Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you can’t have failed to notice that 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence.
A recent survey found that 99.3% of Finns are aware of the ‘Suomi100’ campaign; while 600,000 people have organised their own centenary events, large and small; and 80% of Finns say the Suomi100 celebrations are meaningful to them, personally.
But did you wonder how many Suomi100 events are happening in total, in Finland and around the world this year?
You might be surprised.
“It’s a very rough estimate, but tens of thousands is the right scale. Maybe 30 thousand is an educated guess. It’s a lot” says Pekka Timonen, General Secretary for Finland’s Centenary Celebrations – the man in charge of Suomi100.
That’s 30 thousand individual events happening in all corners of the earth – or to put it another way, 82 Suomi100 events are taking place every single day of the year.
From the Finnish Embassy in Australia organising a ‘Crazy Games’ event with hobby horse racing, wife carrying and air guitar contests; to diplomats in Tokyo dancing along with a bubblegum Japanese pop song in a video that will surely embarrass any of them who plucks up the nerve to watch their own performance.
There’s also gatherings, dinners and Suomi100 galas happening in dozens of countries, peaking around Independence Day itself.
Of course there are plenty of official events too, and it seems like every academic seminar, conference, community event and municipal ‘happening’ in 2017 has been branded with the Suomi100 logo. So it can sometimes be difficult to see the forest for the trees, as the saying goes.
“If you think about the variety in the population, the point is that we have different things for different people” explains Pekka Timonen.
“It grew out of hand, in that nobody could control it any more. But then, having the idea of a very programmed world where some central committee or artistic board gives approval for every event, I don’t believe in that” he says.
Branding Experts Weigh In
The Suomi100 celebrations have been visually branded by two main elements: the logo with the words on it; and the visual identity of roughly drawn figures, supposed to represent the ‘everyman’ Finn.
“It’s one of those wicked problems, to know if it’s really good, or really bad, or something in between” says Anssi Kähärä, Creative Director at Helsinki’s Werklig Agency.
“From a branding perspective usually if you have a brand you own and control, then you can say if it’s been over produced or over branded, or over advertised. But in this case, you have this official Suomi100 thing and it’s somehow ‘open source’, in that everyone can do a product or event and say it’s because of the 100 year anniversary, and that’s how it gets so overwhelming” he says.
On one hand, a brand can be easily diluted if it’s over-saturating the public conscious. But on the other hand, with many people wanting to be associated with Suomi100 during 2017, it shows that citizens cherish the idea of the independence anniversary.
“If we just talk about the brand identity, I see the visuals every single day that I wake up because I’m living in front of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and I see the faces of the people and this ‘together’ theme” says Arttu Salovaara, Managing Director of Bond Creative Agency in Helsinki.
“It’s not very polished, but I kind of like that, and especially when they use it like wallpaper. But what I don’t like is the actual Suomi100 logo. It’s one hundred, you clearly get it, but it’s missing something, a narrative” he adds.
How To Brand EVERYTHING
At SHT Tukku near Kouvola, they’re making Suomi 100 coffins.
To be clear, that’s not an officially licensed Suomi100 coffin, but their own product, with the words ‘Suomi’ and ‘100’ in the description.
Since they launched in April this year, the white coffins have proved to be very popular.
“It’s the most sold coffin this year from us” says CEO Pekka Kivimaa.
“Nobody said it was a bad idea, and it’s been a lot in the funny side of news […] but it’s no problem for us, because people need coffins. When they go to a funeral they see a very well made coffin, that’s made in Finland. A lot of beautiful handmade work and a resonable price” he tells News Now Finland.
The starting price for a Suomi 100 coffin is around €1100.
“Did it get out of control? We had some things we were looking at quite carefully. One is the commercial use of the brand. We have sent out some letters making motions with our layers saying politely it is a registered trademark and you have to ask for a license if you want to use it” explains Suomi100 General Secretary Pekka Timonen.
The long, long list of products that have attached themselves to Finland’s centenary celebration – either officially through licensing, or through association like the coffins – covers a wide array of items.
Many of them are catalogued at the ‘Paskat Suomi100 Tuotteet‘ Instagram account.
There’s Suomi100 pizza (reindeer, lamb sausage and red onions). Suomi100 teddy bears and Christmas ornaments. Suomi100 sports socks, karaoke compilation albums and household cleaning products. There’s Suomi100 energy drinks, a one hundred pack of Karjala beer, bottled water, vegan chocolates, even toilet paper. And so much more.
“I’ve heard from at least Millennials that it’s become a joke, this 100. Maybe that’s a good thing. People talk about it, they laugh. Literally a carpenter or electrician, they put a Finland 100 logo on their van. It’s everywhere. When you reach that level, it means they didn’t have any control” says Bond Creative Agency’s Arttu Salovaara.
Werklig’s Anssi Kähärä agrees.
“What is overwhelming is this Suomi100 everywhere. And of course that might dilute the value […] if you have something to do with national pride, people tend to jump on the wagon, and everyone rides the same wagon” says Kähärä.
But again, even though Suomi100 is seemingly everywhere this year, that’s also part of the charm of the campaign. And organisers see that as a reflection of the enthusiasm that Finns have to be involved.
“It grew bigger than we ever thought because of peoples willingness to do something” says Suomi100 boss Pekka Timonen.
“The basic idea is that Finns and friends of Finland, they create the centenary themselves. And this is a radical difference from how nations usually celebrate the big anniversaries, or how they were done in Finland before” says Timmonen.
“We created the brand, and it’s a very open programme. The idea is to inspire people and support them to go and do their own thing. That’s how the programme evolves and grows and becomes as multi-faceted as Finland itself”.