Yet, it appears that the Nordic Council is open to such ideas. Tomorrow the council will meet at Tallinn University to discuss how the Baltic Sea region can best be marketed to outside investors during a talk called "Regional Branding - An Asset in Times of Globalisation."
Estonia’s Minister for Regional Policy, Jaan Õunapuu, and Per Unckel, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, are keynote speakers. Other speakers will be Director Ole Frijs-Madsen, Baltic Development Forum and Director Liisa Hakamies-Blomqvist, from NordForsk.
Bengt Streijffert will talk about the Øresund Science Region between Denmark and southern Sweden, while Katri Liis Lepik will talk about Helsinki-Tallinn Euregio, as examples of the development of smaller regions. The day will conclude with two speakers from Estonia. Jaak Aaviksoo, Rector of Tartu Universitet, will look whether Estonia has an Estonian, Nordic or Baltic identity. The last Estonian parliamentarian, Mark Soosaar, will discuss whether Estonia belongs to today’s global world - with a look to the future.
In my experience as a member of the media that is routinely dealing with regional commercial initiatives, I think it is best to brand your markets from both a large regional-level and then a smaller, local level. So in the case of Estonia, acknowledgement of its membership in the Nordic market would be key for attracting investments - and I think it has been so some regards. But at the same time, promoting specific regions, like Helsinki-Tallinn is also key. For example, I have noticed that Scotland has been able to attract investment and interest by focusing in on its local competencies (which in the case of some industries means Edinburgh and its academic resources) rather than trying to compete solely as a UK market.
However, I think this "local branding" approach tends to favor more unexplored markets. Therefore, in Estonia I would like to see less focus just on Tallinn and more on growing other areas. Increasing investment in Tartu would benefit not just Tartumaa, but also neighboring counties. I also wonder if regional branding has to, in fact, be regional. For example the University of Tartu has many strong ties to the University of Turku and the University of Tampere. Could a "Tampere-Tartu" meme - for example, in pharmeceutical discovery - also work within the context of Nordic regional development?
These are all good questions for the Nordic Council, which apparently is begining to examine ways to sell the post-1991 Nordic market to the world. That will not only benefit Estonia - because the "Nordic" brand means both safe and competitive, but it will benefit the traditional Nordics, which are not growing as fast as Estonia and are reevaluating some of their taxation policies to create new opportunity.