Monthly Archives

February 2014

Maybe Helsinki should have a Mascot?

Finnish Culture

“Finland needs to do some serious and effective marketing–To overcome the “best kept secret” syndrome, Finland needs to realize that the concept of “if you make it, they will come” is only found in movies. The benefits of Finland need to be actively marketed. That means they need to be highlighted in headlines, and not buried in the body text of communications. Finns need to overcome their shyness, and not be afraid to tell others how Finland can help them. The Finnish government and its better known companies need to lead the charge to communicate the great things that have come out of Finland.”

— Dr. Ira Kalb, The Business Insider, 6th Feb 2014.

What do you think? Are Finns too shy?

Well a couple of days ago I was given this assignment to do in the marketing class, and I felt that this was a good topic to discuss. Given the rise of China and the relative decline of the European region, to continue the provision of even higher value to end-users, for instance, requires challenging comfort zones.

So I was thinking –how do you get Finland to RAR-RAR itself up, given a culture that does not like exaggeration? So I came up with two strategies. LOL. The first strategy relates strongly to developing soft power and the second relates to widening the scope of the target audience.

#1. Have a Uniquely Helsinki Physical…Something.

Having an ambassador or a food that stakeholders at all levels could relate to would help the city in refining and redefining its higher-value proposition, since it is easier for people to relate to an ambassador or a mascot instead of a place.

a. Helsinki, Personified–Have an Ambassador or a Mascot.

Having an ambassador is not something new to Finnish cities, but it is certainly a notion that currently has tremendous untapped potential. An ambassador is a huge part of narrative strategy, and people love stories. For instance, despite undergoing fiscal austerity last December, the FInnish government granted 300,000 euros to the City of Rovaniemi and Santa Claus Licensing Corporation to promote Finnish Santa Claus, in China. The idea was to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the sparsely populated Rovaniemi throughout the year instead of just in December and January.

Indeed, tourism there plays a huge part in generating tax revenue for the city and profits for the merchants based in lapland. I opine that Santa-as-a-ambassador could even be inspirational for the residents of Rovaniemi–even when he did not have typical animals as a means of transportation, he made do with the red-nosed reindeer Rudolph and persevered through the harsh winter with it. This–I posit–can be used to encourage positive “Finnish” values such as “sisu” and “innovation”, which would then lead to residents of Rovaniemi being proud of being part of the city. Evidently there is so much more economic benefits that could be reaped off a city mascot, and Helsinki should definitely consider creating one. Even if Helsinki does not create one, it should work with Rovaniemi to strengthen their Santa Claus mascot so that tourists will visit Helsinki after visiting Rovaniemi, especially if there are no connecting flights from the Rovaniemi airport.

Outside Finland, the idea of a mascot of is definitely not new, and East-Asian countries houses excellent examples of cities who use mascots/popular singers or actresses as ambassadors. In Japan, for instance, there is a mascot for every city. In Korea, government officials have ridden on the global K-pop wave– The extremely popular girl group Girls’ Generation is the official ambassador for the CIty of Seoul, Korea and the pretty and widely popular Winter Sonta Actress Choi Ji Won is the honorary ambassador for the City of Busan. Taipei has popular singers Jolin Tsai and  Jay Chou as their city ambassadors too.Why not make the extremely dashing Kimi Raikkonen/Elastinen/Michael Monroe, or the extremely charismatic Paula Koivuniemi as ambassadors for Helsinki City? They could appear on television, billboards and even on radio stations as official ambassadors.

Even in Singapore, there exists two extremely popular tourists spots with enormous statues of an arbitrary-created Singaporean mascot–the Merlion–that has been marketed as uniquely Singaporean in all tourism communication materials. The Merlion is a mascot that is entirely created by the tourism board of SIngapore, with no historical backing whatsoever.

Having a uniquely Helsinki ambassador would consolidate the branding of Helsinki city through tertiary communications. If there is a mascot to be made up, an international contest could be held over facebook to encourage communities interested in the development of Helsinki to vote for their favorite mascot. Stubbs (2012) has elaborated on the marketing communications of Stockholm as a nearby-city for instance as extremely participatory since they make use of social media marketing quite a lot. Helsinki can watch and learn, too, and include citizens in the process of city branding, hence fulfilling the higher value propositions.

b. Food, The Global Language– Have a Representative Food!

