(Feature picture: Iittala cooking pot)
[Update: @juhamac just told me that the above pot is of mid-range pricing, and still on sale. So it’s the wrong pot. The perfect Finnish pot that the Finnish gentleman told me about is discontinued, from Ittala, and priced higher than €2oo+]
Before I start my day, I want to blog briefly about the simple solution to Finland’s “shyness problem”. I don’t have much time today, so I’d hopefully get this written out in 1 hour. A lot has been said about this Finnish “shyness problem”; for instance read here and here.
But not a lot –if at all– has been said about PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS. In my opinion, currently the solutions proposed along the lines of “Finland should just do more marketing” are just talk and cannot be executed in real life, due to mainly the lack of $$$$/ €€€€€€€.
For, how do you do “more marketing” when you don’t know:
(A) WHO to market to;
(B) WHAT these people care about;
(C) When you don’t have money??
Yet, recently I think I’d found at least one PRACTICAL solution that I’m personally convinced about. Actually I intended to write the practical solution in just one post, but it got too long.
So let’s break this topic up into two posts. The first post (this) will illustrate the premise of the “shyness problem” through the EXAMPLE of a perfect Finnish pot, and the second post will talk about the no-nonsense simple practical solution to this problem.
The no-nonsense simple practical solution is to “marry” countries with complementary skillsets. This “marrying” idea is first proposed by Kristabel and she talks about why Finland should “marry” Singapore.
I’d expound on this solution–“why Finland should marry ANY country with a complementary skillset” as soon as I am less busy. This practical solution would solve (A)-(C) and will be win-win.
The premise: Finland has this challenge of having great and innovative products, but not-so-stellar communication/marketing about these products. So these high quality products are just left…there, and nobody knows about it.
Based on personal experience, I think there is much truth to this premise because I’d stayed in Finland for 2 years, and seen many examples like that. But honestly, errrr—how do you communicate this premise to others, especially the “others” who have zero/limited experiences with Finland?
For example, if I tell my Singaporean friends :”I think Finland has a “shyness problem”, Finns are expected by society to be humble, because people who stand out of the crowd will be condemned and marked by the mean others who are jealous.”
My Singaporean friends will simply be like:
“Come onnnnnn, grow up and get over it.”-roll eyes-
That is to say, my non-Finnish (not necessarily Singaporean, actually) friends won’t understand what I am talking about. Because Finns and non-Finns sometimes operate in an entirely different societal context–Singapore society’s extremely practical. Most Singaporeans for example, will ask —
- “Do you want money and be rich by selling this perfect pot, people actually benefitting from the actual use of it, and risk the “negative effect” of people being jealous”; or
- “Do you want to be poor with a perfect pot that is perfectly designed, but never got to really sell well because you are “shy” about telling others how it is perfect, and “risk” being constantly judged as mediocre/lousy your whole life?”
The reaction of “just grow up” is logical to most Singaporeans at least, and honestly most Singaporeans simply don’t get what is so hard about boasting about yourself/ your accomplishments.
It’s just talking, isn’t it? What is so difficult about that?
So to achieve understanding on both sides, so that proper communication can occur, let me share this story of a perfect Finnish pot that went on sale. This perfect Finnish pot however, was discontinued because nobody communicates how perfect it is.
The story of the perfect Finnish cooking pot.
During my masters, I remembered this Finnish gentleman gushing about a particular perfect discontinued €200+ Iittala cooking pot. I remembered trusting whatever this gentleman says about design because he showed some of the stuffs he designed, and they actually look quite simplistic but have well thought-out functions.
“It’s designed to be the perfect pot. The price tag is totally worth it,”he fanboys, “The heat distribution of the pot is designed to be impeccable–you see, the handle isn’t hot at all when the pot boils, so you’d never hurt yourself accidentally! And you could boil stuffs in precise durations, so you can follow your recipe book to detail.”
Then he showed me the pot, and it looks like something like that. Since the price tag of this pot is €2oo+/ SGD300ish, I think it’s this model, please correct me if I am wrong :
In the model he was talking about, there are slits on the lids of the pot, so that air can flow out evenly and perfectly when food boils in the pot. This slits are cut with precision. I can’t see whether there are slits in the above pot or not, but yeah you get my drift–the gentleman was talking about the perfect cooking pot that was intended and designed to be perfect. Apparently Iittala spent millions on RnD just to design this perfect Finnish cooking pot.
And while writing this post I read this Iittala page on materials that I’d never give a damn about, especially while buying a pot. A pot to me is just a pot, as long as I get my soup boiled I don’t really care about whether it boils in 30-40 minutes or 32.0001 minutes.
