‘That Dutchman’: Why Peter Kentie’s brand proposal for Estonia should be taken very seriously (24)

Didn't really come out of nowhere: Peter Kentie, Dutch branding expert and ad man (Private collection)
7/17/2016 10:47 AM
Category: Features

What Estonia has in common with the Dutch city of Eindhoven, why Kentie was the right man to create its new brand, and what will happen if those in charge aren’t kept from bungling it: Here is the long story of “Just estonishing”.

When Dutch marketeer and ad man Peter Kentie submitted his idea for Estonia’s national brand to Enterprise Estonia, the first reaction was silence. The people at the receiving end didn’t realize that they had been approached by a destination branding expert.

Peter Kentie had been in charge of football club PSV Eindhoven’s marketing for more than eight years when he was offered a chance to run the city’s branding effort. He successfully launched Eindhoven365 in 2012 and, together with a highly motivated team, built it into one of the most successful examples of destination branding in the world.

But there was a downside. During his time with the PSV, Kentie had worked on other projects on the side. He now found he didn’t have time for them anymore.

How to turn industrial debris into a world-famous festival

One of his things on the side had been Eindhoven’s STRP Art and Technology festival, named after Strijp-S, which in the 20th century was part of a factory of Philips.

Philips had turned Eindhoven into a city, becoming its main employer and bringing tens of thousands of jobs to the area. When crisis hit in 1994 and the company almost went bankrupt, tens of thousands of people lost their jobs and factories stood empty.

One of the project’s co-founders, Kentie realized that he could use the city as well as Philips’ history to create something new. Eindhoven had been the home of Philips Studios, where in the post-war years the company assembled some of the time’s most remarkable minds to experiment with sound.

These pioneers included Iannis Xenakis, who came up with the concept of stochastic music, architect and designer Le Corbusier, and groundbreaking composer Edgard Varèse. With their work, the studio in Eindhoven became one of the most important factors in the emergence of a new form of musical art.

Kentie realized that he could use this history to attract some of the most important artists in electronic music. The festival started off in 2006 with performances by Karl Bartos (of the legendary Kraftwerk) and Jeff Mills, and since then has attracted some of the world’s most notable electronic acts, including the Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Aphex Twin, and Laurent Garnier. Other artists include director and visual artist Peter Greenaway, and writer William Gibson.

But with his new job as director of Eindhoven365, he didn’t have time for it anymore. Kentie found himself forced to quit some of his engagements on the side. So he did, and went about building the city’s brand.

After a few years of work, and with Eindhoven365 becoming successful, he found he had more time on his hands again. He needed a new hobby.

A Baltic country, a bike, and an off-white van

Two years ago, Kentie was in Rovaniemi to talk about Eindhoven’s branding. There he met Shardee Rebas of Enterprise Estonia’s digital marketing, who asked him if he had been to Estonia before. Kentie had been on a cruise in 2007 that stopped in Tallinn, but hopping off and back on, he hadn't seen much beyond the city’s old town.

What he heard about Estonia now went far beyond its postcard subjects and tickled his interest. Kentie was fascinated by the country’s digital success stories, its potential - and that he was looking at a place somewhat similar to Eindhoven. He had found a new hobby.

He began to read about the country and looked at its past branding efforts. The more he read, the more he realized how scattered and uncoordinated they had been. The problems he came across ranged from major campaign flaws to small issues.

Stick it anywhere: The old

Stick it anywhere: The old "Welcome to Estonia" logo (Postimees/Scanpix)

Estonia’s PR was clearly falling short, with the norm in foreign media being medieval-themed imagery. Some of its key websites, like Invest in Estonia, Research in Estonia, and Trade with Estonia, were inconsistent in style and tone of voice, and at least partially outdated.

While the country was promoting its digital successes and capabilities, it was making little or no use of digital technology in its advertising and branding, and nobody had bothered to tell Google that “Eesti” would often be translated into “Africa” or “Ireland”, a fact Kentie pointed out to Enterprise Estonia as early as 2014.

In short, nobody had bothered to take care of the details.