If the idea of a mascot sounds too cheesy, then it might be good to consider promoting food. The City of Helsinki can consider for instance holding collaborations with big brands such as Fazer, Artria, HK. Considering the fact that Fazer is not averse to bold experiments when it comes to the flavours of the chocolate –as seen from its latest innovation the Fazer Chilli Chocolates– it could collaborate with the CIty of Helsinki to come up with, for instance, a “Fazer ♥ Helsinki” sub-brand of chocolates.

After producing these chocolates, they can distribute this edition of chocolates to be sold on Finnair international and domestic flights, to all supermarkets, and also in schools.

c. Promote Finnish Humour Through Popular Culture Related to Helsinki.

Despite being a foreigner who has been in Helsinki for barely two months, even I have come across two extremely interesting popular pieces related to Helsinki–One, Pasilia, the Finnish animated sitcom which airs at night on the television channel Yle, and “Tervetuloa Helsinki”, the song written by DJ RZY. This shows that people who speak FInnish do relate to the concept of Helsinki on a regular basis through popular culture. There is even a fanpage for the song–Karrelle Palanut Enkeli–sung by Andi Suonsilmä, a fictional character who appeared only once on Pasilia. The Finnish Humour in my opinion is uniquely dry.

However, even though these popular media revolve around the topic Helsinki, the former is a social satire, and the latter has Elastinen rapping “Terveluloo Helsinkiin. Sporakiskot kolisee, porttikongit solisee, nii!”  This sense of dry humour is charming only to people who can understand FInnish relatively well, and if no translations are provided, a non-Finnish speaker would just stay indifferent about these two amazing media works.

 As seen from the above examples, there is a gap between Finnish speakers and non-FInnish speakers. The implications to the CIty of Helsinki is the follow– even though there is a tremendous potential of converting indifferent tourists and business owners via popular media and hence gaining significant soft power, it is not done, because language prevents non-FInnish speakers from appreciating the wicked sense of dry humour of the Finns. Marketing a city based on humour is definitely not new– Have we not heard of the “British humour” made viral via popular culture?

Bridging the gap in language is precisely where the City of Helsinki can value-add potential tourists, new residents and business people. It can task its publicity department to, for instance, work with Yle to make available English subtitles for all episodes of Pasila online, and fund the process. The Pasilia with subtitles can also be broadcasted at MAISTRATTI offices to foreigners and staffs alike, so that through a light-hearted animated sitcom they can identify with and visualise themselves as part of a resident of Helsinki.  Also, currently on the official City of Helsinki website, there is a announcement that Pasila is going to be the “second centre in Helsinki”. Why not broadcast this through the Pasila sitcom then? This allows Value Proposition

All in all, Since Suggestion #1. targets greatly the secondary and tertiary communication, more of online social media channels and the media should be utilised. Two interesting case studies to be considered would be the successful “quality hunter” programme by FInnair, and the Nordic Bloggers’ Experience held in conjunction with the Matka Travel Convention.

#2. Be International: Reach Out to Asia!

 Helsinki aspires to be “international”, but current promotional efforts are not fully targeted at East-Asia or Southeast Asia which is growing rapidly. Instead, they are targetted more at European nations and Russia.

 I suggest two things: First, increase the budget meant for tourism targeted at Asia. Two, increase the budget meant to position Finland as an international convention in Europe, a bridge between the East and the West. A case in point again the recent “Nordic Bloggers’ Experience”– Why limit the Blogging Contest to Helsinki’s competing cities? It should be opened worldwide, so that foreigners in Asia can visit Helsinki and say a lot of good things about it. This then becomes tertiary communication and will consolidate Helsinki as a premium hub.

Furthermore, since the service sector employs 88 percent of the workforce in Helsinki, which is above the European metropolitan average, enlarging the tourism market would lead to more jobs for all and ultimately deliver a higher standard of living to all residents in Helsinki.

