Lessons Learned from Helsinki's Digital Journey

Chiara Loos shares how Helsinki built a brand centred upon the My Helsinki platform and bold and diverse marketing campaigns.

Helsinki Partners talk about the process of building a brand to attract investors, talent and visitors. They share about the My Helsinki platform and Think Sustainably guide.

Helsinki Partners talk about the process of building a brand to attract investors, talent and visitors. They share about the My Helsinki platform and Think Sustainably guide.

68% of Helsinki Partners' target audience have never visited the city and 49% have no image about Helsinki. 25% of the American audience and 17% of the German market have not even heard of the city, totalling 97 million people.

Some negative images of Helsinki are that the city is cold, boring and expensive, but this is an outdated perception. Helsinki's perception has to catch up with its performance and build a strong brand around the strong destination offering. In Helsinki, people have a strong sense of freedom, are very open and able to be different and exert their creativity. The local forests are a great place for a free day out to relax in nature, instead of going to bars. In the city, everything just works.

Building a brand

Helsinki Partners' first step was to identify their three most important target audiences:

  1. Investors
  2. Talent
  3. Visitors

One of the brand identify spearheads since 2017 is the mobile-optimised My Helsinki platform, with content coming from three databases - giving recommendations from locals and visitors about places to visit, events and activities. Helsinki is the world-leader in open data, using APIs to connect the different databases.

The My Helsinki platform doesn't sell experiences, but informs visitors about the different options and leads visitors to the service providers. The My Helsinki platform has a separate section for each of the three target audiences, with the most relevant content about Helsinki tailored for the different audiences.

The My Helsinki platform is also on a green and digital transition and Helsinki Partners launched their Think Sustainably guide in 2019. This guide has its own dedicated section on the platform. Featured sustainability stories are also highlighted across the platform, with a special logo used to display trust that products and services are actually sustainable. Helsinki Partners also gives businesses action steps on how to improve their sustainability credentials, with Helsinki Partners and the Helsinki City Council assessing businesses on a regular basis to monitor how their sustainability performance changes over time.

Helsinki Partners will soon launch an updated version of the My Helsinki platform to remain relevant, ensuring it doesn't become outdated and reflects the current trends and best practices.  

Billboards throughout the city make people aware of the relevant digital content. The Think Sustainably guide is heavily promoted within the destination to highlight local and eco-friendly services and remind visitors about these offerings.

Attracting Talent

Talent attracts more talent, investment and visitors. The more people travel internationally to live in Helsinki, the greater the awareness of the city spreads amongst their family and friends. Helsinki Partners run bold and diverse marketing campaigns to attract talent to the city, based on the ten Helsinki freedoms:

  1. Freedom to find balance
  2. Freedom to feel safe
  3. Freedom to love
  4. Freedom to breathe
  5. Freedom to learn and grow
  6. Freedom to be equal
  7. Freedom to be fragile
  8. Freedom to speak from the heart
  9. Freedom to take action
  10. Freedom for trial and error

Four different campaigns were centred around these ten freedoms:

  1. Mini-documentaries
  2. My Freedom Stories
  3. Helsinki Freedom, home-delivered
  4. Looking for Freedom guerrilla campaign

The My Freedom Stories use the perspective of non-native residents of Helsinki explaining the benefits of the different freedoms to an international audience, with stories posted on the My Helsinki portal and YouTube channel. The campaign was run in 2020 and involved close cooperation with companies and universities. Helsinki Partners also used this as a strong learning opportunity to get different perspectives.

To adjust marketing activities due to COVID-19, the Helsinki Freedom, Home-Delivered campaign targeted specifically tech talents interested in moving to Helsinki a home-delivered box with different items representing the ten freedoms and Finnish brands. Only a small number of boxes were actually sent due to budgetary constraints, but the campaign helped drive media attention due to its creative nature and 2,670 people applied to be involved in the campaign.

Overall, the four campaigns generated 30.6 million paid media impressions, 89.1 million earned media impressions.

Future Outlook

Challenges - such as COVID - provide the impetus for innovating and developing the next campaign. Prior to the pandemic, Helsinki Partners worked on the Helsinki Virtual initiative and when the pandemic hit they already had a digital twin that could be used in promotion to discover the city online. On May Day 2020, Helsinki Partners held a virtual event, which had 700,000 viewers and 150,000 avatars interacted in the virtual environment. However, tech developments can become outdated quickly and need to be constantly improved.

A key question destinations need to answer is "Will the future be fully digital?" There are numerous opportunities provided by Augmented Reality to connect digital experiences with the physical experience. The aim is that technologies - such as AI - help to increase the time available for building personal connections.

Key Takeaways

  1. Tailor content for your different audiences to make it easily accessible and relevant.
  2. Use open data and API connections to share content with your different target audiences.
  3. Use signage within the destination to remind your audience of key messages and sustainable experiences.
  4. There is a need for constant innovation to ensure your platforms don't become outdated.
  5. Attracting talent spreads awareness of your city and this can be an opportunity to get different perspectives from non-native residents and international audiences.
Published on:
April 2023
About the contributor

Chiara Loos

Chiara is a B2B Marketing Manager at Helsinki Partners, a city marketing, investment, and talent attraction company owned by the City of Helsinki. Chiara and her colleagues are on a mission to make Helsinki known for creating a better tomorrow. With her expertise in B2B marketing, branding, and yoga, she uses her skills to develop the perception of Helsinki in the business world through various brand and marketing activities.