The design of Enterprise Estonia's national branding toolbox won in the "Best Use of Design" category at the 2018 City Nation Place Awards in London last Thursday. One can't help but think that more might have been possible: Peter Kentie, whose EST concept Enterprise Estonia initially rejected and later on casually buried in its own material, won "Place Brand of the Year" with his work for Eindhoven, taking home the competition's main award.
Entries for the award for the best use of design in place branding are judged based on criteria such as strategically sound planning based on thorough research, and whether or not they have the potential to be successful with their target group in the long run.
Enterprise Estonia's entry and presentation were no doubt very high quality, and according to attendees of the London event referred to some 70 institutions that adopted it and have been using it successfully.
Which may well be it: according to recaps done earlier this year across the Estonian media, despite Enterprise Estonia's optimism, the new national brand has been picked up mainly by state and official institutions, while the use of its design elements on the part of private companies has been more than cautious.
Interestingly, private companies do tend to use one element quite enthusiastically, and that is the EST component of the brand, which, as it happens, was introduced a few years ago by none other than the man behind the winner of the 2018 "Place Brand of the Year" award: Peter Kentie, of Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
Kentie at the time made the mistake of presenting his brand concept for Estonia as a gift, which mattered to him personally as he is potentially one of the biggest fans Estonia has ever had. The guardians of Estonia's marketing presence in the world at the time neither recognised Kentie's clout as an ad man, nor did they understand the impact of the idea.
Kentie's concept builds on the use of superlatives and the letters EST, prompting slogans such as "Our fastEST driver," "Our smartEST government," "Our oldEST university," and so on. But though the idea caught on very quickly and turned out to be popular with pretty much everyone from the prime minister down to business executives, Enterprise Estonia never warmed to it and eventually relegated it to a life in the shadows of the bulk of its own branding material that it has since piled up.
But credit where credit is due. The award is no doubt a great leap forward for Estonia's national brand, as well as for all fans of our world imagined as a place of the quieter and more sombre kind: in a blue tint.
Still, Estonia was a finalist in the Place Brand of the Year category as well. Without wanting to gloat, one does wonder what might have been had Kentie been taken seriously.
Editor: Aili Vahtla