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FOCUS FINLAND 2011 · ColuMn · LAURA KOLBE Column { COUNTRY, brand and myth report is Finland's practical approach to problem solving. Pragmatism can be a great asset when it comes to solving the world's peskiest problems. Our creative problem-solving ability and high level of education stem from our history, in which wars, recessions and other crises have united us in a battle for a better future. We have fought for equality by sharing our wealth and combating regional and social inequality. Education and technology have been our main weapons in the fight for prosperity. This message has now been built into our national brand ­ a message that has global carrying power. A country brand can strengthen the positive traits for which Finland is famous ­ as well as increase appreciation for our expertise. W hen I lived in the Netherlands, I befriended some Finns in the travel industry. They had a stuffed reindeer that they would haul from one event to another. The reindeer annoyed me. I finally blurted: "Do you have to drag that thing everywhere? It has nothing to do with modern Finnish life!" They looked surprised and said: "Of course we always bring the reindeer. The Dutch love it!" When I recapped that story to branding consultant Simon anholt, he burst out laughing: "Just keep parading the reindeer. Why fight it?" Finland's country brand historically revolves around three themes: creativity, Of course we always bring the reindeer. The Dutch love it! nature and education. Did the Country Brand Committee manage to shake off any of these myths in their efforts to update our national image? Finland is stereotyped as a nation on the fringe of Europe. We presume that we are `closer to nature' because our culture is younger than that of Continental Europe. Nature is still our main selling point, even when we market our modern, industrial lifestyle. The Committee updated this nature myth by adding two new dimensions: technological expertise and clean water. The media's great interest in the Committee's work made us very cautious about our methods and communication strategy. The Committee enlisted the help of the public, brainstorming with everyday Finns in workshops, seminars and even on live TV. What shines through in the final PHOTO: ANTTI KANGASSALO laura Kolbe The author is a Professor of European History at the University of Helsinki. She was a member of the Finland Country Brand Committee appointed to update Finland's national image. The final report listed over 100 suggestions for promoting Finland and strengthening its international competitiveness. 25

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