What Estonia Teaches You About Marketing

Jeremy Epstein Marketing, Technology

You’re perceived as a commodity. You don’t have a ton of resources. You need to compete in a globalized world.

Sounds familiar, right?

The question is: how?

This, in a nutshell, is the situation that Estonia (a country with 1.5 million people) found itself in following the end of the Soviet Union.

Most people couldn’t find Estonia on a map and can’t really explain the difference between Estonia and her Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania.

What’s more? You have no idea what Estonia’s competitive advantage is, do you?

Now you see their problem.

So, instead of seeing challenge, they saw opportunity.

The country decided that it was going to basically “re-boot” and become the single most advanced digital country in the world.  They call the initiative “e-Estonia.”

They realized that to compete in a globalized world, that speaking only Estonian wasn’t going to get it done, but what’s more, they decided that they needed to create a competitive advantage that would attract talent and investment.

So, they not only overhauled their entire infrastructure and leapfrogged almost everyone in terms of using Digital ID’s (for contracts, voting, prescriptions, etc.), they also completely disrupted the concept of citizenship.

They invented something they call “e-citizenship” where a foreign national can get an Estonian ID card and use it to begin to do European-based commerce with Estonia as a hub/base.

Now, the “e-citizenship” confers NO political rights or visa rights. You can’t vote, get actual citizenship, or work without a permit, but what it does do is allow you to set up a bank account, establish a business, conduct EU transactions and more at a fraction of the time/cost it would take if you were setting it up in any other country.

Now, they aren’t stupid. To do much of this, you need to actually go to Estonia to finalize the deal (i.e. you need to show up at the bank to establish an account and you need a non-PO Box address to be the residence for the business), but you don’t have to stay there.

Think about this… Estonia gets people to visit, to invest, and to be the hub. You get the ability to jump start European business operations at a fraction of the time/cost/hassle.

And, yes, I’m an e-citizen of Estonia.

Mostly, I did it for kicks and to see what the future of e-citizenship was, but in so doing, I realized how brilliant their plan is.

BTW…the English in all of this is flawless.

This is a great example of saying “ok, the world has fundamentally changed. Now, how do we take the technology and new needs to uniquely meet them?”

I never thought I’d be saying this, but “you should look at Estonia.”

And look here…Estonia on the map.

For more on e-Estonia, click here. And sign up here.

BTW..It’s not a joke. You fill out an application, pay a fee (free money for them) and have to prove your ID via Passport, etc.  And, no, it’s not a tax-evasion thing here.