Honestly, sometimes I even drink my soup cold because I’m too lazy/ no time to boil.
Basically this perfect Finnish pot is a plain-looking pot I will never look at twice at, much less pay SGD300+ for. But this Finnish gentleman did make me curious about this perfect pot, AND because I trust his design expertise, I was tempted to look twice at it.
“Why is this perfect Finnish pot discontinued then?!?!?” I asked.
“Because the Finns just put the pot there in the department store without attempting in any way, to communicate how perfect it is!!!”
Well, imagine this.
Imagine as the manufacturer Iittala, you have this perfect but super plain-looking Finnish pot in the departmental store, with the price tag of €2oo+. You made no attempts to explain how perfect it is, in a way that someone as average as me can understand.
If I were your competitor, I’d simply put a €30 shiny pot next to your pot, made of steel that is definitely not as superior to your perfect Finnish pot, with cheap plastic handles that sometimes heat up when the food boils.
Then i will design a really attention-grabbing packaging that may or may not be ugly, and spam the message–
“LOOK: This is ONE OF THE BEST POTS IN TOWN! It is shiny!!”
If the department only has two pots, I think average, normal consumers will buy this shiny €30 pot.
What does the law of economics tell us? It simply tells us that the production of this perfect pot will decline due to a lack of demand.
Why is there a lack of demand?
Because consumers don’t know how perfect this pot is, as nobody told them how this perfect pot relates to their lives!!!
So the thinking is simply,
“Yeah this pot is perfect, but it’s irrelevant to me. I don’t need a perfect pot, I need a pot that works at a price that is agreeable to me.”
OR because they don’t know that it’s a perfect pot, they might think–
“Crazy! Who pays SGD300 for such normal pot?”
AND that’s not all.
The law of demand and supply also tells us that the production of the inferior competitor pot will increase, as more and more consumers choose the competitor’s pot over the perfect Finnish pot. Because, competitor’s pot is shiny and the price of the perfect Finnish pot is 700% higher.
This means the market will then be flooded with more and more of the inferior competitor’s pot, and less and less of the perfect Finnish pot. Until one day, the perfect Finnish pot will be discontinued.
Huge, huge pity. If I were the marketer, I will tell this to my consumer:
“This perfect Finnish pot ensures that you will never have to worry about your children being near kitchen appliances again. In fact, cooking will be such a breeze, you can even let your kids cook for themselves by following the recipe book! This will teach them essential life skills at a young age.”
“This perfect Finnish pot ensures that you can set an alarm precisely, so that you can go for a jog while boiling some chicken, without worrying that your boiled chicken will ever get burned. We can promise this because this pot is scientifically proven to have even-heating, and can do precise boiling. You’d always get yummy food!!”
You get my drift.
A question to my Finnish readers: Would you personally find the above copywriting statements as “boastful” and therefore bad to a Finn? I am actually not sure–as a relatively competitive Singaporean, I always understood that the concept of “boasting” or “standing out” is not necessarily bad.
I believe that sometimes I should actually even be “shameless” and actively put myself on the line, especially when I am convinced that the alternatives in the market are inferior.
This means that if you don’t highlight your strengths actively when the alternative (AKA “competition”) is inferior, then not-so-smart consumers like me will buy your competitor’s products because they boast about themselves.
Your competitor, then, get more money, more resources, more power to advertise more about themselves, and honestly one day they might even become less shitty because they have more €€€ to do RnD.
And not-so-smart consumers will always remember this inferior competitor’s product as better than your perfect pot. Simply because no/limited communication was made to the shoppers about how this perfect pot relates to their lives.
So let’s reframe–
If you have a good product and you highlight good things about the good product, so that users buy the good product (as opposed to the inferior competitor’s product) and their lives become better, then why is this bad?
In fact it then becomes your obligation to boast about your good product, so that kids don’t get hurt from using your competitor’s inferior products!
Anyway. Maybe some of my readers can tell me about the exact model of this discontinued Iittala pot, if you have (seen) it? I’m curious about exactly how the communication is done. I’m motivated by pure curiosity, with zero ill-intention, because I really want to find out the psychology behind the copywriting (since I do copywriting as an expertise myself).
So you see, there really is a shyness problem in Finland indeed, due to mainly the history /culture of the Finnish society. I hope the above story of this perfect Finnish pot illuminates to foreigners, what this challenge means in a business context to the Finns.
The practical solution: To “marry” partner countries with complementary skill-sets.
This basically means that Finland stays just as it is–focus on innovation, RnD, quality of products…and let its “spouse(s)” do the PR/marketing.
I’d talk about this practical solution, and what the metaphor of a “marriage” means in my next post when I find some time before this week ends. Got to run, bye!