Estonia Nation branding concept

For business and pleasure I visited Estonia and met Estonians through my work in marketing. My name is Peter Kentie and I am managing director of Eindhoven365 and responsible for the place branding and marketing of Eindhoven city and region in The Netherlands. A great job and on my Twitter profile it also reads: ‘Estonia.’
I am really thankful of Estonia. The country and the people touched me deeply and have such a positive impact on me that I decided to actively contribute to inspire the discussion on nation branding of Estonia:

Primary economic and societal goals

  • Encouraging entrepeneurship and attracting business with foreign direct investments to Estonia
  • Enticing governments to adopt Estonian data-driven ecosystem
  • Encourage recommendation (NPS) of Estonia and enhance self-esteem
  • Invite more tourists and increase spending per visit in Estonia
  • Communicate the greatness and culture that have come out of Estonia
  • Interest students to enjoy education facilities in Tallinn and Tartu
  • Generate impactful, consistent and ‘viral’ brand positioning of Estonia
  • Create flexibility to develop tailored strategies for relevant target groups
  • Capitalize on previous investments in branding, while :
  • Aligning all marketing/promotional activities of all stakeholders into one integrated concept.

Be distinctive, memorable and competitive

In todays noisy and congested world a brand must stand out and represent distinctive values and benefits. Simon Anholt once said nation branding is “the reduction of a nation’s complexities into single, bite-sized stereotypes.” In other words: a nation brand is the mix of core characteristics that make a country distinctive, memorable and competitive. And Estonia is so rich of unique authentic assets and contains many outstanding examples and great stories to tell the world. Social media favors shareable content.

Real world simulation of est campaign in Life in Estonia magazine.

Estonia as a role model

Estonia has invested in its future transforming the country and is performing globally on a high level in specific areas. But it’s struggling to find a coherent nation branding and marketing strategy. Estonia is improving steadily in creating global awareness. Yet the image in international media has to better fit its ambitions as this example of Business Insider Finance shows. Like this picture in Business Insider in 2014. Not a fitting representation for a digital leader, yet you can’t blame the picture editor of the publication. It is the inherent image of the nation which is depicted and that has to be changed.

You are Just Estonishing!

Consistent modern web presence

Consistency of the brand and campaign is of great importance. In my design concept I strived to provide a fitting solution for all stakeholders. And being consistent in the process as well. It is great that all Estonian government agencies have web pages, but they differ in branding, tone-of-voice and navigation. And some are inconsistent or non-supportive with their visual message like and the e-residency website. The redesigned aims at the tourism market with a distinct style.

Redesign of homepage
Redesign of homepage
Redesign of homepage

.est domain name extension

The monetization of the concept can be realized by the new domain name .est an effective method to spread the concept internationally is to introduce your own exclusive TLD, Top Level Domain. As an addition to the commonly used .ee country identifier. Companies like can assist in monetizing the .est domain names.

The organization can support the commercialization of the .est domain name extension.

What about the language?

Estonia has one of the highest levels of English proficiency in Europe. That is one of the reasons the -est concept is in English and it’s the international lingua franca in business and tourism. And especially in social media. The succesful Tallink & EAS tourism experiences campaign aimed at Sweden was titled Epic Estonia. And that worked out really well with the English name. Had the campaign been named ‘Just Estonishing’ it would have worked as well for the Swedes. And would have fitted perfectly.

Mobile and social activation

One of the campaign ideas is a social media application to spot the est in daily life. As part of a word or in signing, in the street and online. It is really addictive to find them and creates pride seeing the est literally everywhere. Adding the acceptance and power of this simple yet effective and sympathetic concept. Social media is ideal to entice Estonian fans to participate, show their ‘est’ and share. The current social fan base is huge so use this! As an addition to ‘Epic Estonia’ campaign, so create an Instagram — Estonian style — using the ‘est’ related images:

Estonian fans from around the world share their own images based on the word ‘est’ or the abbreviation ‘est’.

Merchandising suggestions

The concept is easily transferable into playful, attractive merchandising products and incentives with the charismatic ‘est’ brand(ing) and also has strong commercial appeal. Adding to your national pride & creating joy.

Merchandising ideas. On the left a beanie, in the middle an existing design with added print and on the right the new Olympic dress kit of Estonia fitting the -est concept.
The possibilities in merchandising are endless, playful and enticing:
The e-Residency packaging in line with -est branding.

Outdoor media campaign: be our guest

Public space and out-of-home advertising are effective communication tools to enhance the core communication message of the -est concept. So a campaign as an extension of the ‘being the -est’ concept aimed at branding events and outdoor media. Following the customer journey of the tourist and business visitor with a consistent and personal message: be our guest.

Be our guest to welcome passengers on the Nordica airplanes.
A warm welcome to your guests at Tallinn Airport.
The right name for your loyalty card: ‘be our guest’.
Be my guest ambassadors for tourism.
Design proposal of Estonia booth for tourism trade fairs like ITB and ITM.

Estonia celebrations

Estonians will celebrate 100 years ‘being the est’ in 2018 with EV 100. Another campaign example is the 100 festival theme. The logo enhances the -est narrative and the ‘centennial’ activities are ideal to focus on a push forward for the nation branding.

We are the est > EV 100 event in style.
  • Turning students into knowledge workers and top talent
  • Turning e-residents into foreign investors and startups/scale ups.
Redesign of presentation of upcoming Entrepreneurship gala.

Don’t cheer with your hands in your pockets

Apart from my work as marketer and brand manager for Eindhoven region I have a strong interest and caring for Estonia. I think there are interesting similarities between our city and your country as being smaller communities that are having quite a positive impact on global society. The difference is that in Eindhoven we invested in our branding and marketing to improve our reputation and visibility. It resulted in a measurable increase in global awareness and recognition. Yes we have been modest too in Eindhoven, too long. Although we have a world-class story to tell.

My resources and inspiration

During the one and half year of development I also did an analysis of the current Estonian brand image and the activities of the key stakeholders. A lot is written and published online. Sources like the Estonian news of Postimees, ERR, Aripaev, Estonianworld, Best Marketing and Justin Petrone’s blog and books helped me to understand. During the creation process I got to meet many more Estonians with whom I shared the development of the -est concept like Rene Tõnnisson from IBS and Siim Espenberg from Tartu city, Silver Tambur from Estonianworld London, Kristjan Lepik and Sten Tamkivi of Teleport, Tajo Oja of Fraktal, Dan Mikkin of Brand Manual, Hando Sinisalu of Best Marketing.

Be a true brand custodian

Experiences and learnings from Eindhoven and relevant cases show that a brand has to be guarded and curated by a dedicated and authoritative team. So whoever owns the brand of Estonia has to initiate a brand management policy to facilitate and monitor its future developments. And be a true custodian of the brand, staying strong and focussed on the result bringing in consumer understanding and expertise.

A contribution from an Estonian fan and thankful e-Resident abroad.

City marketing | Place branding | Eindhoven | PSV | Writer | Designer | F1 | True ENFP | I care for Estonia |

City marketing | Place branding | Eindhoven | PSV | Writer | Designer | F1 | True ENFP | I care for Estonia |