The idea for “Just estonishing” hit Kentie when one day, as he was getting on his bike, he saw an off-white van of a local TV and electronics company. The writing on the car played with part of the company’s name represented in bold type. This gave him the idea to highlight “est” in different words and build the nation brand around this central feature.

Not rocket science, as Kentie himself puts it. But now the real work started.

What he had in mind was quite a departure from Estonia’s past branding efforts. Instead of coming up with yet another rubber stamp for arbitrary campaigns, he looked for a concept that would be adaptable enough to work effectively across a whole range of areas - tourism, foreign trade, business promotion, attracting talent, and promoting the country in general.

But when he tried to introduce the relevant people in Estonia to his concept, he ran into a few difficulties.

Tamkivi to the rescue: Rejection and breakthrough

Kentie got back in touch with Rebas and asked her to pass on his idea and see what people might think about it. What followed was silence. Initially, nothing happened.

When after some time he broached the subject again, he learned that people at Enterprise Estonia had reacted positively, but that they didn’t quite know what to make of his suggestion. Kentie had made one crucial mistake: he had offered them his idea for free.

Something that comes free is instinctively classified as something of little or no value. Adding to that, Enterprise Estonia’s executives asked themselves what exactly this Dutchman’s angle was. What was in it for Kentie? Why would he go to such lengths without any thought of profit for himself?

As Enterprise Estonia still showed little interest, Peter Kentie decided to introduce his idea to other Estonians, also to check if his concept included cultural mistakes that he might not have thought of.

When director of Estonia’s e-residency program, Kaspar Korjus, was in Eindhoven, Kentie approached him and told him about the brand concept he had come up with. Korjus loved the idea and was immediately interested. Similar reactions from Estonian technology companies and the start-up scene followed. Rene Tõnnisson, who runs the Estonian branch of the EU’s SmartEnCity project in Tartu and also visited Eindhoven, became an avid supporter of the proposal.

At that point, Kentie had been interested in seeing Eindhoven added to Estonian company Teleport’s portal. Teleport helps people find desirable places to live and work abroad, and as attracting talent is one of Eindhoven365’s core purposes, he wanted to see it featured there prominently.

So when Kentie heard that Teleport’s founder and former Skype man Sten Tamkivi was in the country, he got in touch and convinced him to take the train to Eindhoven.

Tamkivi arrived with his colleague Kristjan Lepik, who is responsible for Teleport’s partnerships. Kentie gave them the grand tour of his city. At the very end, he casually dropped into the conversation that he had come up with a new national branding concept for Estonia.

The visitors were intrigued and wondered why nobody had picked it up. Kristjan Lepik interviewed Kentie and arranged for PR man Daniel Vaarik to publish the talk on Memokraat.

The idea’s breakthrough came when Postimees picked up the story. The paper added a poll to their article to gauge people’s approval of the idea. Thousands reacted, and 95% of them liked it. In just a very short time the idea gathered a following large enough to prompt designer Martin Lazarev, an expat Estonian living in Brazil, to start producing brand merchandise. Lazarev’s t-shirts were an immediate commercial hit.

Posing with fans, Stenbock House, June 2016

Posing with fans, Stenbock House, June 2016 (Private collection)

The universal nature of the idea to use “est” in various contexts allowed people to pick it up at their leisure, which made the idea spread even faster, and which culminated in Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand (independent) having t-shirts printed for a Queen concert in Tallinn in June. The minister presented the band with the t-shirts after the show.

Common sense: Why Kentie’s experience branding Eindhoven should matter to Estonia

Kentie’s efforts have had effects beyond the immediate attention the brand has achieved.

Earlier this week, an Estonian delegation around former Minister of Trade and Entrepreneurship Anne Sulling (Reform) visited Eindhoven to see how the city has developed since its crisis years in the 1990s, and how Estonia might be able to gain from its experiences.

Eindhoven has plenty in common with Estonia. After its largest employer, Philips, almost went bankrupt in the early 1990s, one in three of Eindhoven’s working population lost their job, and the outlook was bleak.

