From people to people

Retail refresh

Founded in 1859 and headquartered in Kuopio, Carlson is a beloved department store known for its wide variety of quality goods and friendly knowledgeable staff. Whether you need something for your home or something special for a loved one, or anything in between, you can count on Carlson to have it.


As you might expect with any long-standing heritage brand, the Carlson brand, while strong in the minds of consumers, could be perceived by some to be somewhat too old-fashioned and potentially out of touch with consumers compared to more modern brands. There is certainly nothing wrong with Carlson’s old-fashioned, traditional values, they’ve certainly earned the right to be proud of them. But because the company has its solid reputation and quality products that consumers need and love, it truly is in a position to be Finland’s best-known and most-followed independent department store. For that reason, we determined that only the company’s identity and the ways in which it could enhance the customer experience were in need of a refresh. That’s where Ahooy came in.

“Haasteenamme oli, että meidät koettiin vanhahtavaksi. Halusimme vahvistaa ensin itsellemme ja sitä kautta asiakkaillemme, että kotimainen ja perinteikäs ei tarkoita vanhaa, vaan päivittämällä ilmeemme voimme olla ylpeitä historiastamme ja kääntää sen voimavaraksi.”
– Mari Haaksluoto, Carlsonin markkinointipäällikkö


Always there for you

Carlson, which provides interior design and hardware services in addition to its department store operations, was already doing the right things by providing quality goods and friendly service. But our consumer survey found that, especially among young people, Carlson did not rank at the top of brand visibility rankings. That was perhaps the biggest reason for refreshing the brand’s image. By redesigning the brand architecture, updating the brand’s look, and exploring and confirming the brand values ​​and goals that guide the company’s daily activities, we helped Carlon strengthen the brand. It also helped Carlson affirm how they wanted to be perceived by their customers. Carlson genuinely wanted to understand its customers and let them know that they take pride in going above and beyond to meet their everyday needs and more. 

“We wanted to wipe the dust from our traditional business and brighten the brand’s image for our customers and employees. We work hard to offer quality products to our customers and we wanted to be seen as the go-to department store for each of our target groups. Obviously competition for visibility has intensified, especially with the proliferation of online stores, and we did not want to be left behind in any area.”

–Mari Haaksluoto, Carlson Marketing Manager

Humanising a heritage brand

People to people

Because Carlson’s employees play a big role in the company’s success, and because human interaction is a big part of the department store experience, we wanted to humanise the brand and make it even more approachable. We wanted Carlson to be a multi-channel and experiential department store where products, services, staff and customers have a recognisable, friendly face. Simplifying the brand architecture helped. Carlson is a department store, hardware store and interior design store, all at the same time. We maintained Carlson’s image as a corporate brand, but also wanted to separate the purchasing channels into three different parts, Carlson, Carlson Iron and Carlson Home. This gave the brand a clear structure, which the customer could easily understand and relate to. 

We also wanted to clarify how the brand would be perceived by the outside world. We updated the Carlon brand’s visual identity to live up to today’s consumers’ expectations while at the same time expressing to people that we are still, and will always be, here for our customers. The refresh of the visual identity we created in tandem with Carlson was clear, inviting, and people-focused. Carlson is an integral part of life for most Finns and we wanted to be thought of as a part of our customers’ lives, like a good friend that people can trust and rely on. We redesigned the Carlson logo and also created a positive, welcoming, and easily recognizable “C” icon. In addition to these visual elements, our talented Ahooy designers created a stripe pattern and simple and playful pictograms to enhance the company’s communications and ensure that they would be clean and consistent both in-store and online, wherever the customer may be.

We also developed a plan for how the cornerstones of Carlson’s operations could enhance the customer experience which further humanised the brand. Carlson is a people-first company and we wanted consumers to know that the Carlson brand understands people, meets their everyday needs, and even brings them joy. By helping the company develop a strategic action plan, they can do all of those things and more. 

“The clear benefit is a strengthened sense of our identity. Renewing our brand opens up new opportunities. Our new look reinforces our communications and gives us an opportunity to connect with new target groups.”

–Mari Haaksluoto, Carlson Marketing Manager

Carlson was a strong brand that people, especially young people, were beginning to overlook. Refreshing the brand’s identity and strengthening the company’s marketing strategy gave the company’s image a new shine that is representative of the people behind the brand and welcoming for consumers of all ages. Now Carlson is back where they belong, in our daily lives, and looking like the highly respected brand that Finland has known for over a century. 

“We were left with a really good feeling about our work with Ahooy. Everything went remarkably well. In particular, their ability to work together and inspire, combined with the fact that they truly understood our challenges, created a reliable and inspiring environment.”

–Mari Haaksluoto, Carlson Marketing Manager

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