HELSINKI CITY BRAND – Insight and research, brand strategy

Brand concept by the people, for the people

Eetu Ahanen / MyHelsinki

The business target

How can the world’s most northern metropolis compete with cities around the globe?

Helsinki consistently tops world ranking indexes, yet still fell behind other Nordic cities in attracting visitors, talent and investment. The city marketing was missing a common thread: what does Helsinki want to be known for in the future? All this has a profound economic impact; future wellbeing requires more taxpaying citizens and companies. Finding the right positioning would be the key in boosting brand recognition.

©Jussi Helsten / Helsinki

©Jussi Helsten / Helsinki

The most participatory strategy process in history


In 2015, Kuudes designed and implemented a year-long insight and strategy program to approach the challenge. In order to find out how to use city marketing to make Helsinki more attractive we took an open and inclusive approach to co-create a shared vision for “Brand New Helsinki”. The project involved thousands of individuals and a variety of stakeholders from the private and public sector. Everyone in Helsinki could have their say.

Project phases

1. Insight

We set out to understand how people see Helsinki. We obtained this insight through a process of 8 workshops and 73 interviews. We reviewed 79 reports and conducted a study of 16 cities.

2. Concepts

The Kuudes design team used the Concept Lab service design tool to crystallise 4 themes distilled in the 1st phase into 4 different brand and future vision scenarios.

3. Testing

We presented the scenarios to over 1,000 people in 8 workshops and 10 presentation sessions. More than 1,800 people took the test, leaving 500+ comments.

4. Finalisation

We formulated a brand and marketing strategy based on the idea that Helsinki residents are passionate about solving problems together. The service promise was: “Together we can make an impact.”

©Jussi Helsten / Helsinki

©Jussi Helsten / Helsinki

The cornerstones of the Helsinki brand

We created the “Helsinki mindset” to allow contribution from everyone to promote Helsinki. The city embraced an end user-oriented and participatory culture that is accelerating and enabling. Rather than discussing what Helsinki is today, and focusing on logos and slogans, we concentrated on the true essence of the city. After an extensive process of co-creation, we extracted four cornerstones for the Helsinki brand to guide all marketing and related activities.

Early in the process it became clear that the fragmentation of different actors was a major challenge for marketing. There was no clear strategy in place to utilise the city’s 40,000 employees, or the capital’s residents, as brand ambassadors and the city’s administrative organisation comprised 33 uncoordinated bureaus.

The four cornerstones of Helsinki's new brand identity

The four cornerstones of Helsinki’s new brand identity


We have grown in our own quiet way, as an East-West crossroads and gateway from Asia. Helsinki is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Image © Jussi Hellsten


The whole family loves Helsinki. Ours is an active life in a cosy city. The city is big enough to handle big ideas, but small enough to get around fast. Image © Jussi Hellsten


City life is buzzing, technologically advanced and digitized, but nature is always close. You can swim outdoors in the city centre or stroll into the forest. Image © Jussi Hellsten


We are pioneers in open, sharing, communal modern living. Helsinkians are urban activists. Go on, turn your living room into a restaurant or turn the streets into a giant flea market! Image © Jussi Hellsten

Thinking bigger than ever

The result of the project is Brand New Helsinki – a new brand, new operating model and a new era of collaboration. It’s the vision of the residents of Helsinki – people who are ambitious about building the world’s most advanced and successful everyday life.

The brand has worked as a real strategic tool in reshaping the ways the city works. It can be seen in everything from the latest city strategy to international marketing efforts.



“We can see that the city’s formerly fragmented way of operating and marketing itself is being transformed, resulting in increased attractiveness and competitiveness.”

– Saila Machere, Head of City Marketing Unit


Helsinki became the most popular conference city in northern Europe.


in Global Talent Competitiveness Index which assesses the ability of cities to grow, attract and retain talents.


most reputable city in the world, up 5 places from 2016.


annual growth in foreign overnights from 2015 to 2019.

For more information:

Jari Danielsson
CEO, Kuudes Nordic
+358 40 730 9612