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How a Beer Brand Saved An Iconic Part Of The City


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Karhu is the most popular beer in Finland. Karhu exists for all things real and authentic. It is also the most commonly drunk beer when bathing in a sauna.

Kotiharju Sauna is a public sauna with a legendary reputation, and the last remaining wood-fired public sauna left in Helsinki. All year round you can find bathers cooling outside, steaming under the red neon sign that has become a landmark in the area. The Kotiharju Sauna neon sign is a city cultural gem in Helsinki. Kotiharju is one of the last public saunas remaining. In November 2018, Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest newspaper in the Nordics wrote that the legendary neon sign was being torn down and refurbished. The owners didn’t have the money to renovate the neon sign and it was going to be replaced by LED-lights.

Karhu decided to react and help.


Being the beer most associated with sauna and real, authentic things, Karhu reacted immediately. On the day the news of the neon light’s retirement, Karhu offered to help, in order to save this iconic landmark. Neon lights are vanishing rapidly, which gave even more reason to preserve the old. A neon light bender was found, one out of few remaining benders in Finland. With their help, we decided to repair the old sign and document the process in detail. All of this was done to fortify Karhu’s link with all things real and authentic, but most of all, sauna.

This reaction led to a documentary about the preservation of the sign. A small act, that actually had a strong impact. It sparked public discussion about the changing urban landscape.


We targeted the message of Karhu’s cultural act to main media in Helsinki. We knew this humane story was a big thing for locals, as Kotiharjun Sauna and the iconic neon have been a part of the street view for decades.

The key message was that the iconic street view with bathers cooling off outside the public sauna under the big neon sign, will still remain. The housing company afford to repair the sign, so Karhu stepped in.

Finland’s main newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (the biggest daily in the Nordics) reacted immediately and continued their story: “Iconic neon sign will be saved”. When the repaired sign was returned, Helsingin Sanomat took pictures and wrote the third article. All the articles were published in digital but also in the daily newspaper. Helsingin Sanomat picked the subject also to their editorial on 23.1.2019, mentioning Karhu as the cultural saviour.


This was a small, hyperlocal action, with a national attention value.

We had no brief, but reacted to the news within hours. When the news broke, the process of removing the old neon sign was well in progress already so we had to move fast.

Media representatives were contacted personally and shared the good news about the fact that Karhu was saving the iconic Kotiharju Sauna’s sign. When the sign was repaired and ready to be raised back up on the wall, Helsingin Sanomat was contacted again and invited to see the installation taking place. Afterwards a video was shared to the biggest newspapers in Finland and industry-related media, documenting the project.

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