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Peter Kentie. ESTonishing guy on (personal) branding

I am honored to bring you some thoughts about passion, career and branding of a person who all of a sudden, out of his own drive gave Estonia something Estonian designers, marketers and branders could not (yet) give. Peter Kentie, a Dutch marketer, Eindhoven365 managing director, offered a “EST” concept for the brand of Estonia and it stuck. Meaning, people from all walks of life and for all sorts of reasons started to see and use “EST” everywhere without effort, without having to go through brand rules and getting the explanations. It was like wildfire and still is, after a new attempt on a formally designed brand of Estonia, that by today is again withdrawn.

“Estonishing” would be my first pick as well because it has the immense choices for use for every occasion, business, ideas giving the simple idea clever meanings by our own people. This allows each Estonian to show their colors, values and personality, yet keeping the common thread “EST” that refers to the country in general. That’s what really makes a good brand – true essence of a person is naturally flowing into generally understandable form. Then the brand is created authentically, without effort. This is how I approach personal branding – something that will reveal itself within the person.

Personal branding is about
invESTing in yourself – Our version of “EST” concept.

With his idea, Peter Kentie made a name for himself in Estonia. For me as a personal branding consultant, it has been very interesting to see his passion, his ideas spread in Estonia and his name become a house hold name first within marketers, but I think also by now for anyone who knows about EST-concept. I have had the pleasure of meeting him in one of the conferences and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions about himself and branding. There are quite a few lessons here for all of us, so enjoy the reading!

Questions asked by Liisi Toom.

Our dearEST festival. Photo by Jaanus Ree

I feel like you have become a „face” of Estonia thanks to giving Estonia a concept for branding. All of a sudden the concept and you are known in Estonia rather well, you can be seen as a speaker in many of the events. Would you agree that you are known here?

Yes and no. To my surprise I found out that a huge percentage of Estonians know or have heard of ‘Est-kontseptsioon’ which makes me really joyful. Yet people don’t know me as a person; I am mostly anonymous when I wonder around in Estonia. Directly after the release of the concept I was stopped in the streets and once in a bar the waitress said: “Do you want another beer, mister Kentie?” I looked at her in surprise and she said: “everybody knows you here.” Probably it was the bar ;).

I have no formal connection currently with Estonia; I am still trying to get into contact with EAS leaders to bring the concept further and to be able to aid Estonia in its marketing and nation branding. I made an overview of all the really good EST use cases to show Enterprise Estonia how broadly accepted the concept is in Estonia.

On stage I promote Estonia too. I did a speech about EST-concept in Riga, for the Latvian development organisation because they wanted to learn my place branding experiences with EST as great case. And this year I am planned to speak about EST-project in Tibilisi, Georgia. There is international interest in the case.

My last speech was in Tartu at Startupday event and my subject was about branding of a startup. I once was responsible for ilse.nl in the Netherlands and that case was very appropriate to share with the audience. And good for me to get in 15 minutes the essence of 1,5 years of work. I would love to speak more on the EST-project in Estonia itself.

Peter Kentie’s portfolio

Well, I don’t think it was “just that bar” :). Personal branding means mostly that a certain person is connected with certain either characteristics and/or his/her field, expertise, something they have done and with something that others know they can turn to that person about. When it comes to countries, services and goods, branding works the same way – a personality is tied to that thing you want to brand. For Estonians, in my personal opinion, you are the Estonishing guy (and now, as we get to know you, also “place branding expert” and “Eindhoven guy”). Who is “Estonian” as a character to you?

Peter Kentie received an award for EST-idea from the Estonian Public Relations Association.

