- LIVE TV
After numerous business trips to Finland to do consulting and teach marketing at the Helsinki School of Economics (now Aalto University), I noticed that …
With quality people, methods, and products, why is Finland not on most people’s radar screen for doing business or visiting? The answer is quite simple. Finland has not done a good job of marketing itself, its companies, or its very capable people.
The Finnish brand is not well-known
The first problem is that Finland is not very well-known outside its borders — especially in the United States. In fact, when I tell my friends and associates that I am going to Finland, without fail, the next time they see me, they ask, “When are you going to Sweden…, Norway…, Denmark…?” They rarely, if ever, remember that I am going to Finland. Even more amazing, when I return from Finland, they’ll ask, “How was Sweden…, Norway…, Denmark…?”
What’s the problem?
Why is this a problem? People are less likely to want to “buy a product” that has no clear, positive image in their mind. In fact, it is a rule of marketing that if prospective buyers cannot remember the brand (in this case, made in Finland), it is unlikely they will buy the product. Looking at some examples of other countries, most believe that France makes quality wine, Germany makes high-performance cars, Japan makes reliable consumer electronics, and the US makes desirable software for computers and entertainment. These brand images give products from companies in those countries an advantage in the marketplace.
The Finnish reaction is part of the problem
When I have raised this issue with Finns, I typically receive one of the following reactions…
With regard to this last point, I was given a stack of brochures about Finland for background research on a piece I was writing for a Finnish client. All of them looked beautiful and were obviously expensive to produce (there was a budget for that). None of them emphasized the benefits of doing business with Finnish companies or visiting Finland. Some good “things” were in these brochures, but they were buried in the body text that most people (83.3% according to data) will not read. The money was spent, but it was not effectively invested because the proper marketing strategy and architecture were missing.
Evidence that Finland has a Corporate Image problem
My point was underscored in a news “blurb” that appeared in the Business Section of the Los Angeles Times way back on the 17th of February, 1999. In the piece entitled “More on Tech,” the author wrote (and I am quoting verbatim), “Nokia to Buy Diamond Lane: Swedish cellular phone maker Nokia agreed to buy Petaluma,Calif.-based Diamond Lane Communications Corp. for $125 million to help meet demand for Internet access through wireless phones.” Nokia was, and still is, Finland’s best-known brand, and the writer of the article in a major newspaper thought it was a Swedish company. Case closed.
This is only part of a greater Marketing Problem
The confusion of Finland with other better-known Scandinavian countries is really part of a larger marketing problem. This problem is underscored by the fact that Nokia has been in business since 1865, but it hired its first CMO in January of 2011. Just over a year later, Nokia laid off thousands of people, and she was gone. Not long after, Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft. My Finnish friends were livid at the time and are still upset about this. It is as if Coca Cola or Disney were sold to a French company.
Nokia’s great fall
At its peak in 2007, Nokia had a market capitalization of $250 billion. That was before the iPhone and Android phones took the lions-share of the smartphone market away from Nokia’s disappointing smartphone line-up. Before the Microsoft deal was announced, Nokia’s stock price was trading somewhere between $3 and $4 per share – giving it a market value between 2 and 3% of its 2007 value. While there are many reasons for Nokia’s sharp decline, experienced marketers know that Nokia had a great fall because it was a product-driven company dominated by engineers and a bureaucracy that missed the marketplace signals because of its lack of marketing expertise.
Finland is a great place to do business
When you have a great product and the world does not know about it, that is the ultimate proof that a lack of marketing expertise is the problem. What are some of the facts that support the notion that Finland has a great product and is a fantastic place to visit and do business?
As a result of the above, it is easy to see that Finland provides businesses a favorable business climate that is hard to beat. While it true that labor rates are higher than in the Far East, it is also true that the highly-educated workforce, Western-style business knowhow, and advanced technology infrastructure can more than compensate for higher labor costs. The problem is that to many potential business partners around the world, Finland is still a secret.
Finland needs to do some serious and effective marketing
To overcome the “best kept secret” syndrome, Finland needs to realize that the concept of “if you make it, they will come” is only found in movies. The benefits of Finland need to be actively marketed. That means they need to be highlighted in headlines, and not buried in the body text of communications. Finns need to overcome their shyness, and not be afraid to tell others how Finland can help them. The Finnish government and its better known companies need to lead the charge to communicate the great things that have come out of Finland.
How can businesses around the world benefit from Finland’s shyness?
The fact the Finland is marketing-challenged can be viewed as an advantage for American businesses because once the rest of the world discovers the hidden benefits Finland has to offer, competition for Finnish goods and services are likely to bid prices upward. For now, it is a win-win opportunity that businesses should learn about and not pass up. See you in the sauna.
– Business Insider