With most of its business gone and more than 30,000 people out of work, Eindhoven needed to reinvent itself. As Kentie puts it, two factors contributed to its ability to succeed. People realized that they needed to work together, and the bonds created like this turned out to last well into the more prosperous times that followed; and the city, its entrepreneurs, and its educational institutions came together to give the whole area a commercial and knowledge-based boost.

Beyond its economic and cultural development, which turned Eindhoven’s catastrophe into one of Europe’s most promising urban environments in just 17 years, Estonia has a lot to gain from its branding and advertising experience.

Kentie built up the city’s brand and gave it the image of a place that brings together technology, design, and knowledge. In this, its efforts are very similar to those of Estonia. Its focus areas of talent, entrepreneurship, and making the city attractive to a wide audience abroad fit Estonia as well.

In that sense, looking for someone to create a new brand for the country, Peter Kentie would appear to be an obvious choice. But if it hadn’t been for Kentie’s own efforts, the idea very likely wouldn’t have come this far.

Never mind a good idea

Enterprise Estonia knew about Kentie’s concept first. But they didn't bother to read up on the man behind the idea.

They didn't realize that they had been offered a concept devised by one of the leading experts in destination branding in Europe - entirely for free.

What’s more, the concept was based on an extensive analysis of Estonia’s existing branding efforts. Without a proper brief and without any instructions, Kentie had built the case for the idea entirely on his own.

Thinking back to what the country’s “Welcome to Estonia” logo cost, and what a comedy it eventually became, how miserably Enterprise Estonia’s attempt at turning “Mis on Eesti” into something half-way sensible failed, and the somewhat odd fact that the last branding contest ended without the jury picking any of the submissions, one would think a present like Kentie’s would be welcome.

Far from it. What it took for the breakthrough of the “Just estonishing” concept was the interest and recognition of tested businessmen and PR experts, both of which seem to be a rare breed in all the places that advertise Estonia today.

When the concept suddenly gained momentum, Enterprise Estonia’s director, Hanno Tomberg, made an attempt at explaining why they hadn’t followed up on Kentie’s proposal. What had bothered them the most was that the “est” allowed the interpretation that Estonia was bragging about itself, Tomberg said.

Which shouldn’t have been an obstacle, considering that what the country’s leading politicians have been doing in terms of promoting Estonia’s digital capabilities can hardly be called anything else. And this isn’t really a bad thing. After all, what is the point of advertising if the goal is to stand out as little as possible?

Meanwhile, the concept kept getting more popular. It was introduced at the Latitude59 start-up conference, prominently supported by Estonia’s prime minister and other government members, and Kentie found himself invited to the Estonia’s Friends International Meeting 2016.

Still, a few rather important points remain unsolved. Nobody has yet claimed ownership of the brand, which means that at this point, nobody is trying to consolidate its use and build it up as the national representation of Estonia.

The future: For heaven's sake, don't mess up

Kentie points out that while the approval of the population is crucial, the brand of a city or country of course has a purpose, and that is to advertise it as a destination. This again means that a thorough and long-term approach to actually building it is needed. As nice as it is, the job isn’t done by printing t-shirts.

The local obsession with the country’s logo isn’t helping either. While the visual appearance of the brand matters, the main concerns are picking the right audiences, the right stories, and doing efficient marketing.

Kentie sees several possibilities. If a state institution should run it, Enterprise Estonia would likely be the obvious choice. Another idea he has had is to turn it into an open source brand, free to use for everybody. Several hotels and companies have already submitted ideas to Kentie, plenty of IT companies are eager to use it, or are using it already.

But even an open source brand would need a custodian, an institution to make sure people stick to its guidelines and that make sure it remains universally recognizable, graphically as well as in its spirit and language.

An example for the practical problems in store for the brand is the question of images. For his initial outline, Kentie used a mix of stock photos and proprietary material of Enterprise Estonia. There are several businesses who would like to use his designs, but can’t do it, as intellectual property laws would make it illegal. A coordinated approach here would create a database that could be used following the brand’s guidelines.