My fondness for Estonia is now almost 4 years old. Before that it was a place to me. Beautiful old town Tallinn which I visited more then ten years ago. I needed a person to open my eyes and heart to Estonia, which I luckily met and now I know and understand so much more about the country and its mentality.
What I like so much in Estonia is also what I care dearly for in my own home town: that is the combination of resilience and unconventional thinking and acting. Estonia has this capability as has my dearest Eindhoven home town. Both bouncing back from bad times and going beyond the obvious. Impressing the big world despite the small size, as a city Eindhoven and as a nation Estonia. The similarity is one of my drivers, as is the sharing of knowledge. I really tried to use the Eindhoven branding experiences in the Estonishing case; the open-source thinking and co-creation of a brand which is appreciated by the people and all relevant stakeholders in the community. It is fantastic to see that it works on a national scale in Estonia. As I am very proud of the work of our Eindhoven team, my daytime job managing the corporation responsible for the marketing of my city.

How would you yourself define you as a brand, as an expert? Is your main field and target group in Eindhoven, world…?

One man to brand them all. Eindhoven/Estonia

My life’s philosophy is that I adore complex, multi-faceted projects with as many as possible stakeholders involved. I truly don’t believe in a ‘job’, I see every job as a project. And a project has a beginning and an end. So one can go to the next project. I once learned this from a magazine article in Fast Company. And it stayed with me ever since. I have a history in advertising and I loved that every new task was an entry in a new world. Every client brings in its own world and rules even regulations. To give good advice one has to delve in deep to get to know the world of the client and his project or services. And if you do that well, a great project is born. And with every client one learns a new world. This is how I manage my career; I jump between projects; every time using lessons learned into the new domain. Getting better and better therefore.
From a friend I learned thirty years ago that it is wise to have a ‘second life’ meaning to have a hobby or side project that kind of counter balances the daytime work. For me that is now EST project. Before it was writing books, I once wrote an international bestseller on webdesign. So sharing my knowledge is a red thread in my career. I once wrote my first book while my then employer was in receivership – the state before bankruptcy. So it was my balance in life then writing and designing my book as my ‘second life’ while my daytime job was threatened. Because of my book I got a new job, so first and second lives are intertwined.

I so agree with you that one has to consider every “gig” as a possibility for a next great thing in today’s career. It is interesting to hear how you have flown and grown in your work and how you refer to “second life” and also your mention on a common red thread that is there in your life. What is branding for you … why do you like it? What is personal branding for you?

A famous piece of writing once was ‘the brand called you’. It was also published in Fast Company and wrote about how you as a person have to be noticed. In your company where you work to be asked in the top teams. Even in your personal relationship. The joke back then was that you have brand yourself towards your spouse. Showing your best treats and capabilities to your partner. Maybe bit over the top, the American way.
When I worked at Philips Electronics and was responsible with a multicultural team for the company’s global internet website, I noticed that it is very human to pick your team members because of their personality. It has to fit and people that stand out, know how to present themselves become easier ‘on the radar’. In my working time with project ilse search engine I found out that some of the best people really did not focus on their presentation; fully focused on their skills. In my city marketing company we used the Myers-Briggs personality types (MBTI) to see what kind of a person a team member is. And to see which ones fit best together, sometimes even opposing characters bring the best to the surface. I am an ENFP, I even published that on my Twitter account.

Liisi: I recommend the article “The Brand Called You”, Fast Company, 1997 by Tom Peters. For Estonians, I have made a short overview of it as one of my first public articles on “persoonibränd”, that was 10 years ago! 🙂

The article you mention was my inspiration to start with branding, namely personal branding, Tom Peters being my teacher of sorts, and has influenced the career I have today. The essence of it being “branding”, just as you. Is everything about branding today? I work with people, you mostly with cities or countries. Is there anything, that is not about branding?

As mentioned before, somethings and some people are beyond branding. Because they don’t care or there is no need. I once had guy as supervisory board member. When he would enter a room, any room, the people in the room would notice him. Sensing his presence. It was almost scary, he had a great aura and was in every meeting the natural leader. That was not branding, it was an beyond human personality. And yet so natural, un-branded, a genuine leader. Some people have this. Luckily not too many.

