Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

Finland, branding or promotion?

Finland. That tiny little country in the cold North right next to Russia and separated from Sweden by the Gulf of Bothnfinl-MMAP-mdia, that no one really knows anything about. There are 5,268,799 people in 338,145 square kilometers which of 70% is forest, 10% lake and 8% arable land. (www.cia.gov)

According to Simon Anholt, nation branding plays a vital role when a state is pursuing their national goals in the global stage. How the nation is perceived by others has an affect on their success in global markets. The strategies of nation branding vary depending on what the nation wants to achieve, and they can put the focus on marketing or public diplomacy and policymaking, only imagination is the limit, but it needs to happen in public to get the brand to be seen. (Anholt 2007)

So what is the Finland known of? As a Finn, it is hard to think what other countries remember or know from Finland, but what comes to mind after asking about it from my non-Finnish friends are Sauna, Father Christmas, Nokia (which by the way thanks to Stephen Elop was sold to Microsoft…), ice swimming and the silly games they play, such as Wife carrying competition and air guitar world championships.

As Finland was, and still is perceived as this silly northern country with great qualities hidden behind the public picture, the government realised that in order to gain more reputation in the global scale, they had to promote the good aspects of Finland, and not just the silliness of it. It has been proved by PISA (a programme for international student assessment in OECD) that Finland has is in the last 40 years after the reforms of the educational systems been on the top of the list for its education system year after year.

Although, in recent years Finland’s ranking has dropped in PISA records, not very far, but still dropped. To keep the association of the best education is in Finland, and actually prove it, Finland decided to reform its educational system by not teaching subjects anymore, but teaching by topic. For example “pupils will be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union – which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography” and the education manager of Helsinki argues towards this reform by saying: “There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s – but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century”. This reform has had a lot of attention in the media, so far so, that even the United Kingdom has done a trip to Finland to learn from the schooling system and draw lessons that could be applicable in the UK schooling systems. You can read more about Finnish school systems here.

Moving forward from branding Finland with education system, to the healthcare and support from the government for mothers. The Government sends every new mother a “Maternity box” which includes basic supplies for babies when they are first born, and at the same time it acts as a crib for the babies themselves. The BBC wrote an article called Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes, which had a lot of international attention in the news media promoting healthcare and support forbabybox624_2 mothers, and lead to another wave of ‘how we can learn from the Finns’, such as the educational system did.

As mentioned earlier, Simon Anholt coined the concept of nation branding, but later on came to realise that it might actually be impossible. He argues that people do not tend to change their minds about countries as they don’t really think about countries in general. He says that human is not born as a cosmopolitan, and normal people think only three countries in average; their own country, the United States and a third one that depends on individuals. He also argues that we reject new ideas of a country if it doesn’t fit into out individual norms. (notes written in a seminar held in London metropolitan university by Simon Anholt 25th of February 2015)

Even if these actions do not brand Finland differently, it still is clear that Finland is promoting equality in the global media. I would like to end this post with a song by our Eurovision entry from Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät a song called “I always have to”.The band is a Finnish punk band formed of mentally handicapped men who enjoy music and want equality.

References:
Air Guitar World Championships, (2015). 20th Air Guitar World Championships | Air Guitar World Championships | Air Guitar World Championships. [online] Available at: http://www.airguitarworldchampionships.com/ [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Anholt, S. (2007). Competitive identity. Basingstoke [England]: Palgrave Macmillan.
BBC News, (2015). Microsoft to buy Nokia’s mobile phone unit – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23940171 [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
BBC News, (2015). Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22751415 [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Cia.gov, (2015). The World Factbook. [online] Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fi.html [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Eukonkanto.fi, (2015). Home -Sonkajärven Eukonkanto Oy. [online] Available at: http://www.eukonkanto.fi/en/ [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Eurovision.tv, (2015). Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät – Aina Mun Pitää (Finland 2015). [online] Available at: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/year/participant-profile/?song=32863 [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union, (2015). National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union. [online] Available at: http://www.teachers.org.uk/educationandequalities/finland [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union, (2015). National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union. [online] Available at: http://www.teachers.org.uk/educationandequalities/finland [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Oph.fi, (2015). The Finnish National Board of Education – Education system. [online] Available at: http://www.oph.fi/english/education_system [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
The Independent, (2015). Schools in Finland will no longer teach ‘subjects’. [online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/finland-schools-subjects-are-out-and-topics-are-in-as-country-reforms-its-education-system-10123911.html [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Washington Post, (2015). Are Finland’s vaunted schools slipping?. [online] Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/12/03/are-finlands-vaunted-schools-slipping/ [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
YouTube, (2015). ESC FINLAND 2015 – ENGLISH LYRICS – PKN – Aina mun pitää/ I always have to. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dhi7Kdj7_rs [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

notes written in a seminar held in London metropolitan university by Simon Anholt 25th of February 2015

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