Spreading the anniversary message

Networking and communications were crucial for coordinating the Finland 100 celebrations. Several bold choices unusual for public-sector projects were made in terms of communications. Finland 100 grew quickly into a strong and distinctive brand that evoked both emotions and widespread debate.

Translating the strategy into centenary celebrations that resonated with all Finns and friends of Finland required considerable effort and skill from the perspective of communications. A huge amount of work was done in a short space of time in terms of planning and implementing communications. Advertising the programme was just as important for the success of the celebrations as the programme itself.

Due to the core idea of the celebrations, the collaborative approach, and the scale of the programme, it was clear that responsibility for communications also had to be shared.

Communications focused on sharing information about the common goal and targets, and the methodology, creating hype, and building team spirit. The Finland 100 organisation created a framework for communications, built a common platform and terminology, and provided advice and tools for the other parties involved.

For those responsible for communications, the Finland 100 project was both a dream come true and a nightmare. The task was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The topic touched every member of Finnish society and evoked strong emotions and passion. The target group was the entire nation, and missing key deadlines was simply not an option. 

Turning words into actions and images 

The aim was to make the spirit and idea behind the centenary celebrations, the together theme, visible everywhere: in choices, actions, and cooperation, as well as in the visual identity and resources. Every contributor, project coordinator, and partner was urged to communicate the same image of the Finland 100 project.

The brand was given a unique visual identity consisting of the Finland 100 logo, graphics, and the Faces of Finland concept and applications. These gave the project a distinctive look that was also carried over to advertising. 

A decision was made to give everyone access to the visual identity of the celebrations and the Finland 100 brand. This would help to make the brand better known, give the whole nation ownership of the celebrations, and encourage everyone to get involved. The visual identity and the associated tools and applications therefore had to be scalable from a tiny pin to stadium-scale billboards.

The Finland 100 logo became the most important visual element of the year, and the right to use it symbolised project coordinators’ official involvement in the celebrations and their commitment to the Finland 100 theme. This also made it possible to identify unwanted associations and activities that should not be, and would not be permitted to be, linked to the brand. 

Planning and execution side by side 

The Finland 100 Board approved the communications and marketing policy in the summer of 2015, and a comprehensive plan covering both strategy and tangible actions was finalised in the autumn. Clear targets and operating models were agreed for communications and marketing, but final decisions on practical aspects were left until later. The ever-changing and rapidly-progressing nature of the project meant that the plan had to be flexible, and various experiments and tests relating to communications were carried out during the planning phase with this in mind.

One key choice was to invest more in network-based communications and internally produced content than in commercial visibility. Instead of a traditional campaign-based approach, the goal was to make an impact on the whole society and encourage interaction between people, which was fitting from the perspective of the together theme. 

The aim was to invite all Finns and friends of Finland to celebrate the centenary of Finland’s independence. For the purpose of communications, the target audience was nevertheless divided into groups according to roles and interests. Three groups were identified: ‘proprietors’, who were involved in building the Finland 100 programme; ‘pacesetters’, who built hype around the celebrations among the public; and ‘supporters’, who included the rest of the nation. The service model, schedule, tools, channels, and content of communications were built with the needs of these target groups in mind.

Among the most important contributors to communications were Finland 100 coordinators in each region and in the six largest cities, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ network of Finnish missions in almost 100 countries, the thousands of project coordinators involved, various partners in the business sector, and local authorities and the central government. Thousands of individuals in Finland and abroad also helped to spread the message about Finland’s big year. 

Photo: Finland 100 / Leena Koskela

Increasing awareness and building hype through marketing 

Marketing was targeted at both the communications network and the general public. A wide range of resources and guides were produced for the communications network at the beginning of the project, and marketing applications were added to the mix later on.

According to the communications policy adopted by the Finland 100 team, the centenary celebrations were mostly advertised by means other than media purchases. The team’s own channels attracted followers by their interactive nature and content. However, successful cooperation with the media also played an important role in increasing awareness about the project.

Continuous search engine optimisation and small-scale digital marketing began in November 2016. Less than 7% of the total communications and marketing budget was spent on media purchases.

Faces of Finland 

Ensuring the visibility of the Finland 100 logo and brand was an important goal. The aim was to make the official logo and applications relating to the visual identity and the Faces of Finland concept as widely accessible to the partner network as possible. A range of promotional products, such as flags, roll-up advertising banners, balloons, and signs, was also launched to increase the visibility of the Finland 100 project.

One of the most important marketing concepts of the year was the Faces of Finland application, which made images associated with the centenary of Finland’s independence come to life. The web-based tool could be used by anyone to turn their own photographs into unique, blue-and-white cartoons that they could use as they wished.

The application was launched in December 2016, and it was used to produce a total of approximately 100,000 images.

The Finland 100 logo and the Faces of Finland concept became widely recognised symbols of the centenary celebrations and even made appearances in some surprising environments. The Finland 100 logo adorned the walls of government offices and public spaces, as well as Finnish missions around the world, but also, for example, police cars in Finland. The Finland 100 logo was added to the official Finnish passport, and the covers of the Finnish Government’s annual budget document sported a blue-and-white Faces of Finland pattern.

The promotional products were available for anyone to buy through an online store that opened in August 2016 and closed on 31 December 2017. By far the most popular and most widely sold product was a Finland 100 pin, of which the online store shipped almost 120,000. 

Shared together

The Finland 100 brand

Photo: Finland 100

In the space of a couple of years, the Finland 100 logo and the project’s visual identity with its blue-and-white faces evolved into a well-known brand that featured prominently in social media, newspapers and magazines, the television, outdoor advertising, events, and shops. The most popular of the branded products was the Finland 100 pin, which often adorned the lapels of interviewees’ suits on the evening news.

The appeal of the Finland 100 brand was evidenced by the many imitations it inspired, including a few amusing memes, such as the substitution of ‘Finland’ with ‘Funland’. At the core of the visual identity was the Faces of Finland concept and the application that anyone could use to give themselves a blue-and-white cartoon face. The application was a fun and inspiring way to implement the together theme and emphasise Finland’s independence as the whole nation’s accomplishment.

The visual identity of the Finland 100 project was not only loved by those involved in the project but also praised by professionals. The Finland 100 identity was awarded Gold in the identity category of Grafia’s Best Finnish Creative Design competition on 27 April 2017.

The Finland 100 logo was a registered trademark, presumably the first trademark ever registered by the Prime Minister’s Office. The Finland 100 project also taught the Prime Minister’s Office professional marketing, marketing skills, and brand management. These were new territories for the 200-year-old organisation. It was therefore not surprising that the regular staff of the Prime Minister’s Office were occasionally a little lost.