Letís be cool... or what Nokia could do next

In all the talk of user interfaces, promises, updated software and hardware, there is one other area that Nokia need to look at. Making the Nokia name one that everyone is the world is happy to be associated with. How can they do that? Here are some thoughts.

And yes, I mean Nokia here. Though the strange symbiotic relationship means that Symbian is separate from Nokia, they are tied closely together. The fortunes of Symbian in the near future rely heavily on how Nokia handles the next six months, so it’s important for the Finnish company to play the N8 correctly in the marketplace.

How can the Finns be cool again? They have had 'it' before (remember all the fuss about the Matrix 8110 phone?), could they get 'it' back again? This is of course assuming that they have lost 'it' – their image in the Far East is different to that in the US or Europe.

So let’s go from a starting point that Nokia need to be globally cool and get their mojo back. Let’s also assume the software and UI is tweaked and everyone is happy with that. What could we suggest?

Get the influential voices talking about you

A smart online campaign can get a lot of perceived buzz which can easily be noticed by the more mainstream media channels. Witness the work of Old Spice over the last week who have supplemented their “Old Spice Man” by having the actor appear in personalised videos to online ‘celebrities’ who naturally tell all their friends. An old brand becoming cool again? See it can be done! 

Reach as many people as possible

And that means TV advertising. It’s interesting to note here in the UK that Nokia has sponsored the fantasy show Misfits on Channel 4 during the initial run on E4 in November and now for the repeat showings on Channel 4. The Ovi branding is present on the adverts for the show, and during the episode, while the initial run had the characters tweet and appear on social networks in real time between episodes.

More of this, with lots more visibility would be smart. And maybe next time choose a show that can reach a significant number of viewers? Choosing a cult hit they can ride along with isn’t going to be easy, but if they want my suggestion, go speak to the team behind Slingers and sort something out.

Try to connect emotionally, not through a spec sheet

People don’t watch Columbo to try and solve the murder, they watch it to see how Columbo solves it, what he does, how he connects with the special guest star of the week, how he niggles their emotions and learns everything. If Columbo was a detective going through the motions he’d be boring. It’s the emotional connection the audience make with him that makes it a success.

The N8 has a great camera, amazing sound reproduction, HDMI output, but while these are important I don’t think they can be the core of any advertising of the handset. There is no emotion in saying it is “the best” and “better than ever.”

Glance at Apple’s adverts for the iPhone 4 – all pretty much focussing on people using Facetime to connect to family and friends (and directed by the Oscar winning Sam Mendes). MG Siegler at Techcrunch has done a comprehensive piece on these adverts, and it’s worthwhile reading for everyone in the mobile industry.


Get the handsets out to people

Give people the opportunity to try the N8, or your latest hardware. I know this might seem a little bit self serving, but if you want people to talk about the company, the phone and the service, then you need to make sure they have said phone and access to the service.

One of the few times that gaming blog Penny Arcade mentioned the N-Gage was when Nokia proactively sent out some handsets to them, along with Pocket Kingdom,  to review. They gave it a fair hearing after actually trying it out. With so many people burned by the N97’s early problems, are they going to take a chance on the N8? The C6? Or any other device?

Nope, you’ll need to be a pro-active catalyst here.

Penny Arcade get a phone

Don’t try to be cool at all

“Nothing can be more dreary than “coolness” …postured, actually secretly rigid coolness that covers up the fact that the character is unable to convey anything of force or interest, a kind of sociological coolness soon to become a fad up into the mass of middleclass youth for awhile.”

-- Jack Kerouac, Desolation Angels.

If you push too hard in the promotion states, then you’ll overdo it. Do the advertising, get the message out, and let friends, peer groups and your users do the work. People will decide, not Nokia. The Finns simply have to make sure everyone is aware of the choices, deliver on what they promise, and not become a company that reminds people of that annoying person who's looking for acceptance at a party. It's a fine line to balance.

The question is whether to do only a little bit of marketing, or risk getting closer to the edge. I’d say that the former is not working at the moment, so a bit of risk would be a worthwhile bet. Get the name out there, get a solid, emotional message, and back up words with hardware and user support.

-- Ewan Spence, July 2010.

Published by Ewan Spence at 14:45 UTC, July 16th

Section: News
Categories: Industry, Editorial Thoughts
Platforms: General, N-Gage, Symbian^3