Branding efforts, private as well as public, often fail because of the misunderstanding that the brand is taken care of once a few designs are ready for use and a company or institution has come up with its own brand book.

Running meetings discussing different shades of orange and different typefaces is less work and more fun than supervising a brand’s performance and application, and actually making it sell.

Kentie is worried that the “Just estonishing” brand could die because of lack of ownership, that if it runs uncoordinated for much longer, it will become just another fad and eventually disappear from people’s consciousness.

Considering Kentie’s experience and influence as a marketing executive and creator of brands, it would be a crying shame to see “Just estonishing” fail because of the same attitude that made people ignore him at first.

Would you like to contribute to ERR News? Send your article or opinion piece to news@err.ee. If you can think of a topic you’d like to see covered, or if you have any other feedback, let us know.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

The name field cannot be empty
No more than 50 characters
Comment field cannot be empty
No more than 50 characters
Comment field cannot be empty
No more than 1024 characters
{{error}}

Message forwarded to the editor

This Ip-address has limited access

See also

There are no comments yet. Be the first!

Reply to comment

+{{childComment.ReplyToName}}:
Reply to comment
Reply

Laadi juurde ({{take2}})
The name field cannot be empty
No more than 50 characters
Comment field cannot be empty
No more than 1024 characters
{{error}}
Add new comment
  • foto
    Gallery: Tartu students mark 97th anniversary of Estonian-language university
    01.12

    While the University of Tartu in its earliest form was established in 1632, Estonian did not become the official language of instruction until Dec. 1, 1919. Today, the anniversary of the Estonian-language university is celebrated annually with a number of traditional events, the most visible of which is a torchlight procession through town involving dozens of student organizations and hundreds of students and alumni.

  • foto
    Gallery: Tartu students mark 97th anniversary of Estonian-language university
    01.12

    While the University of Tartu in its earliest form was established in 1632, Estonian did not become the official language of instruction until Dec. 1, 1919. Today, the anniversary of the Estonian-language university is celebrated annually with a number of traditional events, the most visible of which is a torchlight procession through town involving dozens of student organizations and hundreds of students and alumni.

  • foto
    Supposed tourism farm turned country home: Ilves’ Ermamaa builds farm with EU support, never puts it to intended use
    21.10

    Former president Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ company received €190,392 in 2006 to turn the family’s country home of Ärma into a tourism farm. Then owned by his ex-wife, it negotiated new conditions in 2012: Even if the farm was never put to its intended use, the company would have to pay back just 10% of the grant.

  • foto
    Feature: Is Germany Estonia’s new benchmark?
    19.10

    With the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, Estonia will have to look for a new great partner in Europe. Some have indicated that it could be Germany — yet just at the time it could become more important to Estonia, Europe's economic powerhouse is facing events that may well lead to a much more Russia-friendly course, writes historian Jeroen Bult.

  • foto
    Experts: President Ilves put Estonia on the map
    10.10

    With president-elect Kersti Kaljulaid’s oath of office at 3:00 p.m. today Monday, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ remarkable decade as Estonia’s head of state will end. ETV’s “Aktuaalne Kaamera Nädal” weekly review asked social scientists and policy experts what would remain of Ilves’ presidency.

  • foto
    Interview with Junior Achievement mentor: On Estonia's student companies
    18.09

    In a written interview given to ERR News, veteran Junior Achievement student mentor Madis Vodja, a Tallinn native who was most recently mentor to Junior Achievement Estonia's 2016 winning student company Spoony, provided insight into what Junior Achievement is, what the program's mentors do, how Estonian student companies can compete for national and European titles as well as a bit of advice for aspiring student or small business-owners in Estonia.

  • foto
    Estonia's six Paralympians in Rio
    18.09

    The 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, which also mark the 15th Summer Paralympic Games and the first to be hosted in South America, are drawing to a close on Sunday night after over a week and a half of competition. Estonia was represented in Rio by a six-athlete team which headed to the Games with a number of titles and medals, including Paralympic gold, already under its collective belt.

