Finland’s ’emoji diplomacy’

Finland emoji

Finland made headlines this week with its release of 30 country-branding emojis, in an unique and typically quirky twist on regular promotion efforts.

Said to reflect aspects of the Finnish national character, the list includes a sauna emoji, a Nokia ‘brick phone’ emoji, and the ‘headbanger’ emoji, which is the particular favourite of Petra Theman, Finland’s Director of Public Diplomacy.

Placesbrands struggled (figuratively) through the hordes of journalists surrounding Petra to do a quick interview.

What gave you the idea to make emojis?
“The boring answer is that it relates to our Finland webpage. It was a team effort. We’ve always had this end-of-year calendar and this year we wanted to do something out of the box, related to social media, maybe talk to the younger public a little more.

The emojis idea came up because we have some great emoji designers in Finland. We liked that the emojis convey things of importance for our brand, e.g. digitalisation and being ahead of things in the digital world. They also show quirkiness as one of the Finnish characteristics. We thought the emojis reflected this very well.”

What’s your favourite out of the 30?
“The headbanger! It’s very useful for saying ‘Rock-on!’ over a text message and it appeals to a certain genre that already loves Finland. We’ve gained a reputation as the heavy rock capital of the world. It represents our attitude. We have plenty of well known rock bands with millions of fans all over the world. It’s a music form that we love.”

From a Finnish perspective, what are Finland’s most important national characteristics?
“That’s a tough question because we don’t want to go into stereotypes too much. You always have to think about the younger generation who see and experience the world so differently.

Mainly I think that if you look at statistics and rankings there are a couple of things that stand out. One is our sense of equality, of wanting to do things fairly for everyone. That’s something I find very characteristic of Finns.

The other is a certain honesty, sometimes ‘rude’ honesty until the breaking point. Here’s an example. A lot of research was done into honesty in various places. If you throw out 15 wallets, how many will come back to the owner? Finland often wins this kind of thing.

Also the Finnish handshake is something that’s for real. So equality and honesty are most important, along with this quirkiness, which is often found in the younger Finnish character. Quirky and a little bit crazy.

A while ago Newsweek did a ranking [perhaps it was this one] that stated the happiest people in the world live in Finland. Finns thought ‘this really can’t be true’ and so they went through the research material in detail and discovered that Newsweek had miscalculated the whole thing!

The Finns found there was an tiny error and that Switzerland actually won, not Finland. To have Finns being the ones doing this is hilarious and shows typical quirkiness.”

And finally, what’s next for Finland in terms of brand strategy?

“We’re all looking towards 2017, which will be Finland’s 100th birthday. We’re emphasising four themes in our brand strategy, which are:

1. Education policy
2. Pureness and cleantech
3. Functionality of government and country
4. Wellness and healthcare issues.

We’d like to see more acknowledgement of the quality of our higher education, as well as our primary education.

Cleantech reflects the problem solving attitude, which is part of our history and approach. We’re the engineer nation. Jokes between the Nordic countries often say that Sweden is the marketer and Finland is the engineer.

We have the mindset for it, which is good for cleantech and similar issues. It’s a fairly well known mindset about Finns.”


Keep an eye on the This is Finland website for the full emoji set, due out on December 1st.

In the meantime, rock on!

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