Markku Vierula is a leading expert on competitive advantage and market-orientation in Finland. He is interested in the development of the business of Finnish entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) from the market’s point of view. During his career, Markku has found success in leading marketing agencies as a copywriter, creative director, founder, and entrepreneur. He has been involved in building some leading Finnish brands – and also in helping those grow internationally. Markku Vierula has completed the Executive MBA degree at the University of Jyväskylä.
Markku Vierula noticed at a young age that he was interested in writing and might have talent for it. When considering his future career, he decided to go into journalism and applied for a job as an intern at a regional newspaper. “It was my first selling-related success when after several attempts I finally managed to sell myself for the internship,” Markku says.
A career as a copywriter in a marketing agency became available through a special recruitment campaign looking for new talents. Markku submitted his application. The recruitment process advanced through various aptitude assignments and psychological tests for which Markku got good marks. From among the group of over 1,300 applicants, he was selected to the 14 admittees and started as a copywriter intern in one of the best advertising agencies in Finland.
“That was the start of my career in marketing. Since then I have been involved in founding and running five enterprises. I have been developing brands at the most highly demanding level in Finland.”
In his career, Markku has won plenty of prizes in domestic as well as international contests: Vuoden Huiput, Cannes Lions, Effie Finland, Kaiku radio advertisement contest, Eurobest, Voitto contest for advertising films, Epica, New York Festivals, etc. He has also been in the jury of several contests.
During his career, Markku has realised that to continue succeeding, you need to know what you don’t know. He wanted to advance his thinking to a new level and decided to enter an MBA programme. He investigated the options, and the programme in Jyväskylä was his first choice.
“Strategies of Success was a pivotal study module!”
Markku completed his EMBA thesis on integration, the interplay of functions. He realised that due to siloed functions, enterprises and organisations are incapable of making full use of the potential of their employees. “Silo thinking is present in Finnish companies in particular,” Markku says. “Each silo – be it IT, sales, communications, or marketing – possesses their own strategies, goals, and schedules. Collaboration remains in the background and thus the enterprise is underachieving in view of its true potential.
“We already have the necessary tools and techniques. There are sufficient skills and knowledge as well as tactical competence; these assets are just dispersed across the organisation. By cross-fertilising different kinds of competence and falling down silos, we can generate new thinking and new capabilities.”
Markku has written two books on the theme of integration, both of which have been approved as university textbooks. “I am proud that I got Professor Don E. Schultz to write the preface for the second edition of Suuri integraatio.”
In his career, Markku has become a speaker and consultant focused in recent years on helping enterprises find their respective competitive edge through market-oriented thinking. According to some research findings, in Finland only 2% of corporate staff, 8% of middle management, and 13% of senior management knew and understood the enterprise’s strategy. For most, the common thread is missing and the competitive advantage is based on a fantasy about the excellence of a company’s product. In reality, very few products, services, and enterprises have a competitive advantage.
“Competitive advantage must be discovered and created. It must be harnessed as its own resource. I set out to investigate Finnish companies that have succeeded in this, and on that basis, I developed the Löydä kilpailuetu [Find your competitive advantage] toolbox.”
In 2021, Markku Vierula published a non-fiction book Löydä kilpailuetusi – käsikirja strategian and brändin kehittämiseen, a manual for the development of a strategy and brand, where he encouraged Finnish enterprises to reform themselves radically and find the elements for successful business. The book also includes the toolbox, which is unique even in international terms.
In addition, this practically oriented book presents Finnish enterprises and their respective competitive advantages. In the book, competitive advantage is incorporated, with a practical approach, as a part of strategy and the company’s brand. The book is intended especially for SMEs, even though the notion about the market-oriented development of competitive advantage concerns all enterprises and also municipalities and public administration organisations.
The book is also used as a textbook for universities. Turku School of Economics has launched a course on market-oriented competitive advantage for their master’s students. Markku’s book is used as a textbook on that course. Markku is currently working on a book in English.
“Research findings indicate that 90% of business-to-business enterprises are selling price, while 90% of their customers want to buy value.”
According to Markku, a company achieves a decisive competitive advantage when, from the market perspective, it does things better and differently from the others in the same market. In competitive markets, no significant new developments emerge without creative thinking and creative ideas. “In Finland, we are good at engineering, but lag behind others in marketing. Alongside engineering, we need business anthropology and human sciences, and strategic marketing expertise.
“I believe that when companies are doing better, it promotes the well-being of society in general.”
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