People really do move more. In 2015, there were 244 million people in the world who lived in another country than they were born in – a 41% increase compared to 2000. If we take the average salary of a knowledge worker, that means 6,1 trillion euros of salaries or consumption is transferred somewhere else.
That creates huge economic imbalances that will only increase in the future. We at Teleport are helping people move, and cities reach those people. I am seeing that some cities are doing an excellent job at being attractive to the global talent, some do a so-so job and some are just bad.
One great example has been Eindhoven, a city half the size of Tallinn – but listed by Wired as one of the top 8 design cities in the world. And now it’s getting interesting – the guy who is leading the marketing efforts in the city – Peter Kentie – is offering his advice to Estonia today. For free.
You could imagine my surprise when I first heard about you and the person said “Peter could be the biggest fan of Estonia”. How did that happen – what got you hooked to this place?
On my Twitter it says: “I left my heart in Estonia.” I am a proud e-Resident, and I am truly thankful to Estonia for the inspiration it has given me. Apart from my work as marketer and brand manager for the Eindhoven region, I have a strong interest and caring for this country.
I think there are even similarities between our city and your country, as being smaller resilient communities that have quite an impact on global society. I have been to Tallinn as a tourist, and two years ago I met the awesome digital marketing representative of EAS who inspired me immensely and introduced the achievements and peculiarities of Estonia to me. I learned that us “advanced thinking” Dutch people have found our match with Estonia, an advanced and future oriented digital society, and that all my images and perceptions from my visit were outdated or too narrow.
When I dug in deeper, I was even more stunned of the breadth of innovation and rich, deeply authentic culture. Some additional sources I used were the Estonian news on Postimees, ERR, Äripaev, Estonianworld.com, Best Marketing and Justin Petrone’s writing.
Sometimes it feels like Estonians overestimate how visible the country is to outsiders – it’s just 0,26 % of European population. What do you think could be our edge – something unique about ourselves that we should use as a marketing story?
To understand the Estonian mentality, I really did a lot of research to capture and understand the essence of your nation. I find my results equally striking and disturbing. Why didn’t I know this country, and why is it telling its fantastic virtues and results so modestly? You are the biggest and the coolest, though you hardly communicate that to the outside world in a strategic (!) way.
So, that’s a missed opportunity for all. The edge is in your mentality. The richness in unique cultural assets, e-society, innovative spirit and a wonderful nature is stunning. The key is to find a coherent approach and act in a coherent manner. Not scattered about, minding your own business and interests. The missing edge in my humble opinion is the lack of sharing or the missing communality. I see Estonia missing apparent opportunities, and above all, not really focusing.
Estonia must consistently deliver outstanding experiences to build a relevant and sustainable brand Estonia. Being an observer from a distance and commenting is easy, I know. Caring for Estonia is good, but contributing is even better. So that’s what I opted for.
My second surprise arrived when you showed me the -est project – you are not just a fan of Estonia, but you had created a branding concept that is ready to use – how on earth did you arrive to this idea?
Can you see the parallel: Eindhoven and Estonia are kind of similar in their mentality and development. Both having faced tough times and recuperated from that, now facing forward and in the process challenging conventional thinking. So that has to be shared. And Estonia really needs to strategically brand and communicate its great achievements.
Policy makers worldwide can learn a lot from Estonia – that supports programs as e-Residency and therefore Estonian economy and future. But that said, we have to know what Estonia is achieving. The country has to communicate its stories and performances. And above all, it has to make itself known.
I decided to contribute and use my experience as brand builder and marketer to create a branding and marketing concept based on a simple but catchy idea based on the shortened name -est for Estonia. It is a simple and smart idea, and actually based on learnings from the Eindhoven branding and marketing process.
I created and visualized extensive and coherent next level branding and marketing, including all domains of Estonian society. From tourism to business, from talent attraction to foreign direct investment, social to merchandising – and including ideas for EV 100. All in one coherent marketing message that can be applied to all media and communication platforms.
It would be interesting to see your workflow — can you describe the design process a bit?
All great design starts with a strong concept and a bit of luck – in my case, that was on a biking hike when I almost ran into a van of a company called ‘e.s.t.’ short for ‘equipment service team’. Then it dawned on me: the solution is in the name: est. The essence of this positioning and branding concept is a simple, straightforward idea: let Estonia emphasize its unique character and achievements by being the fastest, the smartest, the greenest, the cosiest and even the weirdest. And modest as well. The ‘est’ is already in the name of the international country name.
