Brand Finland, Finnair, and Blue Wings

Finland is widely recognized for having an amazing brand, which draws substance from several sources: its educational system, its technological strengths, its tradition of modern design and architecture, its physical environment (forests, water, and the extreme north), and distinctive cultural experiences like sauna.

In light of Finland’s high performance across several broad categories of evaluation (education and income, among others) it’s perhaps no huge leap of logic that the country would also operate a strong national brand, though clearly there are many powerful and exciting countries that don’t have well considered or promoted national brands.

The Finnish brand centers on clarity, transparency, innovation, and direct communication. There is also a strongly physical element of the brand, which references the actual territory of the country, making sure that the essentially unruly, wild nature of the land itself is not ignored.

It’s fair to say that the brand is pretty successful. Helsinki pops up on all sorts of most-livable cities lists in part for its strong infrastructure and facilities but also in part because there is an unyielding buzz about Finland.

Also very helpful for the promotion of the brand is Finnair itself, an airline viewed as strongly innovative for capturing lucrative Northern Europe-Asia air routes. (Currently, Finnair flies to 11 destinations in Asia; they’ll add their 12th, to Chongqing, in May.)

Finnair’s Blue Wings in-flight magazine lines up with Finland’s national brand in some very obvious ways. There is a directness to its graphics. A detailed diagram of Helsinki’s Vantaa Airport, for example, is easily the most helpful example of its type I’ve ever seen.

There’s also a Finland in Figures page with a ton of information organized in a very straightforward, simple manner: export and import figures; population; area; government details; economic structure; monthly temperatures and precipitation figures for Helsinki, a comparative GDP table, and some notes on working life. There’s also a column by Alexander Stubb, a Finnish politician who has served as Foreign Minister. Throughout, there are stories on things that dovetail with the Brand Finland: design, nature, technology, and organic restaurants.

It’s a satisfying read and it’s also a reminder of how badly so many in-flight magazines miss the boat. A lack of a sense of direction and haphazardly outsourced editorial does not produce a compelling in-flight magazine. Self-awareness, focus, and innovative articles do.