Can enhanced marketing bolster Nokia?

Nokia has had a long-standing dominance of the mobile market, but its recent decision to bolster its marketing team and change its advertising approach suggest the leading brand is on the defensive. So will the changes make a difference?

There was a time when everyone (including me) would answer Nokia when asked what handset they wanted, but it seems nowadays the preferred option seems to be the iPhone.

Behind Marketing Week’s offices is one of O2’s flagship stores, and over the past week there has been constant queues of consumers looking to get hold of the limited iPhone 4 stock every day. Can anyone remember the last Nokia handset that saw queues like that?

But, it’s exactly this mentality that appears to be Nokia’s main error, and it’s likely that by bringing in one of its former agency chiefs Steven Overman and BlackBerry’s EMEA managing director Charmaine Eggberry, it’s something they will be quick to change in the coming months.

According to one former Nokia marketing director, the brand has been shifting its mentality too often, which has not always delivered the results it wanted.

“There has been a bit of back and forth with Nokia’s approach. The issue that we marketers are facing is that everything we used to believe in is all a blur now and the old skillsets of a marketer are, broadly speaking, irrelevant, so we have to move with the times and sometimes that hasn’t been as easy as we might have hoped,” he says.

Most recently, Nokia has attempted to increase its foothold in the smartphone market by changing its brand strategy to emphasise how its smartphones “bring entertainment to life”. It will include the tagline “Come Get Entertained”. Nokia UK head of brand Fiona Bosman says: “Offering total entertainment solutions and bringing entertainment to life is our new brand vision.

According to sources close to the brand, this is why Overman has been drafted in. Formerly the global strategy lead for Team Nokia at Lowe Worldwide, Overman was responsible for the strategic and creative development of global campaigns for the Nokia N series line of multimedia smartphones across all audiences, touchpoints, channels and media, widely seen as one of Nokia’s biggest marketing successes of this century.

“What we have with Overman is someone with a mindset that is totally different to that of brand loyalists. He knows what will work well and what the public will be receptive to and to some extent, this is what has been lacking from Nokia’s marketing to date – the difference will be noticeable, but only if they give him the right material to explore in the first place,” he says.

Another source points to Eggberry’s move from BlackBerry as a sign that the brand wants to compete in its marketplace in a much stronger way.

“We’ve all seen how BlackBerry have successfully turned themselves around from being a business-facing brand to also being a consumer-facing brand. BBM Pins are all the rage right now and with Eggberry, Nokia are showing they want to capitalise on that knowledge and transform its brand fortunes.”

Indeed, one recent Nokia conversation post by its new head of mobile solutions, Anssi Vanjoki, is bravely entitled “The fightback starts now” and pledges: “Over the coming months, we’ll be advancing current projects and working to simplify the way we work in order to deliver products and services faster, and with a laser focus on quality. I am committed, perhaps even obsessed, with getting Nokia back to being number one in high-end devices. Achieving this will require performance and efforts over and above the norm.”

He adds: “There is no denying, that as a challenger now, we have a fight on our hands. The first battle is to bring you products and services you will want to own and use, to inspire you to create and do new things in this ever changing digital world.”

They are just a few of the key appointments made by Nokia over recent months. Last week, Ash Choudhury was appointed as head of digital marketing, Nokia UK & Ireland, joining from Fiat Group and has previously worked for Xerox and Canon.

Choudry will report to head of marketing at Nokia UK John Nichols, who was appointed in April. Nichols replaced Will Harris, who left to take on the same role in the mobile manufacturer’s South-east Asia and Pacific division.

Harris replaced Loren Shuster, who relocated to the company’s headquarters in Finland to become head of go-to-market operations.

The company has also appointed Craig Hepburn, former ecommerce head at STA Travel, to the newly created role of global head of digital marketing, which oversees its entire digital media activity. Hepburn will also manage Nokia’s media agency roster. He’ll report to Carol Soriano, Nokia’s director of marketing activation.

Recent adverts promoting the Ovi service and Nokia’s free satellite navigation software. have been hailed as an example of Nokia thinking “outside the box”, but critics have called for the company to not just focus on smartphones and remember what made them famous in the first place.

Will Harris, telecoms director at Enders Analysis, says: “If you think about the most successful handsets, they weren’t smart, they were compact, basic phones that people loved and indeed some businessmen still do. They don’t seem to have done much to these sorts of offerings in recent times – it’s all smartphones, music, entertainment and anything but the basics of a mobile. The fact of the matter is they are not Apple and they shouldn’t try to be either.”

Although Nokia is the biggest mobile phone manufacturer, with a 36.4% market share globally, according to Gartner, it has lost ground in the smartphone market since 2007.

According to the latest wave of YouGov’s Smartphone Mobile Internet Experience study, Nokia has fallen further behind the newer handset brands. Only a third (34%) of respondents would consider buying a Nokia phone as their next mobile, a drop of 12% since December 2009.

Figures from Techcrunch also show Nokia’s Symbian smartphone platform has lost ground to its rivals. Readers of have told expressed how they feel Nokia urgently needs to change perceptions so that it is not considered a “me too” brand. Others say that the brand has failed to discover what the market wants.

What’s disappointing is that this seems to be an echo to what readers of Marketing Week were saying at the start of the year when Ruth Mortimer questioned Nokia’s place in the mobile market. At the time she said “the issue seems to be a lack of understanding of how best to innovate in an age where everything is open source.” Comments at the time show a unanimous agreement to that sentiment.

According to YouGov, Nokia’s fall from grace is further illustrated by a decline in the number of people likely to recommend the brand to a friend or colleague. The survey reveals that Nokia’s recommend score has slipped by 15% in 6 months to just 12%. In contrast Apple’s recommendation score is 70%.

Russell Feldman, research manager in YouGov’s technology and telecoms team, says: “Where Nokia once led the market, it has drastically fallen by the wayside. Its OVI store continues to be significantly outperformed by both Apple’s Apps store and Android Marketplace. The results of our data consistently show that the market leader is fast becoming an also ran in the smartphone market. New products, software and apps are needed soon if Nokia is to keep up with its rivals.”

Interbrand managing director Graham Hales says of Nokia’s entertainment positioning: “This is a positive move for Nokia, which is realising that it’s not just about being a handset manufacturer anymore. The question now will be how quickly it can catch up with its competitors in an increasingly crowded market – and will it be good enough to change consumer behaviour? This is something the new marketing team must look to resolve if it wants the brand to grow.”

“Savvy consumers are doing the job for us now and have an array of opportunities to do it. The old system of printing messages as a deference mechanism is dead. It’s all about reference and word of mouth now. We have encouraged consumers to demand more, and they are doing this. So it is our role, along with our partners to become as savvy as they are. Nokia uses a do, learn, do approach so we know what works and what doesn’t. I’d encourage others to look at using a similar ethos,” sums up the former Nokia marketer.

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