This post is about my personal vision for the Singaporean and Finnish bridal industries. The same industry in both countries actually have more similarities than you think, and face similar challenges.
One thing is for sure: Both countries DEFINITELY need to expedite their globalisation process in bridal. I’d explain why later in this post but basically the point is that the population of 5+ mil is just too small. We have bigger talents than that.
Before I start this post, let me just take the time to thank TechinAsia for holding a successful and inspiring event. I would like to thank the team for inviting Yeow An (Of Starlight Productions) and our team at IKIGUIDE as part of media.
I think the main takeaway Yeow and I gathered is this: From TechinAsia, we understood what the beauty of an “ecosystem” on a foundation of being “nurturing”, instead of necessarily a warzone. For the former mentality, the belief is that the economic pie is big enough for all.
You know, I used to think that all ecosystems are based on the foundation of war–that is to say, you should never share your knowledge with people unless you are 10 steps ahead, and/or have PR value in sharing your knowledge.
Yet even with that sort of beliefs, I’d often been very blessed with kind business mentors around me. Raymond has been my business mentor for a while already, and he is one guy who is sometimes misunderstood. But if you take the time to listen to his “money philosophy”, he is actually very, very wise and kind. He just can’t be bothered with bullshit.
Recently I was also moved by a certain business leader (who’s a Finn) who recently moved to Singapore, and I think he is very kind, super successful yet humble, and has a heart for the Finnish entrepreneurial ecosystem.
And today I want to jot my thoughts about how I would want to market the Finnish bridal industry. Why am I sharing this? Answer: As part of recruitment, HAHA. If you have more resources and identify with my vision, feel free to recruit me. On the other hand, if you don’t have more resources and identify with my vision, do consider the possibility of having me recruit you eventually.🙂
There are two aspects to Finnish bridal: One domestic market, one “international” market. Some say that there is no domestic bridal industry, which I agree to some extent, not because there is no talent, but because of low demand due to cultural and communication factors.
Currently, there is a gap in the domestic Finnish bridal market. Basically, here are some of the concerns I hear from Finnish brides:
- “I can’t find a suitable gown in Finland–the dresses tends to be old fashioned.”
- “I don’t think there is a bridal industry in Finland.”
- “Finns are humble! It’s not right to spend so much money or effort on weddings.”
- “I think brides get to decide everything for their weddings…? Grooms just agree to the decisions and don’t like to spend too much money.”
So let me ask you this question– Even in my 2 years in Finland, I’d met so many talented designers, photographers and very rich people. How is it possible that there is no bridal industry? What happened to all these talented people–did they all become hermits?
Next, how is it possible that people want to save money even if they want something memorable for their big day? I’m not equating “memory” to something “expensive”, I’m on the contrary equating “memorable” to “something close to heart”. Even if you DIY the heck out of your wedding and spent a total of 10euros, it’s still effort well spent.
I think what I am disturbed by is the society’s judgement that “you should not spend so much time and effort” on just one day.
So–this is the market gap.
The solution to the market gap is to storytell beauty, as is.
Now, let’s talk about the international market. The problem with the industry currently is that there are few English-only pages by bridal practitioners. And why not? Because firstly, most photographers may or may like doing copywriting in English, because they feel shy, or because they don’t see a need to, or because it takes too much effort.
So, those people who try to sell Finnish photography or pre-wedding photography to Chinese/ Japanese/ Korean/ Singaporean/ Asian couples tend to be from The Finnish Tourism Board.
That is to say, they don’t know the details of exactly what Asian couples want. They also don’t know how to address the fears and uncertainty of couples. They don’t have the benefit of knowledge or details as if a Finnish photographer were to see it.
Do you know you can take photos with white horses in Finland? And then go to the igloos up north to see the Northern Lights? Why isn’t anyone talking about the Finnish forests and all the possible LOTR-inspired weddings? And nobody ever talks about the high chance that you can do your wedding photos against pink or pastel skies?
How about a package where you can choose to do 3 of the above to make Finland a worthy destination? SEE? Nobody ever talks about the COMBINATION of these possibilities. Why? It’s because the tourism PR folks don’t know the hearts of Asian couples. At best, they can only guess. And it is not their business to sell more wedding packages–it is their business to do their job scope of highlighting what they think is special to couples about Finland.