A playful and logical next phase of Estonian nation branding, while safeguarding achieved results and enhancing prior branding and marketing investments. A simple solution with huge potential. Again, based on the Eindhoven experiences, I did extensive research in the economic programs of Estonian government and out of these I deducted goals and objectives for the nation branding and positioning and made the -est concept relevant and fitting to your national economic goals.
My aim was and is to create a cohesive nation branding and marketing, enticing and fitting all relevant Estonian stakeholders and domains. So, the next phase was visualizing the concept and adapting the theme to all relevant marketing and branding opportunities. The -est concept supports the storytelling and creation of unique experiences in optima forma.
You need a challenger branding to fit your nation’s challenger mentality. Estonia is really getting out in front. The e-Residency program is a great accelerator for Estonia and connects neatly with the –est concept. The -est concept supports these ambitions and is inspiring enough to all Estonian stakeholders to adopt the concept. And the -est concept can be turned into a positive business case as well if managed well.
Is there also a logo?
Brand Estonia, first and foremost, has to be a brand that Estonians take as theirs and feel connected to – it has to work inside out. Smart destinations and businesses have always known that brands reside in their consumers’ minds. And yet, brands must stand out and represent distinctive values and benefits.
I understand the Mis on Eesti route that EAS has chosen. But that doesn’t work – an open design process can easily turn into an unwanted beauty contest, so it’s wise to move away from this. It is about the effectiveness of your brand positioning. And above all, the nation’s logo is not the key issue; it’s the lack of an effective and a coherent branding and activation campaign that supports Estonia’s ambitions. So that’s what I focused on.
Estonia has to really address its global awareness and international image to fit its ambitions and potential. A brand is your image. The essence is creating awareness and enhancing the image of Estonia. I created a more fitting pay-off instead of ‘positively surprising’ which is too generic; it can be applied to many countries.
I came up with ‘Just Estonishing’. ‘Just’ is unique in Estonian and ‘Estonishing’ is a new word, created just for you. Remember: a brand positioning is what you do to the prospect. A great lesson from marketing expert Al Ries: actions and experiences speak louder than logos.
For Estonians, it’s sometimes very hard to understand why somebody would do something for free. There is this “Yes, but what does he really want?” . So this is just a pro bono idea for Estonians with no strings attached?
Yeah, that really hindered me. My thinking was: “Your country is positively surprising, so let’s be positive and surprising, and so I send the concept as a gift, from the heart, as a true fan!” And then, suspicion creeps in… I didn’t understand. An idea which is shared and surely pro bono can also be of high value. For free doesn’t make it without value.
I think my action is fitting in today’s society. The mentality of sharing, contributing, caring, co-creating. It is my choice to act like this and do accept it as it is. Take the gift and embrace it. My benefits are great too. Like this interview, the fun in creating ideas and meeting like-minded enthusiastic Estonians.
Yes, I realize it is a bit of a weird situation. I understand the reservations and I respect that too. It is odd; a Dutchman living more than two thousand kilometres away creating a nation branding concept without a commission or even a briefing. I know it is hard to explain the work and dedication; I got inspired by Estonia and Estonians. But hey, if you truly want to be positively surprising, this can happen.
And why not start a new great project again in another Estonian / Dutch cooperation? Did you know that when Estonia won the Eurovision song festival in 2001, it was successful teamwork between the Estonian singer, Tanel Padar, and Dave Benton from Aruba, which is a part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands?
Jokes aside – through the project I learned how Estonia can contribute to Eindhoven and The Netherlands, enhancing our digital agenda. In Eindhoven we started a marketing cooperation with Teleport to help us promote our city globally with high tech knowledge workers. So, look at it as a proud e-Resident giving back Dutch design and branding knowledge in return.
Where do you think could be the best use cases for the -est campaign — private companies, government campaigns, something else?
The most important aspect for me is the shareability and usability of the concept. I strived to make it applicable for all potential marketing and promotion opportunities, with a design solution ranging from consistent website designs, social media campaign applications, outdoor media, print magazines, at the airport, on trade fairs, on sports equipment.
If I could prioritize a use case, it would be the e-Residency program. It is such a great promoter for Estonia and connects neatly with the –est concept. The country as an incubator for pioneering ideas about digital citizenship, security, virtual business and education. The online and mobile presence of e-Residency needs a boost and can be used as an accelerator and example for other domains. Also, the idea to monetize the new domain name .est would be one of my priorities as it can generate funding for the marketing programs. A self financing project.
