Nokia’s fate shows no brand is sacred in an age of innovation

Nokia effectively limped out of the handset business this week, selling its devices unit to Microsoft for the paltry price-tag of £3.12bn – when you consider the heights it once scaled. Brands everywhere need to heed its lesson.  

At the core of Nokia’s demise were its attempts to service too many parts of the market, not its refusal to innovate. And it’s the speed of its demise which shows how brands now count for little when consumers have grown used to speed and convenience.  

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Nokia, a company that in 2007 sold one every two handsets in the world, is effectively dead as a player in the mobile device business, even if the brand does remain – which I heavily doubt. Ever since the “alliance” between Finland’s Nokia and Microsoft was announced in 2011, it was clear that it was the US firm that was calling the shots. 

Many have accused the handset manufacturer of refusing to innovate. But I’d take issue with this and argue that while it was guilty of doing too little, too late in the initial aftermath of the iPhone, its primary handicap was having to define a marketplace before the days of the App Store. 

Those of you that know the technology and music industries should remember Nokia’s Ovi and Comes With Music offerings, which were both launched in 2007. Essentially, these were Nokia’s equivalent of the App Store and a Spotify-like service. Admittedly, the iPhone had already been launched in 2007 but they did pre-date both the App Store and the first-ever Android device.  

These services were a bit clunky but the general idea was there. Your Nokia phone would be your companion device that would come in useful in just about every facet of your life, especially in the realm of personal entertainment. 

The idea was that we’d grow to depend on these devices and their services. But ultimately, they failed as the market just wasn’t ready yet. This was a hammer blow that Nokia never recovered from.  

Through the crystal clear lens of hindsight, we can safely say Nokia was just ahead of its time and within a matter of a few short years Apple and Google, were there to learn from Nokia’s mistakes and sweep the board as the world eventually wenttruly mobile. 

In the end Nokia’s brand-equity as a reliable, marketing-leading manufacturer of stylish high-end consumer tech counted for very little as it shared the same fate as its one-time fellow market leader Motorola. 

In the era of connected consumers that have grown too used to speed  and convenience, brand-loyalty is essentially dead. Nokia is a lesson businesses in every industry can learn from.

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