Keynote by Iina Merikallio – Without a Story Your Business Is an Empty Room 

Aalto Startup Center keynote open event by Iina Merikallio captured the importance of brand story and concepting. “Don’t be perfect, be interesting” gave an insight on good storytelling and how you can turn your weakness into a victory.  

Iina Merikallio is also a new mentor at Aalto Startup Center. She helps startup’s to grow in their professional expertise with her experience and know-how.   

 Aalto Startup Center aims to find new mentors to support different startup’s. The Head of Aalto Startup Center Marika Paakkala encourages to collaborate with mentors:  

A mentor gives their time and advice to the startup. We strive to find every startup a mentor that is perfect for their situation, needs and development stage. We examine the mentors’ background, know-how, and personal interests to find the right match.” 

Why is the brand story important?

– Despite all the digital assets around us, we are still cavemen: we want to hear a good story, be entertained. We also want to remember the story and tell it to others, answers Merikallio.  

Merikallio is a concept designer, a social psychologist who loves storytelling, brand design, product concepting and creative copywriting. She works in her own company Merikallio&Son and has 15 years of experience in concepting and storytelling.  

Merikallio began her presentation with a real-life case about herself. She said that years ago, she was living in Kallio, in a small apartment with a rough neighborhood. She had three options: to sell it, to rent it or the option three – to create a story about it and create value with it. It was obvious that she chose the last option.   

She started thinking about what would strike an interest and she came up with an idea.  

– Let’s create a hotel: this is the first room of the world’s largest hotel with rooms scattered all around the world, encapsulates Merikallio.  

She believed that the story was good – and a good story always wins. So how to begin? 

– First of all, you have to have an aim and a purpose in order to create a story. Purpose equals the reason why you exist and gives you the right to exists, says Merikallio.  

– Then think about your values, mission, vision – the things you are willing to fight for and the things that lead you to the right direction. Brand story is then anchored to your values: it’s a compass to your business and decisions.  

 A good concept or story is true to you. It can however vary when you tell your story to different people: yourself, competitors, consumers, media, employers or investors.  

Anyhow, the concept or the story is what you are all about. It comes naturally and is based on something real, it’s something you can stand steadily on. 

– Don’t force it: it’s the way you do things. Remember that your weakness can be a strength. Perfect is boring, humans are interesting, says Merikallio.  

The second thing you must ask yourself is: is it relevant to users?  

– Find the insight behind your business. In my case it was simple: hotels are boring. Think about  what kind of problem you are solving? Is there a real need or a need to be entertained and just  having a good time? There are so many ways to be relevant, explains Merikallio.  

Then finally differentiate your business from competitors: find what is unique about you.  

– Uniqueness comes in many forms: it can be the brand, location, attitude, service, design, ux – almost anything. Think about beer for example: beer is beer, the unique concept is what makes a difference.  

Merikallio explains that uniqueness is also your voice and insurance against copycats.  

– A good story only wins if it is told. Don’t be perfect, be interesting. Power of concepts is when you turn your weaknesses into opportunities with a brand story, simplifies Merikallio.   

– Put lipstick on a pig, and it is still a pig. Celebrate its piggyness, and it will be a boar! 

 Iina Merikallio –  Merikallio&Son Oy