a living – combined with a view of justice are important.”

Rich parents condemned
Wealthy companies are not the only ones condemned for going about their business. Affluent parents were last month stigmatised by media and the public for legitimately purchasing property in Copenhagen to ensure their children have a place to live while studying.  

Karina Nicolaisen, the chairwoman of HK Youth, wishes parents would give some leeway to young professionals like herself.  
“I can understand why parents want to help their children get an apartment," she told DR.

“But the problem is there are people like me who cannot get onto the housing market."

Janteloven to blame?
Despite the fact that Denmark is credited with having one of the world’s most competitive economies and was rated by the World Bank as the fifth easiest place to do business in 2013, some believe the Jante Law has a stifling effect on the Danish economy.  

Coined by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in 1933, Janteloven comprises ten golden rules that capture the uniquely Scandinavian hostility to individual success and achievement.  

While Tore Kristensen did not think it played a bigger role in Danish business than other cultures, Dr Quackenbush believed “you can still see remnants of Janteloven, but mostly things have moved on.” 

Even Noma 
In an uncanny culinary parallel to the Bøfhus scandal, René Redzepi – the co-owner and head chef of top restaurant Noma – felt the wrath of public criticism when he boldly set out to take Noma to the top.  According to Redzepi, the law is part and parcel of living in Denmark. 

“Ten years ago, we’re opening and we’re saying we’re going to try to do something different. Saying stuff like that at the time was just unheard of,” he told CNN. 

“I’ve even been told I have fascist tendencies. There have been op-eds written in Danish papers linking what we do at the restaurant to some of the most horrible moments in recent history!”

If you thought Jensens
Fiskehus was bad …

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