Branding Finland - Monocolumn | Monocle


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26 November 2010

A silicon valley of social innovations, a land where the lakes are virtually drinkable, a country that has managed to export its unbeatable education system just as the French did with their healthcare and Médecins sans Frontières.

This is how Finland sees itself in 2030, according to a controversial 365-page government report published yesterday. It’s the result of two years’ work re-examining what Brand Finland is, how to re-introduce Finnishness to the world, and how to make the country a better place in the process.

Chaired by ex-Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila, a team of some 30 key delegates – including a footballer, executives, and in a flourish of Finnish democracy, a midwife – worked on the project.

“We decided to refrain from seeing this as a branding exercise,” says Roope Mokka from Demos Helsinki, the local think-tank that managed the dossier, referring to the derision the “B” word was met with by the Finnish public at the project’s inception. “Finland is a totally non-hierarchical country. The idea that someone would be telling you about your country as a brand, that was nonsensical to us.”

Instead, this is a call-to-action to the people, by the people, with challenges for the whole of Finnish society. There are missions for school children (“do something together even with the quietest ones in the class” – neatly, yesterday’s launch took place in a Helsinki comprehensive school), for the ministry of education (the educational level of immigrants to be raised to the overall level), even for grandparents (pass on your manual skills).

Finland loves setting itself a challenge – no one else follows an annoying EU regulation more enthusiastically than the Finns – and the delegation is hopeful they will take to these as kindly as they take to the curvature of cucumbers in their supermarkets. Quite how, it’s never really mentioned.

“They’re not just missions – we put an address on these, who they are for” says Mokka. “The delegation will go and address people or industries or groups of industries to make sure they take these and take part in branding Finland.”

The long-term goals are extensive, ranging from the majority of inland water bodies in Finland being potable by 2030, to becoming more welcoming to immigrants, to making sure half of all agricultural production is organic. “It’s a long window for change,” says Mokka on the 20-year plan. A website has been launched alongside the report consisting of a list of small tasks, with the hope each and every Finn will find one appropriate for themselves.

The home of the mobile phone and a design industry based purely around function, Finland’s can-do attitude and ability to solve any problem is without doubt its greatest quality, and that is the prime asset it now wants to sell to the world. If the Finns can’t achieve that, no one can.


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