So what if couples know? It doesn’t necessarily convert to sales due to a lot of practical factors.
You definitely can’t get the above combinations in Sweden, or Russia. Just on impressions alone, Swedes are “too noble and hence unapproachable” whereas Russians tend to be seen as simply suspicious. Finns are blonde and cute but they are also practical folks who dress down, so you don’t get the intimidating vibe.
And there’s one thing I feel that nobody ever talks about–and that’s how Finnish wedding photographers will probably kill themselves if they submit shitty or sub-par photographs to their clients. So far I’d never met a Finnish photographer who treats his/her client’s wedding as an “experiment” by charging lower. It’s either they charge what they think is reasonable, and do the job, or they simply don’t do the job.
At least for wedding photography, there’s no middle ground to Finnish photographers. What this means for Asian couples is that there is a peace of mind that your wedding photos don’t end up like the Singaporean couple in this case.
And nobody in the Tourism Board ever tells you how you can trust the Finnish wedding photographer easily. Because they aren’t very pretentious themselves, and go for substance. Okay I’m going to speak my mind here–between a Swedish photographer and a Finnish photographer, who will I personally choose as my wedding photographer if I only had two choices? Of course the Finn, because I will be more comfortable around him/her! I won’t have to worry about not looking as good as the Swedish person, hahahahaha!
Do you know why I feel angst all the time? It is because I feel that Finnish creative folks aren’t exactly communicating their strength and charm, which is sincerity and being genuine. Especially for wedding photography, this is very, very important. You should always choose a photographer you are comfortable with, so that in your relaxed state you can be photographed as naturally and beautifully as possible, unscripted and “as is”.
So that’s my perspective on the Finnish bridal market. For some of my perspective on the SG bridal market, please get the wedding book I’m doing with La Belle Couture. The team has been working very hard on that book in order to make the wedding preparation process less stressful and more meaningful for couples, and I think it’d be out before the end of this year.🙂 So yes, please get it when it’s out and stay tuned to our book launch event!
My last point to this post is this–BOTH the Singaporean and Finnish bridal industry need to target global markets because the domestic market is too small. Not only that, we are facing competition from our immediate neighbours, who are not as rich as us. This means that services offered can be cheaper.
Take wedding photography for instance. Why would any Singaporean couple still take a Singaporean photographer, when they can easily afford a possibly better Malaysian photographer who charges 50% lower? (due to exchange rates and a lower price level in Malaysia).
The reason is because of a common Singaporean culture, familiarity, “vibes”, reputation in Singapore, and trust. But what if the Malaysian photographer can eventually gain the trust over time too? Then it becomes very clear that the Singaporean photographer will lose out.
Therefore, before that day happens, it is important to network with other photographers in other markets so as to negotiate win-win situations.
Because bridal is not fast fashion, we should be emphasising a lot on reputation, “common popular taste”, trust-worthiness and “vibes”.
In short, you trust people of the same culture and common knowledge, and that’s the only justification for price premiums. As long as the cheaper neighbour can bridge this gap, then the price premium gets narrower.
Finnish bridal industry faces competition from Estonia and Russia, the less well-off neighbours. Estonia in terms of for example, wedding wine/alcohol, and Russia in terms of for example, wedding dresses. Actually, maybe there isn’t even an acknowledged bridal industry because creative Finnish folks self-doubt themselves to death. They think unperfect creations should not see the light of the day and destroy them all.
So–Just think about it–why not go a bit further, be a bit more ambitious in doing bilateral businesses? Complementary packages always sell, and what’s left now is simply the good communication of trust. We have to make it easy for couples to trust us and ensure that peace of mind.
Actually I believe I can organize something to bridge that gap, AND I am writing this post to tell you that I will be testing the markets in both countries in the next few months. I hope you join me in it, too.
I hope Finnish creative folks in bridal see their own value, as is, as definite strength. And mark my words, I will go all the fucking way to communicate the beauty and passion you have behind your work, if only if you are willing. I will do everything within my means.
And for Singaporean bridal vendors…let’s make more Nordic ties. Actually another country that’s very interesting and exotic to work with is Norway. But HEHE my boyfriend’s Finnish so I shall promote Finland first ^^
Norway’s next, though.🙂 And oh yes, communication is super underrated. You need to know what people know, or don’t know, and have a sense of what you know, or don’t know, know you know, or know you don’t know.😀