True, some people are charismatic to start with, but I think all authentic branding starts from the essence – what that person is and sometimes, as you said, little needs to be done. Would you agree, that product/service branding has actually taken its essence from personal branding? Meaning – branding means giving an emotion and evoking recognition of our own identities thus the very things that are common for people. We give products characteristics, personalities. What are your thoughts on that?

I do believe in this. When we build brand of Eindhoven and it’s visual identity we got stuck at a certain moment. And then I remembered an agency in Eindhoven, Zandbeek, worked with brands in relation to the work of psychoanalyst Carl Jung who identified archetypes. These are character models which help to shape our personalities and which we aspire to be more like. There are twelve in total. I will never forget how Sander Videler, the guy from the Zandbeek agency, leisurely explained the differences between Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz according to their different brand archetypes. It was fascinating, I learned so much from him. He was then strategist at the agency and in his private time a psychoanalyst and big fan of Carl Jung. So brand Eindhoven turned out to be the archetype of ‘magician’, the brand archetype that enables others to shine and become better. I sense that Estonia also has affinity with this brand archetype.

Magician sounds intriguing! And I imagine many of us can relate even to cars and personalities. We have formed ideas about the cars thanks to branding and can easily say that oh, this is “so me” or the opposite and others can do that, too, thanks to brands being tied to personalities. So as a branding expert and a personal brand yourself, what are 3 things that every expert, leader, CEO who has a service, product, city to lead, needs to know about branding / how to start branding?

Maybe only one is enough: to be aware that a brand is the basis for a future. A brand is your image. Like Jef Bezos once said: “it is what people say about you after you have left the room.” Brand = image. Remember primarily that.

For me, a good expert is recognizable and powerful when you can see that he/her has passion. I can clearly see that in you. Where does your inspiration, ideas, energy come from?

Curiosity is my key driver. It is the most important human capacity. Without curiosity human kind would have never become where it is now in its development. So stay curious. Ask yourself, why, how, what? Don’t take things for granted. Avoid the obvious and share your thoughts and insights with your fellows and friends.

Which are your own favorite brands? As a user, client? And which brands do branding „by the book” in your opinion? Who should we look to for brand communication models?

Lot of things is what I learned from people that either crossed my path or that I stumbled on reading. My all-time hero is David Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy&Mather. His writings are fantastic. In The Netherlands a branding professor called Ronald van der Vorst is a huge inspiration to me. He recently wrote a book called ‘Contrarian branding’. The Belgian marketeer and public speaker Steven Van Belleghem is really good; do check him out. And through Dario Cavegn of ERR I learned to get to know Bob Hoffman. His mantra is: Marketers are from Mars. Great reading and inspirational. Common lesson is that branding has to be consistent, bold and brave. Stand out from the pack, while preserving your dignity and history.

Peter Kentie just won an award for Best Business Man in Eindhoven

My personal brands are about aesthetics. I adore Maserati. Probably my very first words in life where Ma Ma Maserati. And I like the coolness of German brands like Audi, Lamy, Braun. They are form related, inspired Jonathan Ive of Apple too. So a no thrills kind of design language based on human values and real world use. And everything where form and function are in balance while combining design and technology get me interested.
Also, I can suggest you look more up about 12 archetypes here.

Get to know Peter Kentie and his work:

Kentie’s personal ENFP rapport:
His career (LinkedIn page).
Peter Kentie’s portfolio.

My final note

Only the authentic brands will stay and I think this is also a reason why ESTonishing is still going after Welcome to and the stone-project has already gone. Location brands are based on the cultures of the nation. Sometimes you need an outsider to see your values and spirit and face and put that together. It is fascinating to see how Peter Kentie will continue the journey and I invite everyone to support his work towards getting EST-project formally accepted. Though I doubt formality is needed anymore as the brand will live on in the minds of people who use it and will grow from there.