What do you think? Are my ideas too radical? 😀


Finnish Culture

I’d been following the Voice of Finland every episode thus far despite being so crazily busy recently!!

They are on channel 4 Nelonen and THANK GOD I HAVE A TV!!!! HAHA!

Anyway, I’m personally convinced that idol shows are reflective of a country’s culture. I’d been following all sorts of singing contest shows– China got talent, Britain’s got talent, X-factor America, The Voice, American Idol, Singapore Idol, THAI Idol, etcetc.

But I think The Voice of Finland really impresses me! Remember Singapore Superstar, where Kelly Poon and Shi Xinhuey got into the finals? Despite Shi Xinhuey being the more talented and determined one (I think she lost 6kg in that month just to look nicer on TV), Kelly won, because Shi Xinhuey was Malaysian. I could remember friends calling in for Kelly just because they think it is crazy to let a Malaysian win a Singaporean Singing contest. “Singapore no stars, meh?” They say.

kelly  sing

I say–Bullshit. Mediacorp (The Singapore main TV channel that organised the contest) wins. Every call costs SGD$0.50, no?

But on the Voice of Finland, apparently things don’t work like that. There’s this South-African lady with such a GREAT voice, every single one of the judges just pressed the button barely 5seconds into her song. And also apparently looks and weight don’t matter that much, ? They really do go for things like stage presence, charisma and voice, as compared to Singapore idol, Singapore Superstar, Thai Superstar, China got Talent.

WHICH IS A DAMN GOOD THING! Look at the winner of last year’s Voice of Finland:

I died. Romanssi means “Romance” by the way.

Anyway, after today’s episode of VoF, I think the wisest judge and coach out of the four judges is Anne Mattila! And here is her pretty picture:


If you haven’t noticed already, she has sensible technical advice (She told Michael the rock song he chose for one of his two girls was too low for her), and she has such a GREAT sense of choreography! Check this out!

If you compare and contrast the people during the audition and THAT video, wow, you’d be in shock. Here’s that guy in his audition.

Even I wouldn’t give him a second ear. But Anne totally saw the potential in him and groomed him into someone whom every one of the judges gave a standing ovation to!

Anne’s really a smart and humble coach I think! Initially I thought it would be a wiser choice always to choose Michael Monroe, but I guess as opposed to going for a teacher who’s really cool, it’s wiser to go for a teacher who sees your potential. 😉

I also enjoyed Emma Schnitt and Tiia Erämeri’s performance of Lovato’s Skyscrapper; they were both wonderful singers with different styles. Tiia was so fierce I thought, and reminded me of Demi is her music video! But I loved Emma Schnitt’s rendition, there’s a kind of steady strength in her soft persona. 🙂


I do agree with Elastinen, Emma Schnitt has so much potential, but when she starts singing I just thought “Man, I’d totally buy this woman’s album”. You can catch the clip here too!

At any rate, I think I might grow to really like Finland. It seems that there is a different sort of meritocracy here, as compared to Singapore! 😀

How to survive a long distance relationship

Finnish girls, Finnish men
how to survive a long distance relationship

“How to survive a long distance relationship”. Such a highly requested topic and I never had time to write. But today I’m going to write, because I’m inspired by this quirky Finnish song “Kylmästä lämpimään”. Okay I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be quirky but let’s assume it is, because the lyrics go like this–

Alalalalong was rumbling from the beach bar,
When I rose from the surges of  the Atlantic’s swell,
I saw you and told:
“Hello broownski”
You  wanted to take a photograph with me
I wanted to take you with me,
As a  souvenir,I said
Lady,let me take you far away
But how could I have taken  the tropical flower
To the freezing weather,
It would not have been  love

Well so the whole song is about this guy staying in a cold, cold country, meeting a girl in a warmer country and falling in love with her. SO they were intimate with each other, and then basically now being back in his own country, he wants to go back to the tropical country to snuggle with her. Anna did the cover–the girl’s version–and to be honest both versions are pretty awesome.

Does it sound familiar? Niko bought ME–the tropical person–back to cold, cold Finland right?!?! Terrible. Haha.

