Nokia must be ballsier to kick Lumia brand into action

Nokia has already become far braver and bolder in its marketing since the birth of its Lumia series last year. But it’s going to have to grow a hefty pair of marketing balls if it is to propel the latest additions in the range to the top spot.

Lara O'Reilly

The Lumia 920 and its low-cost companion 820, which were both launched earlier this week, boast some impressive features including wireless charging, long battery life, decent augmented reality technology and a high-end Pureview camera, which Nokia claims captures five to ten times the amount of light of any of its competitors.

Nokia’s executive vice president Jo Harlow said at this week’s launch event that the Lumia 920 is the “most innovative smartphone in the world”.

Shareholders, however, were not as enthusiastic. Nokia’s share price dived 15 per cent to $2.51 shortly after Harlow wrapped up her presentation. At the time of writing, the price was $2.01.

Investors have pummelled the company for failing to mention the date the handsets will sell and, crucially, how much they will retail for. A fistful of fantastic features are appealing, but if they come at too high a price hardly anyone will give them a second look.

“It can’t be underestimated how important it is that the latest Lumia models capture the public’s imagination and quickly,” according to Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.

By not revealing the important retail details at launch, Nokia is already showing signs of lagging behind from a product marketing perspective. For Amazon, which unveiled additions to its low-cost Kindle Fire HD range this week, price dominated the launch event and subsequent coverage. Leading on price has also peaked the interest of the everyday consumer as well as the tech blogs.

Stephen Elop, Nokia’s chief executive, thinks the most important thing for his company to do now in its marketing strategy is to “get the consumer to experience the Lumia”.

When Nokia first launched its Lumia range last year, it gifted what is understood to be thousands of free devices to journalists, bloggers, celebrities and phone shop staff in order to create a buzz around the new phone via word of mouth.

Judging by the company’s share price and its consistently bleak financial results, that strategy, bolstered by its biggest ever above the line marketing push, has not provided the immediate turnaround Nokia would have hoped for.

The launch of the Lumia 920 and 820 gives Nokia a chance to lay out stage two of its turnaround bid. Importantly, they also give it a chance to get the positioning right.

When launching the Lumia 800 last year, Nokia created the single-minded proposition “The amazing everyday” to consolidate all its marketing activity. For the newer models, Harlow hinted at the next strapline, saying Nokia is striving for a “single minded focus to get the most out of your day”.

That’s not enough. For technology to be appealing it needs to be life changing. A coffee machine gets you the most out of your day and as long as it doesn’t break down it’s pretty amazing everyday too – but marketing around products like the first iPhone or Nike’s Fuelband reminded people how technology can touch every aspect of their lives.

With the Lumia’s attractive Windows Phone software,the attention-grabbing handset design and its range of colours, Nokia has the foundation to create real differentiation in a sector that will be swamped with new devices over the coming months. Half the battle is won when it comes to pleasing the tech fans.

For the other half, the everyday consumer, Nokia needs to convince this huge segment of the population that owning a Lumia is something to aspire to, queue up overnight for and hold on to in order to be the envy of all their friends.

Nokia’s marketing team has an important job to do of balancing the need to demonstrate Windows Phone’s capabilities on a Lumia to convince people to convert from iOS or Android, while also pushing why being an Lumia owner is an aspirational lifestyle to lead.

Pushing the company’s peerless location based services such as its City Lens augmented reality app and Transport, the companion travel app, may help Nokia along this journey – but there’s a bigger piece to be done in terms of changing consumers’ preferences away from Apple or Samsung and back to Nokia. That’s not going to be easy with the expected launch of the iPhone 5 next week – underlining why Nokia needs to do something out of this world.

It’s not that Nokia was not using the right marketing channels before, or indeed that it wasn’t investing enough in them; it was more that the overriding brand proposition wasn’t quite enough to leave consumers open mouthed.

The company should take inspiration from its Deadmau5 stunt last year – a 3D projection concert on the side of London’s Millbank Tower, which was attended by thousands – and associate itself with further events and one-offs that make people say not just “Wow, I can’t believe Nokia did that” but “wow, nobody else but Nokia could do that”.

In its new devices, Nokia has the hardware and the software to really shake up the smartphone market. If Nokia can play on its underdog status with some truly brave brand marketing that’s prepared to surprise, shock or even polarise consumers it might do just that.

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