Famously Happy Finland Is Revealing Its Secrets to the World

The Nordic country is taking its "Rent a Finn" initiative online

The Rent a Finn campaign began in 2019, but had to go virtual for 2020 given travel restrictions. Business Finland
Headshot of Ryan Barwick

Key insights:

Amid the daily deluge of depressing headlines that Covid-19 has brought people around the world, Finland wants to lighten things up.

In a new campaign, the famously happy Nordic nation is sharing its secrets with the world, all while reminding travelers that when the world is safer, Finland has the room to roam.

Titled “Rent a Finn,” the country is (virtually) exporting its own perspective on well-being by linking up people with everyday Finns, who’ll serve as Happiness Guides, revealing “the little things that make us feel calm and happy.”

This is knowledge that the rest of the world can definitely benefit from: For the third year in a row in 2020, Finland has topped the list of the happiest countries in the United Nations’ World Happiness Report.

The Happiness Guides will begin sharing their wisdom on livestreams starting this week and continuing through June. Viewers can also apply for virtual one-on-one sessions.

Viewers will also hear from famous Finns, such as taking an evening to “Eat With a Finn” alongside Michelin-starred chef Sasu Laukkonen, or learning how to “Relax With a Finn,” which features a DIY presentation on saunas that viewers can replicate at home with a bucket of ice water and a towel.

The “Rent a Finn” campaign debuted in 2019, when tourists could “reserve” a Finn for a day to get the full experience of life in Finland. For 2020, a virtual update was needed given worldwide travel restrictions.

It’s also similar to a previous effort from Finland’s neighbor. In 2016, Sweden’s Tourism Association ran a “Call a Swede” campaign, which featured a hotline connecting people with ambassadors for the northern European country. That stunt took home a Direct Grand Prix at Cannes.

Although the mood of the world—not to mention the advertising industry—isn’t exactly cheerful right now, finding ways to be happy has never been more important.

“When we were planning this, we were a little bit hesitant if this was a suitable time to talk about happiness,” said Heli Jimenez, senior director of international marketing at Business Finland. “We feel that the happiness doesn’t mean you’re smiling all the time. It’s inner peace. Even in the tough times, we can get through.”

As far as what kind of audience the global campaign hopes to capture, Jimenez said they’re targeting experienced travelers with an interest in nature. Most of Finland’s tourism comes from its neighboring countries, such as Sweden and Russia, followed by China, the U.K. and the U.S.

Last year’s campaign found an audience in Brazil, even though the South American country wasn’t targeted.

Other European countries have reminded travelers that their monuments will still be there after Covid-19 passes, like Discover Ireland’s breathy and poetic “I Will Return” campaign. The Netherlands, one the other hand, has made the same decision as most major destinations (including New York), taking visitors on digital tours of famous attractions like the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum.

As far as how the country will judge the campaign’s success, Jimenez said that Business Finland was monitoring traffic to the country’s tourism website. And when international travel does resume, she believes Finland will be exactly what tourists want.

“We have clean air, clean water; we’re not crowded,” she said. “When people start to travel, we believe they are looking for room to roam. People will find that attractive about Finland.”


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@RyanBarwick ryan.barwick@adweek.com Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.