While branding a whole nation Visit Finland created a commercial triumph
Background & Challenge
Tourism is an important industry in the Nordics. It makes a large and growing contribution to the economy. But for too long Finland has lagged behind, overlooked by overseas travellers. Despite the beauty of its land and lakes and the friendliness of its people, it has been overshadowed and outspent by its neighbours, with Sweden spending twice as much on marketing and Norway four times. But Finnish government tourism organiation Visit Finland was on a mission to make a difference.
Many tourists think they know what they want from the Nordics. Fjords. Mountains. Midnight sun. Picturesque fishermen’s cottages. Northern Lights. Hygge. In fact, all the things Norway and Sweden have been advertising for years. For Visit Finland, the creative challenge was how to appeal to the kinds of tourists who were attracted to all of these things, and yet to say something surprising and different enough about Finland to really stand out – despite being heavily outspent.
Nordic people are known for being relaxed and happy. But what most people don’t know is that of them all, it’s actually the Finns who are officially the happiest. In fact, in the United Nations World Happiness Report, Finland consistently ranks year after year as the happiest nation in the entire world. At a time when life is getting busier and noisier and more and more people are desperately searching for some kind of a sense of calm, that’s something special. So our solution was to offer the chance to Rent a Finn, to learn the secrets of Finnish Happiness.
We launched a nationwide initiative to recruit the kind of Finns that people in the wider world would be pleased to learn happiness from. Then we put them up for hire as what we called Happiness Guides, on our campaign site.To build awareness and desire, we conducted a worldwide PR campaign that reached 149 countries sharing our Finns’ stories and pictures with the world’s media with the aid of internationally known Finnish spokespeople. The campaign reach was boosted with bought advertising in social media covering 10 key countries that had been identified as the main sources for tourism to Finland. As the campaign developed, we used the stories – and the world’s reactions to them – to create further content, monitoring earned media developments and reacting along the way.
Rent a Finn became Visit Finland’s most succesfull campaign ever. It attracted worldwide public attention and put Finland firmly in the media’s ‘top places to visit’ lists. And it increased tourism, with the rate of growth in overnight stay bookings growing sixfold, from 0.83% before the campaign to 5.32% after.