Villi Pohjola Eräsetti Wild North – products as a mirror of company identity
How can the company clarify its own identity and make it visible both in its products and entire business operations and processes? Villi Pohjola-Eräsetti Wild North (EWN) was born out of the fusion of Eräsetti and Villi Pohjola and one of the main challenges that this new company faces is to merge the products and product development practices of two different houses. While each company brought its own strengths, story and special areas of expertise, it is not clear how these elements can be integrated into the new company so that it contributes to greater competitive advantage and synergy (The performance of the new company is better that the sum of the performance of both companies before the merger).
EWN wants to clarify its own story, the thread running through its business, and the elements that could become the foundation for its business operations. In particular, employees’ commitment to the new company, customer relationship management and a pro-active approach to monitoring their operating environment enjoy a high priority among the company management. In addition, the development of VIP-products into one of the main pillars of the business was seen as one of the central objectives of the company.
EWN invited ITPD researchers to participate in the meetings of its product development team. Researchers not only conducted participative observation in those meetings, but they also participated in the discussions and presented their own perspective on the topics discussed. In addition, researchers interviewed EWN employees from the sales and operations department. Two researchers took part in different charter and incentive programmes, conducting non-participative observation. A large set of field notes, video and photo material were collected in relation to this case. Access to further information about the EWN business principles and processes was obtained through the arrangement of a meeting attended by experts from different departments of the company (sales, operations, guides, top management).
A brainstorming session was also organized with members of the company, in which an analysis based on the data collected, knowledge and experiences served to open fruitful dialogues. By relying on group work methods (e.g. Focus Conversations) and tools for ideas (e.g. Futures Window) the EWN employees and researchers were able to work on the company identity, reflect upon product development and analyse possible solutions for its marketing communication. Particular attention was given to the creation of seamless internal communication, the improvement of product development practices and processes and the upgrading of product descriptions and guidelines.
Together with the ITPD research team, the company realized that quality, customer orientation or flexibility does not create competitive advantage in today’s and tomorrow’s operating environment. Rather they are basic preconditions that any company has to fulfil in order to be able to stay in the market. As a result, the company chose sustainable development as the main pillar of its identity and the core story of its products. While the sustainability mindset has been embraced by the whole organization, its integration in EWN business processes and practices is still under way due to the merger. However, the cooperation with the ITPD project has inspired the company to take significant steps to improve the situation. The consolidation of an identity based on sustainable and fair tourism is a clear and credible solution for the whole organization. EWN identity development becomes evident in its products, activities, principles and marketing communication.
The company reported good experiences with the ITPD project. While the co-operation with the ITPD researchers confirmed the business objectives of EWN, it also provided new ideas for the further development of the company. A result of the co-operation is the fact that the company started to take concrete measures for improving the flow of information among sales, operations and guiding staff. In addition, the product development team was rearranged in terms of composition, time horizon, working logic and practices. The co-operation also offered EWN means such as competitor and market analysis that contributed to strengthening its business development. A clear identity (and adherence to it) offers an opportunity for building bridges between the different business units, which contributes to the integrity of the whole organization both at the customer and employee level.