The power of the centenary took companies by surprise

The Finland 100 business partnership programme was the first of its kind in the history of jubilee celebrations in Finland. It is likely to have become the largest business cooperation project ever carried out in Finland. 59 companies took part in the extensive partnership programme, and there were 174 companies in the 100 Great Things from Finland programme, which was targeted at small businesses. These resulted in hundreds of Finland 100 activities, services, and products.

The aim of the Finland 100 jubilee year was to involve the entire Finnish society in the planned activities. To ensure this, the different groups had to be offered a variety of forms of engagement to suit their backgrounds and ambitions. The significance of companies as builders of the Finnish society and the centenary celebrations was clearly recognised.

The Finland 100 Secretariat created an administrative foundation and an operational model for the business collaboration that differed from traditional forms of collaboration in a number of ways. The companies were expected to have a strong and tangible commitment to the centenary activities, communications, and societal activities. In the spirit of the year’s Together theme, no industry was given any exclusive rights, but instead the focus was on collaboration between companies.

Kuva: Suomi 100 / Johan Lindholm
Photo: Finland 100 / Johan Lindholm

An extensive Finland 100 business partnership programme was launched at the beginning of 2016. The Finland 100 partnership agreement was signed by 59 companies, which represented a variety of industries and included companies that were in competition with one another. The experiences and satisfaction of the participants in the partnership programme were surveyed in spring 2018.

It was discovered that the centenary operations by the Finland 100 partner companies proved to be wide-ranging and important. Most of them either carried out activities that benefitted society or made a centenary-related donation. Such donations and activities were strongly related to the future of Finland: education, children and young people, and nature. The total value of these amounted to approximately seven million euros, based on the information gathered from the companies.

Some of the companies linked the Finland 100 visibility and operations to commercial campaigns or marketing concepts, while others associated the centenary with the implementation of their social responsibility strategy. Many companies had a strong connection with the centenary or represent essential Finnishness through their history or their strategic objectives. The Finland 100 project offered international partnership companies an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to Finnish society. Several companies used the Finland 100 project to engage their staff and to improve interaction.

Half of the companies that participated in the partnership programme launched Finland 100 products or services. Including all variations, a total of around 250 Finland 100 products were brought to the market. The centenary products included food products, sweets, textiles, dinnerware, glassware, jewellery, clothing, cosmetics, accessories, homeware, and ornaments. The selection of products also included unique varieties of well-known Finnish classics. There were also some forward-looking technological solutions, content projects, and innovations.

The Gift to Finland concept, which was part of the Finland 100 partnership programme, unexpectedly made companies think about their social responsibility, their history, and their values. The idea of giving a gift to Finland was to be extended to such activities or deeds that would have a clear impact on people’s lives and that would withstand the test of time.

Small businesses got busy

At the beginning of 2017, small businesses were invited to get involved in another type of participation. The 100 Great Things from Finland programme sought products and services provided by 100 small companies that could mark the centenary celebrations.

The agreement on the use of the Finland 100 logo was eventually signed by 174 small companies. The range of products and services was wide; from lures to equipment for washing animals. The most popular product groups were food products and beverages, textiles, gift items, and jewellery. The programme covered a total of 29 services, from applications to travel services. The companies were located all over Finland.

Shared experiences

Blue and white is IN

In addition to hundreds of Finland 100 licensed products, there were thousands of other products on the market that celebrated the centenary. The Finland 100 logo was only used on official products, and it indicated to consumers the company’s strong commitment to the centenary values and activities.

The range of products was enormous: there were products to commemorate the centenary, different versions of the Finland 100 logo, and counterfeit products with the genuine Finland 100 logo. The number of blue-and-white decorative products increased towards the end of the year; these included napkins, candles, bunting, and balloons.

The blue-and-white combination was suddenly in fashion, both in the streets and in the media.

As the enthusiasm for Finland 100 spread, more outrageous products were launched to attract consumers. Before the centenary, few people knew that they wanted a Wunderbaum air freshener sold in honour of Finland’s centenary, a 100-pack of beer, or a Finland 100 coffin complete with a funeral on the same theme.

Such products, and the commercial aspect of the jubilee year, sparked debate in the media. Many of the most critical articles focused on products and their backgrounds. In some cases, informal, non-licensed products were mistaken for official products. Consumer opinion, however, was quite unambiguous: the products sold very well.