Rebranding Finland?

Finland and its nature are at an all time high. All the Nordic countries are vastly popular. Time, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post all write about how cool of a country Finland is. It is a fad.

Not because Finland’s not cool but because Finland doesn’t mean much to people, even to the people in Finland. We live in an ambiguous country with mixed meanings. We’re not a country of united people, we don’t serve a higher purpose. We don’t believe in a common purpose. And because of that there’s no way to clearly communicate why we should believe what Finland says and what it does—we don’t know what it stands for.

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USA is a country that has a cult-like following. USA is the Apple or Ben & Jerry’s of countries. Many people dislike the politics and the fact that they shove their noses into everyone else’s affairs. They boss others around, they basically own the NATO and put missile defenses all over other countries.

People who’ve never been to the US often criticize it for these things. Still most of them want to travel there anyway. I did—and then I went and lived there for two years. Living there clarified the sense of greatness the country has. It stands for something. The US stands for freedom. If you believe in freedom, you understand and believe in what the country and its people stand for.

The USA doesn’t have a monopoly over freedom. And still even the flag of the US represents freedom. It’s a symbol recognized all over the world and so many people from developing countries understand it. It even goes so far that if you search freedom in Google images the results bring up the flag.

Freedom. It’s a single minded proposition for the United States. It’s a clear positioning for the country. It’s a community builder. The United States stands for freedom but it’s the people who believe in this message who make the country what it is and spread its message. And the message is loud and clear.

Movements are based on beliefs, not tangible products or services. When people believe in the same cause they come together. I’m a firm believer in freedom and I loved living in the States where people shared my belief.

That’s why it’s so easy for the people in the US to be proud of their country despite the fact that their foreign policy might not always be up to par.

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But it’s not only countries with enormous amounts of financial and political power that can have a clear message. Let’s take Sweden. Sweden stands for taste. Whether you agree with the perspective of their taste or not, you can’t deny the fact that everything Sweden and Swedish people do is tasteful.

It’s in their everyday life: the way they dress, the way they conduct themselves, the way they move, the products they buy and produce, the music they listen to and the design they create. Playing European or gay is essentially useless is Stockholm—anyone who’s great at the game in the States will have nothing to go on in Sweden.

But it’s not only that, it’s also the companies and the royalty. The wedding of princess Victoria was very tasteful. It was traditional, over the top but still very tasteful. It’s even in their language. Lagom—just the right amount. Not too much, not too little but just the right amount.

So, it’s not a surprise that Sweden and the Swedes are doing so well in the world and are well known. They have a clear purpose of spreading tastefulness and they’re very coherent with the message. Everything they do is filtered through their purpose and thus has a meaning, something people can believe in.

Once again the message is very clear and what they do embodies and reflects that very message.

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What about even smaller and even less significant, at least historically? Estonia is a country independent from the occupation of the Soviet Union for only 23 years. It has a mere 1,3 million inhabitants. But in that short time it has come up with a very clear message of innovation.

It’s a country renown for it’s free wi-fi spots, it’s a country known for its eElections and eCountry. It even announced a project of eCitizenship. It’s home for NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, it’s a birthplace of Skype and Kazaa.

It has become quite clear what Estonia’s niche is. So far, the innovation is technical and internet based. But the underlying message and belief is innovation—that every problem has a solution. No matter how few resources you have there’s always a solution.

That’s a belief that puts Estonia and Estonians apart.

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But what about Finland? What does it stand for? What’s the single minded proposition of Finland? Most importantly, what is the belief the Finnish people share?

Finland has the education system, the incredible nature, and the meanwhile in Finland meme. We have the welfare state and free universal health care. We have free university education. We have Rovio and Supercell. We have Kone. We have Slush. Finland is the birthplace of Linux. We have the Moomins. There’s also Marimekko. And of course we have sauna. We used to have Nokia, oh, how proud we were of Nokia. “What is the next Nokia?” people used to say and some still do. And this list doesn’t even begin to cover everything we have accomplished.

The people in Finland are cold on the surface but the moment you pierce through it you’re in. The trust and friendship is like no other I’ve experienced anywhere in the world. Once you get through you can tell your joys and sorrows and you will be listened to and cared for.

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I am confused. I love it here. I believe Finland stands for something. There is something that unites the people. It’s not represented by the Finnish flag—not yet. It’s seldom talked about. And it certainly isn’t clearly communicated by the people, the organizations, the politicians or the government.

It’s bigger than innovation. It’s not a product or a company but a way of life that our fathers and their fathers before them already employed. It’s a belief that keeps us going through the darkest of months. It’s a belief that pushes us forward in subzero temperatures with nearly horizontal icy rain.

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We show this belief in our everyday actions, in our enterprises and the way we live in the world. Is there a word for? If there is, time after time we underestimate the value of it. Through our actions, through our communication and through the products we bring to the world we must let the world know our core values and what we stand for.

We—Finland and the Finnish people—we stand for something. When we can communicate this to the world, we as Finns will become the new Nokia. Or is this yet another fad?


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