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Laura Aalto

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DMO Stories

Laura Aalto is a marketing and communications professional with 20 years of experience in international marketing, brand building, sponsorship and event marketing. She will take over as the CEO of Helsinki Marketing this September. More in this press release. Laura will be joining us on stage at #DTTTGlobal on 30th November & 1st December in Brussels, presenting 'Inside the Transformation of Helsinki Marketing'. Laura shares some insights on the latest development at Helsinki Marketing in the following DMO story:

I love my city, MyHelsinki, and I am convinced that in Helsinki we are closer to the perfect functional city that you may ever get in real life! This is a place where the amount of daylight varies radically according to the season and where people start to get nervous if their tram is a minute late without warning since they’re used to everything functioning properly and being informed if there are any problems. Helsinki has a unique, recognisable style and atmosphere. It’s not overly polished but a bit edgy.

Helsinki Marketing is a marketing company owned by the City of Helsinki. The company’s former marketing name was Visit Helsinki. The name Helsinki Marketing reflects the company’s expanded scope of operations and was introduced in April 2017. We are about 40 full-time employees and the annual turn-over varies from 7 to 8 million euros per annum.

During the past year and a half, Helsinki Marketing has been going through a transformation from tourism organisation to city marketing company. As a team of experts, we have needed to learn a lot of news things, e.g. talent attraction, invest in marketing and economic development marketing and much more.

Biggest Challenge in Digital, Marketing, Innovation

Our digital process is part of a larger marketing renewal and branding process that has been going on in Helsinki for the past year and a half. So all we do with in digital marketing is in line with the changes in Helsinki’s city marketing strategy.

Our new My Helsinki site’s aim is to enhance Helsinki’s international visibility and appeal, as well as to make it easier to find Helsinki’s services and offerings. My Helsinki site brings together content about the city’s offerings and business opportunities in a single website. We believe that visitors and international experts who work in Helsinki are interested in the same things as we locals are.

The design of our digital service is very strongly based on user needs, so we gathered feedback already at the start of the project. We weren’t building a web site but creating a service that has a digital form. Also, we noticed that Helsinki has an exceptional amount of open data that we are trying now to utilise by highlighting local events, shops and restaurants in particular. We also have the chance to offer users individually tailored recommendations based on their user data.

Biggest Opportunity in Digital Marketing

We need to engage with the locals. All content is basically put together with locals. My Helsinki is your local guide to the best of Helsinki. My Helsinki service has a function that allows locals to list their own favourites and share these on social media or by e-mail. This is hugely important! However, I think that we need to get better in collecting and analysing customer insight and targeting our digital marketing to potential visitors/students/those who move for work.

Helsinki's new city marketing strategy

The new strategy for marketing Helsinki can be found here. In short, Helsinki is about people whose passion is solving meaningful problems and creating the world's most advanced way of daily life. “One Hel of an impact” is an attitude that leads us to take impactful actions. Building a city with an impact is a change manifesto in which everyone can participate. In Helsinki, anyone can make an impact with everyday actions or world-class revolutionary ideas.

Strategy Development

When creating the marketing strategy and brand concept for Helsinki, we engaged thousands of locals and foreigners in the process. Also, we studied and analysed a lot. More info on the process here. The digital project took also about a year and was of course based on the marketing strategy and brand concept. As mentioned previously, the planning process was very agile, testing the prototypes all the time and collecting feedback from the future users.

Impact of the Strategy on the Digital Brand

The strategy has a huge impact on Helsinki's digital brand. It’s seen both in content, user experience, tone of voice and in the broad approach to city marketing.

Cornerstones of the brand and overall marketing and communications approach

  • Strong local voice, all content, basically, are things that locals suggest
  • Edginess and fascinating contrasts. Our brand concept allows us to have a bit of edginess in the way we talk, it’s an underdog’s brand position.
  • Storytelling – this can be found throughout our My Helsinki site
  • Make others tell your story, meaning a growing investment on PR and social media influencer work - such as the Helsinki Secret Residence and brands from Helsinki which are strongly committed to communicating Helsinki as part of their own marketing communications. This is an example of a beer brand and another example is Marimekko, a Helsinki based fashion brand.
  • Ongoing digital development – it’s never ready

The process of moving from a traditionally focused DMO to Helsinki Marketing

It’s a lot of learning, for the whole organisation. We’ve eagerly looked for new collaboration from unusual partners (other than travel and tourism) that challenge us. I think it needs to be an ongoing process. You learn from others and you learn by doing with others.

We also organise several major events in Helsinki, such as the light festival Lux Helsinki which gathers an audience of 500 000 people every year and Helsinki Day, the city’s birthday celebration. For these events, we’ve invited commercial partners to join us and start working with us. What do they want to do for the city?

Role of technology and innovation

It is very important but it needs to be people-driven. Open data is a big thing for Helsinki and it’s part of our open city, open society policy and it strengthens the transparency. Helsinki is also interested in using open-source code and modern, versatile methods. We are keen to be a forerunner also on the technical side of digital developments.

Focus of current initiatives

TBC – but surely on better targeted digital marketing with a good customer insight and earned media on all levels.

Helsinki Marketing at #DTTTGlobal

We’ve been going through a major transformation process as a company from a traditional DMO to a city marketing company and there are a lot of do’s but also a lot of don’ts that I want to share with the audience. I’m sure a lot DMO’s are struggling with similar questions.

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