The Capital of Metal

entered by Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Best Use of Social Media & Best Citizen Engagement, 2019 Finalist

Finland is a land of music. However instead of conductors and composers, the team chose to spotlight Finland’s association with metal music

Metal isn’t a subculture in Finland; it’s mainstream. The goal was to provide the metal community with a way to engage in discussion with the global audience. The team recognised that the metal community is about inclusivity, and fosters a spirit of togetherness, mirroring the aspects of Finnish society that they wanted to showcase.

Finding the Capital of Metal

In order to reach the metal community, partners were needed that provided different street credibility: recording labels, music press, festival organizers and music retailers. To reach people across the country, the team invited local governments to participate and 10 cities jumped at the chance. Once the campaign buzz started it started to reverberate domestically and internationally. Finland aims to become a frontrunner in digital communications and The Capital of Metal campaign was based heavily around the use of social media

Whilst the Ministry coordinated the campaign, it was in partnership with Tuska Festival and Finnish Metal Events, Sony Music Finland, and a number of Finnish cities. Helsinki University independently created its own videos and held an event. Many Finnish libraries independently created metal-music displays, posting them on social media, activating fans to participate in Capital of Metal online. The campaign kick-off video shows Barack Obama in 2016 saying Finland has the most metal bands, per capita, in the world.

Building on this status the team created a playful campaign to find the Finnish capital city of metal, which would therefore also become the global capital. A key country branding aim was to strengthen cultural narrative and in particular to highlight lesser-known aspects of Finnish culture. In addition, the team wanted to reinforce the position that Finland prizes metal music and its community as a cultural asset, and hand the mic to the metal community itself. They were also keen to thank metal bands for their country branding work for Finland. 

Cooperation with Finnish cities was key (for most, this was their first foray into country branding), with an international platform for a diverse group of people and messages, and the team focused on 18 countries across the globe with significant metal fanbases. The campaign website encouraged bands and fans to tag Finnish metal bands on an interactive map of Finland. The data showed which Finnish city had the most metal bands per capita, revealing the global Capital of Metal. Globally, fans visiting the website were encouraged to like their favourite bands and the ‘likes’ promoted the Finnish metal scene to a global audience. Crucially, a core goal was to activate Finnish cities: 10 partner cities reached out to local metal groups to cheer their hometowns to victory. For the winner, a marketing stand was installed at Tuska Festival in Helsinki, with staff selling campaign T-shirts and distributing temporary tattoos. 

Communicating the strategy

Focus was on the Capital of Metal website - the main feature of which was the interactive map. Metal-inspired descriptions of the partner cities were included, including customized logos referencing local metal styles. The website included call-to-action campaign videos and videos about the partner cities featuring famous people and venues from the local metal scenes. Visitors could also view news items, purchase T-shirts, listen to a playlist of Finnish metal music, and peruse the real-time social media feed of #capitalofmetal content.

Across social media, the heavy-metal community and the communications departments of the partner cities promoted the campaign, advancing Finland as the global heavy metal hub. The official Capital of Metal social channels and those of MFA and country-brand website also promoted the initiative. Playful rivalry stunts also took place involving the small town of Lemi (the eventual winner) and bigger cities trying to defeat it. Monitoring showed the campaign reaching the target audience 178 times in digital editorial media in 24 countries around the world. More than a year afterwards, media crews are still visiting Finland to cover Capital of Metal stories.

The campaign’s success was measured by the wide media publicity and the bringing together of a broad network of collaborators. The campaign also brought 10 Finnish cities into country branding, bringing about a lasting country branding perspective to these cities’ communications operations. The metal community took Capital of Metal to heart. The campaign website activated approximately 1,300 bands; thousands of fans posted reactions directly on the site. Finnish embassies’ annual review of Finland-related content in foreign media shows that metal music was one of the most mentioned themes about Finland.

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