  • foto
    Interview with Marina Kaljurand: On taxes, corruption, the justice system and refugee policy
    17.09

    Presidential hopeful Marina Kaljurand told ERR's online news portal in a written interview that she is a liberal in worldview, who supports lower taxes on employment and bigger investments in higher education, is in favor of the state borrowing only if absolutely necessary and with great caution, and does not consider Estonia's current refugee policy to be remotely shameful.

  • foto
    Estonia’s information society development from a privacy and data protection perspective
    16.09

    Today Estonia has the most technologically advanced government system the world has seen. Even though the small Baltic state yields a population of only 1.3 million, it is known for its e-government system that has everyone applying to be an e-resident of Estonia, even the Japanese Prime Minister.

  • foto
    Original Estonian flag delivered to new permanent home at national museum
    15.09

    Previously only removed from storage for public display on rare special occasions, the original blue, black and white Estonian flag, consecrated on June 4, 1884 as the flag of the Estonian Students' Society (EÜS), was ceremonially delivered to the new Estonian National Museum (ERM) building on Thursday, where it will be put on permanent display as part of an exhibit on the founding and formation of the Estonian identity and state.

  • foto
    Pealtnägija: Common-sense approach to offering specialized medical treatment could save millions
    15.09

    ETV’s investigative magazine “Pealtnägija” reported on Wednesday that while there is a gaping hole in the Health Insurance Fund’s finances, millions could be saved by avoiding that specialist medical procedures are performed more often than necessary.

  • foto
    Reflections of an “Esto”: Estonia in 1975 and 2016
    03.09

    Anne Sarapik, the New York City-born daughter of two war-era Estonian refugees and mother of four Estonian-American children born during the final years of Estonia’s occupation by the USSR, visited her family’s homeland this summer after a long absence, discovering a vastly different Estonia than she remembered from her first visit in 1975.

  • foto
    Margus Laidre: The utopia of peace and the flowers of evil
    22.08

    Do you believe that if you close your eyes, evil ceases to exist? Although terrorism and war scar our world, many believe that we are nevertheless living in the most peaceful time we’ve known. Historian and diplomat Margus Laidre demonstrates in his essay that this may prove to be a dangerous illusion.

  • foto
    Eight former prime ministers talk about Estonia’s 25 years of regained independence
    20.08

    A quarter of a century has passed since Estonia regained its independence. On the occasion, ERR interviewed all of the country’s eight former prime ministers: Edgar Savisaar, Tiit Vähi, Mart Laar, Andres Tarand, Mart Siiman, Siim Kallas, Juhan Parts, and Andrus Ansip.

  • foto
    From hobby brewer to brewmaster in Estonia's flourishing craft beer scene
    24.07

    Not yet even out of his late 20s, up-and-coming Estonian brewer Peeter Kolk made the jump from brewing for fun and for friends to making a serious go of contributing to the country’s ever more popular craft beer scene with the establishment of his own Kolk Brewery in Uuemõisa, just outside of the western coastal town of Haapsalu in Lääne County, in early 2016.

  • foto
    An old publication's new tricks: How an Estonian-American newspaper is compiled from Tallinn
    23.07

    Over half a century before the arrival of the Internet and social media, it was an Estonian-language newspaper published in Manhattan, the Vaba Eesti Sõna, or "Free Estonian Word," founded in 1949, which kept the Estonian-American diaspora connected and up to date on news from both home and the Soviet-occupied homeland. Nearly 70 years later, the paper's official editorial office remains located on the third floor of the New York Estonian House, but in modern e-Estonia style, editor-in-chief Kärt Ulman has been putting the weekly paper together from her home in Tallinn for three years.

  • foto
    ‘That Dutchman’: Why Peter Kentie’s brand proposal for Estonia should be taken very seriously
    17.07

    What Estonia has in common with the Dutch city of Eindhoven, why Kentie was the right man to create its new brand, and what will happen if those in charge aren’t kept from bungling it: Here is the long story of “Just estonishing”.