On a serious note, today’s post is about long-distance relationship, and how to survive it. I’m going to make it as no-nonsense for you as far as possible. And different from most long-distance relationship guides you would be finding online, I’d come up with an algorithm that allows customisation, instead of generic stupid rules. Yea, I find most long-distance relationship guides too ambiguous, like wtf is “believe you’d make it”?

My Beijing friend presented me with a notion before– The emotions of the boyfriend and the girlfriend will change after they have not met each other for 21 days. Well she said that it was the discovery of a scientific study, and if you think about it it’s probably true, but do any long-distance relationships guide tell you this online? NO!

So I’d decided to write my own guide. Is my algorithm reliable? Well, I’d tested it on 5-8 friends who asked me for long-distance advice, and this method totally works. Personally I’d done long-distance relationships myself using this method too. Successfully! 🙂

How to survive a long distance relationship: figure out two things.

Firstly, figure out the type of partner you are. Are you a high-maintenance partner, or middle, or low?

After you’d figured that out, the next step would be to find out what type of expression of love you value the most.

Part One: How to figure out your level of maintenance.

It’s fairly simple really. The two extremes are as follow:

  1. If you call and text your partner everyday for a couple of times, and require to meet at least 3 times a week for dates when you are not doing long distance, you are high maintenance.
  2. If you call and text your partner once or twice a week, and perhaps meet up once a week or biweekly, you are low maintenance.

Well I know people who belong to both the high maintenance and low maintenance group. So the idea is that if you are high/low maintenance and your partner is the same type, there wouldn’t be problems. Problem only comes in when there is a mismatch of groups.

How do you solve this? Hold your horses, let’s go to the next part first!

Part Two: How to find out your dominant and least dominant love languages.

  1. You and your partner–Go to to take their short test. It’s only 30 questions and both of you can complete it in 5minutes respectively.
  2. After completing the quiz, take note of which is your dominant way of expressing affection. They have five– (1) Words of affection, (2) Receiving gifts, (3) acts of service, (4) physical touch, (5) quality time.

TO be honest, if your dominant love language is physical touch, and your partner’s something like “words of affection”, you guys are quite screwed in long distance relationship. But acknowledging that you are screwed is the first step for some sort of compromise, or solution, so that improves your odds in surviving it.

The purpose of this exercise is to increase your awareness to your partner’s expectations of love. If quality time is their dominant language, Skype more or keep a common blog. If receiving gifts is their dominant language, send more packages of love over. Such packages need not be expensive, simple things like FOOD or CHOCS should be welcome! If words of affection are their dominant language, type more emails, write more letters/cards, etc.

If it’s physical touch try your very best to meet once every three months, if not you or your partner will just really suffer mental anguish.

One important takeaway from this exercise is to try not to use your limited time appealing to the least dominant love language of your partner’s. It leads to a lot of nonsensical arguments like “Why don’t you do X, Y, Z for me” when your partner is indeed trying, albeit in another form.

How to Survive a Long Distance Relationship: Why Long-Distance Relationships Fail

You see, the thing about why long-distance relationship fail is not so much of mistrust, but a lack of communication and misguided expectations. When a misunderstanding arises, you do not have the benefit of the physical presence of your partner to solve or mediate that misunderstanding. The above framework allows you to truly understand the thought/emotion mechanism behind you and your partner. It’s only after understanding that you can overcome the potential challenges, no?

And let me tell you this– If you guys have followed the above steps in my framework which is communication-centric, but the partner still cheats on you in a long distance relationship, dump him/her immediately. It just goes to show that he/she is not serious about you.

And let me let you in to this potent yet simple tool that will maintain your relationship– Maintain a freaking skyping/emailing/facetiming routine, and stick to it no matter what. Like, seriously! Even if you are drop-dead tired from school and work, stick to this. A 5 minute “Hi” and a simple update is better than none. Trust me.

Yep, and that’s it! If you need a listening ear, email: or leave a comment, I’d be happy to provide it. I know LDR sucks to the core and if I can hear you out, I will! 🙂