For free: Dutchman creates new brand for Estonia

Peter Kentie.

PHOTO: Kristjan Lepik

By the tech magazine Wired, Dutch town Eindhoven has been listed among world's top eight design cities. In his spare time, its marketing manager Peter Kentie is working at a comprehensive marketing platform for Estonia. No money asked.

- Imagine my surprise at hearing you described as a «greatest Estonia fan in existence, perhaps ». How come?

My Twitter page reads: «I left my heart in Estonia». I’m a proud e-resident and genuinely thankful to Estonia for the inspiration I have found there. Next to my main job, marketing and brand management of Eindhoven, I am very much interested in the wellbeing of Estonia.

Also, it seems to me that there are similarities between our town and tour state. These are small yet strong communities with impact on global society. I have been to Tallinn as a tourist, but two years ago I ran into this cool Enterprise Estonia (EAS) digital marketing specialist who inspired me a lot and introduced to me your successes and peculiarities. I realised that with Estonia we have discovered a partner for the Dutch «thorough thinking» mindset, Estonia having a strong and forward-looking digital society.

Also, I realised that while visiting as a tourist my view was too narrow. Digging into it, I discovered a surprisingly broad-based innovation and a deeply peculiar culture. Consistently, I read the following channels: Postimees, ERR, Äripäev,, Best Marketing and Justin Petrone’s writings.

- At times, it seems to me that Estonians overestimate Estonia’s visibility abroad – we do make up but 0.26 percent of the European population. What do you think, what might be our advantage, the unique something we should use to market our country?

To understand your attitude, national peculiarity, I thoroughly analysed various sources. I discovered information both positively surprising and disturbing. Why did I know nothing of this country? Why is the presentation of this cool country so timid? In many aspects, you are really cool, but rarely does communication reach outside of Estonia as strategically planned. This, actually, is a wasted opportunity.  

Your advantage is your attitude. Also, the wealth of the culture, the e-state, the innovativeness, and – Estonian nature is striking indeed. The key is comprehensive approach and putting together a comprehensive action plan. Not fragmented activity where all are doing their own thing and only and stand for narrow interests

A shortcoming, I think, is too little sharing i.e. community activity. It seems to me that Estonia is failing to makes use of excellent opportunities and is unable to set its focus. Estonia needs to constantly try to stand out really well, to build a brand with content and consistency. I know it is easy to comment from afar, but putting in an effort is something definite so I decided to do that as well.

- My other surprise was when you showed me your «est»-project. Not a fan only, you have created something tangible to help Estonia – a ready-for-use brand concept. How did you arrive at that?

By mindset and development, Eindhoven and Estonia are rather similar. Both have seen hard times and have bounced back. Now, both look into the future and do that differently that is the usual in the world. These accomplishments need to be shared. Estonia needs to strategically brand and communicate its excellent accomplishments.

Policy makers all over the world could learn a lot from the development of Estonia. That would also support programs like e-residency and, with that, Estonia’s economy and future.

Before all else, the state should try to make itself known. I decided to make an input and draw on my experience as brand-maker and marketer, to create for Estonia a concept based on the simple yet captivating syllable «est».

The concept can be used broadly in Estonian society from tourism to business environment, from attracting talents to foreign investments. It can be used with social campaigns, and memorabilia for 100th anniversary of the republic.

- How time-consuming was all that for you? Could you describe the design process?

Almost always, good design needs an initial idea, and some luck to go with that perhaps. On a bicycle trip, I almost bumped into this delivery truck with s «e.s.t. – equipment service team» written on it. And then it hit me – the solution is in the name, in «est».

The concept is built on a very definite and simple idea: let Estonia underline its special character and accomplishments, being the fastest, smartest, greenest), cosiest and even weirdest. And the modest, as well. «Est» is there in the name of the country, it is fun and playful and logical to play with it, while maintaining the former marketing feats thus amplifying the previous work branding Estonia.

Based on the experience of Eindhoven, I checked the economic programs and goals of the Estonian government and I think the concept fits these well. From there, I went to visualisation.

- So we arrive at what is always arrived at – do we have a new logo here?

The Estonian sign or brand must, for Estonians, primarily be what they feel an internal connection with; it must work from the inside out. Always, smart destinations and businesses have realised their brand lives in the heads of consumers.  So it is important to understand the key issue is not the «national logo», but rather a clearly understood brand and logo. That’s what must be focussed at. Your brand is the very image others get of you, and it is broader that a logo.

«Positively surprising» is too general, that could be used for many nations. I created «Just estonishing». The word «just» exists in the Estonian language and «estonishing» is a new word altogether, created just for you.

- For Estonians, it’s difficult to grasp at times why would people do stuff for free...  

I have bumped into that, true. Like people thinking that when it is free it must be of low value. But in the modern world, such behaviour is ever increasing – sharing, co-creating, common input. And I win out as well, take this interview with a fun though process with likeminded Estonians.

- «Est»-project now being public, what’s next?

Naturally, I do have my personal goals – I would be very happy if decision makers in Estonia would up and use my brand concept. Or Estonian design and marketing communities. So it would come alive.

The timing is excellent, you see: e-residency is gaining a lot of attention in the world, and in 2018 Estonian Republic turns 100 years old, as well as Estonian presidency of EU. My big dream is meeting President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas at friends of Estonia event this summer.

Also, I am in Estonia within information and communication week on June 2nd representing the Eindhoven marketing story at «Nation and city branding» organised by Tendensor and EAS. Naturally, I stand ready to also present the «est»-concept for it to really come alive, so to speak. For me, the thing is completed and, thanks to Memokraat, it’s now public. I really think it may prove very valuable for Estonia and I am looking forwards to discussions and comments.


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