”All countries are interested in the perception of their countries”, says Jorma Ollila, the chair of the Finnish Country Brand Committee. According to Ollila, a country brand is equivalent to the perception people have of a certain country. The functionality of Finnish society, close relationship to nature and a world-class education system are things that Finland can be proud of - and, if used properly, can also be efficient tools to promoting Finland.
Ollila, the Chairman and former CEO of Nokia, among other things, talked about the Finnish country brand and about the work of the committee at an event organized by the Finnish-British Chamber of Commerce. The final report of the committee, Mission for Finland, was published in November 2010.
Ollila concludes that every country have an existing country brand - whether there is a committee for it or not – and it affects tourism as well as trade. Therefore, he insists, a country brand should be exploited and evolved further.
In 2008, Ollila was appointed for the post by Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb who wanted to set a committee to create a strategy for Finland which would make the world turn to us more often and more effectively. Preparing of the Finnish country brand invoked strong emotions and resistance. However, the public was pleased with the results. “The reception of the country brand report was a lot better than anyone would have thought”, Ollila says.
The committee spend the first year discussing the term country brand and how it differs from a commercial brand. A country brand is something that is developed over decades or even centuries.
“Ten years is a short time to try to influence a country brand”, Ollila explains. According to him, single negative incidents have virtually no effect on a positive brand. A negative brand is equally difficult to turn into a positive one. As a result, the committee decided on discussing how Finland would like to be perceived in twenty years.
As an end result, a report Mission for Finland was published. In the report the country and the people are given various tasks on how to improve the Finnish country brand. “This method led to a very different report which is more lively and concrete”, Ollila says. Three main themes to develop the brand were introduced.
The first theme is functionality. “Finland is a country that works. In Finland things work. There is a strong trust in society”, Ollila explains. By functionality Ollila means not only the practise, but also the way we handle problems.
The second theme is the Finns’ special relationship to nature. “People identify Finland with wild, untouched nature - with a small group of Finns living there”, Ollila says. Whether we like it or not, nature is a big part of the common perception of Finland. In the report, the committee wants to use that perception by accentuating Finland’s clean lakes and investing in organic food.
The third theme is education. ”The quality of teaching in Finland is top of the bill”, Ollilla says. In addition to the primary education which already is, according to Ollila, the best in the world, higher education should be brought to that same level and make Finland known as the superpower of education. Ollila sees this as a great challenge for the Finnish universities.
Text and photos by Emmi Harju