Fazer is a known and loved brand throughout the Nordics, and their famous Reissumies bread has been a staple in Finnish households for more than 40 years. And so too has Reissumies’ icon of ‘the travelling man’ — a traditional caricature of a Finn: quiet, macho, and white.
But a recent survey by Fazer revealed that nearly half of Finnish men see male representation – the conceptions and ideals concerning men – in advertising as narrow, with little diversity. Attributes that frequently came back from the survey included “masculine”, “manly”, “tall”, “strong”, “father-figure”, and “sporty”.
Ari Ahola, senior marketing manager for Fazer’s bakery division, commissioned the survey because he wanted to better understand the issue, and explore how the company could improve male representation in its campaigns, communications, and internal culture.
“When companies build diverse and inclusive organisations, everyone benefits,” Ahola notes. “Individual wellbeing improves and it increases creativity and innovation, which in turn supports business growth. Finland may be one of the most equal countries in the world, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.”
Following the survey results, Ahola and his team started thinking about ways to challenge the lack of diversity in Finnish male representation, and realised that Reissumies was the perfect place to start. As the brand had been represented by a ‘traditional’ man for over 40 years, they saw an opportunity to reshape what it means to be a Finnish man.
As Ahola explains, “Diversity and inclusion are core to our company values – and it’s important to be able to stand by those values both internally and externally.”
“The goal of the campaign was to foster a shift toward more inclusive male representation. Only by truly understanding what it means to our customers and our colleagues through the survey could we reflect it in our communications and campaign messaging, and talk about the right things.
“Representation means different things to different men. But all men are looking at it through very different lenses,” Ahola explains.“It's very dependent on the stage of life they are in. Young adults tend to think male representation is more narrow compared to older men who have already found their own path. This is reflected in the three different influencers we chose to collaborate with, each representing a broader spectrum of Finnish men.”
Redefining the ‘typical’ Finnish man
For the campaign in question, Fazer enlisted the help of three well-known men to become the face of the brand. Dakota Robin, a trans activist and public speaker, Pastori Pike, a Congolese-born rap artist, and Marko Jantunen, a former NHL player and ice hockey legend.
In their own way, they each promote the idea of tolerance and acceptance of diversity. They represent different ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, and upbringings. Even Jantunen, who most closely resembles the traditional ‘Reissumies’ icon, has a different background than some would expect.
“During his career, Marko had dependencies on alcohol and drugs. Nowadays, he talks about addiction to keep others off that path,” says Ahola. “Dakota is a trans man who consults on diversity and inclusion, while Pastori is a rap artist and also tours schools to talk about bullying.”
“They’re not just three people who look different to each other and are at different stages of their lives. They also come from different backgrounds, and I think that’s crucial in order to be relevant to Finnish men.”
Overcoming the criticism of a vocal minority
The campaign received a lot of attention. And revealed how deep cultural and immigration issues ran within Finland. Although the reaction was overwhelmingly positive — particularly in the media — a small but vocal number of Finns objected to the campaign online.
“Some customers said they would boycott the whole brand and never buy Reissumies again,” reveals Ahola. “Others challenged our intentions with the campaign, claiming our intentions weren’t true.”
But a deeper analysis of the feedback revealed that Fazer had received a lot of support for their campaign, with commentary across publications, broadcast, and social media being resoundingly positive, outweighing a small number of negative comments. Even so, Ahola feels there are lessons to be learned.
“Campaigns are our way to communicate Fazer’s internal values on an external level. It’s crucial to listen to other’s opinions to understand a full range of perspectives. It’s very important to hear from two, three, or four sides who may disagree with your brand’s approach. We wanted to generate a conversation about male diversity and help men be who they want to be. And I think we did so.”
The future of the travelling man
Ahola and his team are keen to continue the conversation. Helping Finnish men be who they truly are, and having those faces seen and voices heard, is a key part of their future plans. And as with this campaign, having the right people at the heart of your brand will be key.
“I discussed the campaign with Dakota, Pastori and Marko, and they were all glad to have participated,” says Ahola. “Unfortunately, Pastori is the one who generated the most negative comments about culture, ethnicity, and immigration. But if you look at his social channels he’s really proud to be representing Reissumies. It’s amazing.”
The three influencers believed in the campaign so strongly that they gave their fee to organisations that were close to their heart; organisations to spread awareness and offer support around alcoholism or help young people in their personal development.
For Ahola, this helped to cement that what they were doing was important. “Diversity is a very broad topic, but this campaign has shown our company that we were correct to choose this path, and we’ll continue to communicate our values in the future. In Finnish we say ‘Eläköön Reissumiesten erilaisuus’ — which translates as ‘long live the differences of the travelling men’.”