So, in a way, it’s an addition (and not a replacement) to the work that EAS has done with the Estonian brand?
During the two year development of my concept, I also did an analysis of the current Estonian brand image and the activities of the key stakeholders. EAS brought vital inspiration. I was fortunate to meet their e-Residency program director Kaspar Korjus in Eindhoven – he liked the concept and really supported me. Enterprise Estonia gave me the opportunity at the end of 2015 to present my ideas to the EAS brand team.
I appreciated the warm reception, and their reaction was great and stimulating for me to proceed in further developing the concept to fit their ambitions and task – resulting in this open publication. I truly hope it can be seen as an addition to the branding and marketing activities of EAS.
The -est project is now public – what’s next?
Of course I have my personal goals. I would love to see my concept picked up and enhanced by the authorities – or by the Estonian design and marketing communities. To make it come alive. It is a great solution for this moment in time with the e-Residency momentum internationally and with EV 100 and EU chairmanship coming up in 2018. My ultimate dream is to meet your President Ilves and Prime Minister Rõivas at the Estonian friends event.
During ICT Week on June 2nd, I am in Tallinn to present the Eindhoven branding case at the ‘Nation and city branding’ event hosted by EAS and Tendensor at the Nordic Place Academy. Of course I would love to discuss the -est concept as well, to make it come alive, literally.
For me the concept is ready and in the open – thanks to all you here on Memokraat. I really think it can be of value to Estonia and I look forward to the discussions and comments. Be the est.
And to finish the interview up – some questions about Einhoven. You have done a great job with marketing Eindhoven – the city has only 225,000 inhabitants, but is really visible as a target to smart people of the world (Wired listed it as top 8 design cities in the world). Can you describe your development track to the current position?
Eindhoven nowadays is a high tech hardware capital and a top design hotspot. In the beginning of the nineties, we faced a major economic crisis in our region. Over 35,000 jobs, almost a third(!), were lost in the Eindhoven area. Through resilience, a strong collaborative effort and a focus on high tech hardware and open innovation, we recuperated.
In 2011, the Eindhoven region was crowned tthe world’s smartest region by ICF. We learned that we had to work smarter through innovation. We took charge with a can-do mentality, open in our approach and involving all stakeholders.
So, in our city, we started a branding and marketing project to tell the world that we really matter to the society as an example and can add value. To attract top talent, knowledge workers, create businesses and foreign direct investments to the Eindhoven region. We need new talent to retain our position in a highly competitive high tech world. So, we invested to improve our reputation and visibility. It resulted in a measurable increase in global awareness and recognition.
Yes, we have been modest too in Eindhoven, for too long, although we have a world-class story to tell. Eindhoven is hands-down the most inventive city in the world and a top design hotspot with a great university. We built our marketing strategy around these brand pillars: technology, design and knowledge. We bring these domains alive with high quality festivals – like Dutch Design Week, which attracts global interest and is a great way to tell and sell our achievements and stories.
The war on talent is only increasing – how has the world changed in that area during the last 10 years and what can the future bring?
The Dutch researcher Antoine van Agtmael co-authored the book The Smartest Places on Earth, in which he investigated places like Eindhoven, Waterloo and Albany, NY, to see how they transformed to the next level – the smart city level. The communality of these unexpected successful cities is that they bounced back from life-threatening crisis, and are now reclaiming their prosperity by working smarter through innovation.
In Eindhoven, we attract and retain our top talent with top resources, international schools and spouses’ initiatives, and we nurture our entrepreneurs. In fact, it is a quadruple helix ecosystem: our municipality is working closely together with the Eindhoven based knowledge institutes and high tech companies in our region – in close cooperation with the citizens.
The Eindhoven approach probably requires political level commitment and also funding — how is Eindhoven funding the marketing activities?
It was commonly felt and supported in our community, citizens, businesses and politicians alike, that we had to raise awareness for our achievements. Our mayor played a vital role in initiating the city marketing project and spearheading the initial phase. Our city council unanimously supported the marketing strategy and the visual identity redesign of Eindhoven.
The funding is a clever mix of basic financing from the city, combined with using income of outdoor media exploitation and tourist tax for marketing and on brand events. The better the city is performing, the more budget for marketing the city is created.
See the more detailed version of Peter’s work on Estonian brand here.