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How Nokia Can Win

April 5, 2012

Dear Nokia,

Everyone is telling you that you can’t win. That because you’ve hitched yourself to the Windows 8 wagon, you have doomed yourself in a two-platform race.  They will tell you that they want you to win, but the truth is that they don’t care. Everyone wants you to cave; they want you to make phones for the Android OS. Don’t listen to them. You can win this thing, but you have to take some risks to do it.

Play Dirty

Not what you were expecting was it? To differentiate yourself from your competitors, you have to attack. You are building an identity here, and this means showing consumers exactly what makes your brand different from everyone else. You could be nice about this (and you will – more on that later), but the easiest way to differentiate is through attack.

There is no easy way to attack your fiercest smart phone competitor, Apple. Their customers are fiercely loyal. Their products are solid. Despite their massive size, their marketing gurus still have the public believing that they are the same Apple that rolled out “Think Different” in the 90s. Directly attacking Apple is tantamount to sacrilege. Samsung tried this with some of their Galaxy II ads, but I wonder how effective those ads were (they got my attention, at least).

Come clean about this.

Against Apple, go indirect. Recently, Apple’s strong brand image has taken a big hit because of scandals involving the manufacturing of their products at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China. While Mike Daisey proved a fraud, the news of NPR’s retraction of his story only brought Foxconn and Apple back into the media spotlight. This is Nokia’s chance to play up its own human rights credentials. Emphasize the Lumia’s origins at Compal Electronics in Taiwan. Launch a very public investigation into the origins of Nokia’s rare-earth minerals. Emphasize that you’ve heard your detractors and decided to do something about the issue. Don’t brush the issue under the rug; embrace it.

In contrast to Apple, Google presents a rich and easy target. In the last few months, Google has been criticized for everything from advertisements to privacy concerns to being plain evil. They are the new Microsoft. Which means that Microsoft is no longer Microsoft. This attack is as much about re-branding Microsoft as it is about selling Nokia phones. You have now inextricably linked yourself to the software giant. When you attack Google, you strengthen Microsoft, and when you strengthen Microsoft, you strengthen yourself. Emphasize the Bing search engine, the lack of ads, the absence of personal data theft. Parody that old “1984” Apple ad: Google is Big Brother (a far truer characterization of Google in 2012 than it was of IBM in 1984). Make Microsoft (yes, Microsoft!) the alternative.

Build the Nokia Brand Around the Lumia

If I may flatter you for a moment, the Lumia is a beautiful phone. It is the most simple and beautiful of all the smart phones available on the market. Phones like the Lumia are the reason why people want you to win. They like your phones. In Africa, my Nokia phones survived tremendous abuse. My second phone survived a heavy rain shower. It only died when doused by salt water (and even then, it nearly survived). Nokia phones are simple, functional, and typically sport wonderfully intuitive interfaces.

Yesterday, I wrote that to brand a product successfully, you must tap into our inner narcissist. Apple products make their customers feel smart, edgy, technologically savvy, hip, unique snowflakes in a world dominated by PCs. That none of this is true doesn’t bother Apple customers; the products make them feel good. Nokia must aspire to imbue their customers with the same feelings. But how can they do this? Discover your strengths and the strengths of your products and then transform those strengths into real-life qualities. 

Nokia’s mission is simple: Connecting People.

Think Cluttered.

Your mission sounds nice, but it won’t connect the two people that matter most: you and the consumer. Emphasize your product! Many critics pointed out the Lumia’s lack of apps as a flaw. Embrace the lack of apps. Embrace the simplicity of your product and especially the simplicity of the Windows 8 OS. This is minimalism at its finest. Compare the Lumia home screen and the iPhone home screen (picture on left). The Lumia home screen is radically different. It’s simple, beautiful. “Our competitors have flooded the market with over half a million apps. The Nokia Lumia offers you only what you need.”

The Lumia is the phone for the thinking man. It is the phone for the person who loves simplicity and functionality in a beautiful package. The person who buys the Lumia values his privacy (again, you are not Google). He knows what matters in his life and his Lumia phone helps him manage it all. The Lumia says of its owner that he is a minimalist, tech-savvy, an aesthete, and an innovator. 

Whatever you do, don’t go down the traditional marketing route. The moment that you emphasize the Lumia price or try to convince users how beautiful or wonderful the Lumia is, you’ve lost. Consumers will decide for themselves if they want to buy your phone for $99. They will decide if the Lumia is beautiful or not. The days of such direct marketing are over. Instead, you must tell consumers what a Lumia purchase means about them. Who doesn’t want to be an aesthete? An innovator? A minimalist?

Why Do I Care?

I care about you because I like your products and I believe that a competitive marketplace leads to greater innovation.

I want you to succeed, Nokia. I do. But to win, you have to build your brand. You have to show the consumer who Nokia is and what it means to purchase a Nokia product. More important is that you search your soul, the soul of your company, and discover what you truly want to be. You say that you want to compete in the smart phone marketplace? Then prove it.


Tim at Technology Uninhibited


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