On the subject of Finnovation and Brands

It’s not rare to hear that Finland has great engineers, but bad marketers. It seems to be a truism, that allows us Finns to continue to feel bad for ourselves and somehow justify the poor comparative success with other Fenno-Scandic countries. We just wish that somehow magically we’d develop the skill to “brand” things and then the heavens would open and we’d all be rich.

I think this is a gross misjudgment of the real issue.

I don’t think we’re bad at branding.

I think we’re bad at business.

In a world where most companies, no matter what they sell, have become services, we’ve been terrible at service design. The platform has become the message — and somehow we missed that. Airbnb is taking over the world, because it’s a fantastic service to use. Spotify cracked the music market by providing the ultimate music experience. Uber is rapidly redefining what the experience of personal transportation should be — and at what cost. I like buying Nespresso. The coffee is okay, but the experience of their stores and online platform is just pleasurable. I buy most of, well, everything on Amazon. Why? Because their brand promise is the “everything store”, low prices and a frictionless, quick service.

So what do all these companies have in common? They have empathy, they get what you want and do everything in their power to deliver it. The how is as important as the what. If not more important.

How you consume, buy, rent or barter something is the brand. The brand isn’t some magical fairy dust you sprinkle on top of your product. It surely isn’t an advertising campaign. It’s the core promise you give your customers in their everyday experiences with you.

In my view, the root cause of the lack of valuable consumer brands in Finland isn’t the lack of brand expertise, but a lack of empathy. Stepping into the customers shoes and really trying to solve something for them and provide joy. Having “great engineers” that design things that no-one wants to use, means that you have bad business people driving the company and bad engineers that won’t escalate this.

The quickest way to fix this:

  1. Find something you don’t like doing or that is hard to buy or you can’t find but want.
  2. Make it easier, cheaper, quicker, better faster. And make it fun, if you can.
  3. Ship it.
  4. Listen what your customers are saying about it.
  5. Improve it.
  6. Go to 4.

If you do a good job at that, don’t worry about the brand, it’ll be fine.