  • foto
    What can Western governments do to counteract radicalization?
    16.07

    You can’t kill a thought with a bullet. You can only defeat it with a stronger thought. As attacks continue, and the unrelenting effort and billions invested in the global war on terrorism haven’t brought results, the question arises what individual governments can do to curb the emergence of radical Islamism.

  • foto
    Interview: Pavlo Klimkin says Russia at war with both Ukraine and EU
    22.06

    What got Ukraine where it is today? Who is responsible for the mistakes of the past 25 years? What’s the oligarchs’ role in politics? ETV+ talked to Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin. Here is the full-length video interview in English.

  • foto
    Feature: The world's scariest dress rehearsal
    20.06

    On Sunday NATO member forces rehearsed for the final staged battle of the 2016 Sabre Strike exercise. The demonstration is to take place today in the Estonian Defence Forces' central training area close to Tapa in Lääne-Viru County. As artillery, anti-tank units, infantry, and air support unloaded their guns, Nicholas Marsh stood on "TV Hill" and watched in awe.

  • foto
    Trust your neighbor, pay less? The future of electricity production in Estonia
    18.06

    Historically, Estonia has exported electricity. The country’s policy to guarantee production capacity at 110% of its peak consumption as well as the remnants of its formerly state-run production system have made this possible. But the market and its conditions are changing.

  • foto
    Varnja: The people and potential on the shores of Lake Peipus
    12.06

    In a village of just 250 residents on the western, Estonian shore of the fifth-largest lake in Europe, known as Peipus ('Peipsi järv') in Estonian and Chudskoe in Russian, a mix of old blood and new — Russian-speakers and Estonians, Old Believers and newcomers — live and work side by side. Despite any differences, however, Varnja's residents have at least one thing in common: their belief in the village's potential.

  • foto
    Timmermans: EU needs to show it can deliver
    16.05

    First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans was a panelist at the 10th Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn that ended on Sunday. In an interview with ERR's Neeme Raud, he said that the EU needed to show that it was making progress, and to explain more, so people could see its value.

  • foto
    Young immigrants' dream to marry European girls harder and harder to realize
    10.05

    ”Marry a beautiful European girl. I'm planning to do that as well,” Mohammed, a 25-year-old asylum seeker, says to his closest friend as they are drinking tea in the restaurant of one of the hotels turned refugee reception centers in Athens.

  • foto
    May 9: Europe Day for some, Victory Day for others
    09.05

    While the European Union celebrates Europe Day on May 9, in Russia it is Victory Day. This collision of holidays affects Tallinn, where pro-Putin activists of the group Nochnoy Dozor have called for a march through the city center.

  • foto
    Estonia’s great private schools debate: to fund or not to fund
    05.04

    A recently submitted letter of appeal co-signed by 75 leading figures of Estonian academia, culture and society in support of the country’s private schools has sparked a fierce new round of debates regarding a stalled bill proposing an amendment to an unconstitutional law which would release local governments from being required to fund the operational costs of private schools.

  • foto
    Estonians host five-day cultural festival in the heart of Manhattan
    28.03

    The New York Estonian community recently hosted its annual Estonian Cultural Days in NYC (“Eesti Kultuuripäevad New Yorgis”), a multi-day affair with concerts, theater performances, lectures, and other events spanning five days from March 23-27 and featuring Estonians from both the local diaspora and abroad.

  • foto
    National Language Day celebrated by Estonian youth around the world
    14.03

    Despite differences in number of students, fluency, budget, distance, and other constraints, Estonian Schools as well as kindergartens, children’s hobby groups, and other youth organizations around the world have made a point to celebrate Estonia's national language, whether on National Language Day or all year round.

  • foto
    Small islands get €640,000 to develop priority services
    08.03

    Starting today, funds can be applied for that will support projects to improve services for the inhabitants of Estonia’s small islands. The program includes 13 islands and total funds amounting to €640,000.

  • foto
    Eri Klas' funeral service
    03.03

    Composer and musician Eri Klas' funeral service took place in Estonia Concert Hall on Wednesday. Anyone who wanted to attend was welcome.