Fundamentals of Brand Building in Finland

In this episode my guest is Minna Kaitala – an independent branding and marketing consultant based here in Helsinki.

Minna shares some of her key points to building a memorable brand using some fun examples. We also discuss the Finnish point of view to brand building and marketing.

Listen to the full audio or read the selected excerpt below.

➤ So if I ask you, when you meet somebody and they say, ‘What do you do?’ what do you say?

To be totally honest I feel like I’m a generalist. I’ve been working in the industry for 15 plus years. I started in digital advertising and I moved to more traditional advertising and then I moved to strategic work leading and directing design work and then developing different kinds of B2C digital services and concepts. So I’ve been working in a wide range of domains. I’ve been looking at brand building and marketing from different perspectives so I never put myself in a small box so it’s a really difficult question. But if I always tell my clients, ‘If you’re not 100 percent sure why you exist, don’t think that your customers will know,’ so now the same thing goes for me, so I’ll say that I help you build brands that people want to be part of. That’s what I do.

And it’s so funny, when I started my career the landscape was of course totally different. Everybody had the mindset that brands are built through advertising and when you do interesting campaigns and brand acts, people will want to follow you and support you and buy your products. But nowadays it’s totally different. The fundamental premise we operate today is that brands are not built on advertising anymore. They are built over a collection of touch points and especially touch points which are digital and so when we as customers interact with the brand it’s those different touch points and experiences that make the brand experience. It’s the unique experience from all of those touch points. So I truly feel that the role of advertising has changed tremendously over the 15 years.

➤ I love that we’re getting into it already. Okay, so you said that before we used to see branding and advertising as almost equal. Do you think that’s because human attention spans in terms of advertising – if I show you one mind-blowing 30-second advertisement you actually remember it back in the day but now if I show it to you, because we live in a world full of noise and distraction, no matter how much you actually like my advertisement you’re gonna forget it in a few minutes. So for example we have iconic single advertisements in the 80s and 90s like the famous Apple 1984 commercial but now you can’t just have one single thing to get people’s attention because the attention goes away instantly? 

You know, you could but then you really need to break through in the cultural relevance. What I mean is that you can still have your 30 second brand manifesto video or whatever format but in order to get the attention and go under the skin of those people who you want to inspire, you need to take a stand. You need to be bold and courageous and you need to support the values and purpose of your brand and show them. Of course you can break through and get attention but if you’re just mediocre, if you want to be average then don’t bother. Seriously you will waste your money, time and effort and the brain power of those creative people if you don’t have guts to be bold.

Like, one of the really refreshing brand acts was Brew Dog’s announcement that they are becoming carbon negative and how they’ve been reorganizing their supply chain, their way of thinking and how they did it. A lot of brands are doing the same but they did that with a kind of an activism mindset. They are not just talking about how we need to be sustainable, they really pulled up something super interesting, they executed and they told it in a way that really got my attention. Their headline was ‘Fuck you CO2’ and in place of the letter ‘u’ there was the beer can. So nowadays I really think that activism is the way to do it because I truly believe that brands have the power to change the world and make the impact. 

➤ Interesting so activism is the way to break through. And also you said. ‘Be bold, don’t be average,’ but okay my question then is doesn’t everybody try to be bold? Like how many people aim for mediocre or average?

Yeah super good question. What I’ve seen and learned over the years is that in the big organizations – it’s the fear. That’s how you dilute the ideas because you are afraid and you don’t want to go all the way. That’s how we create you know ‘just warm’ concepts. It’s super important to have an opinion and stand for that and voice that thing that really makes you what you are as a brand. Another important thing is to be consistent because brands are built in people’s minds and hearts and if you lack the mindset of building consistently then you’re missing out a lot. So another key point is to be consistent.

➤ Yeah if I’m a young company, a small brand and this is day one – I want to start my brand building. It doesn’t matter how memorable it is, if it’s just one thing, it’s not gonna stick. It has to be a slow methodical gradual build rather than create one awesome 30 second clip that gets everybody’s attention because it’s a noisy world and we’re gonna forget it. If you don’t have a large following already, it doesn’t matter what you do on day one. It’s a long term game not a short term game anymore. 

Totally. Brands aren’t built overnight and it’s so much easier to look one month ahead and aim for those tactical goals because you can feel the effect and the impact. There’s performance marketing or growth hacking and the sprints are so much shorter because you try to optimize your A/B test, you try to find the perfect angle and target group and channels but brand building happens over time and the image grows over time.


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