Nokia undoubtedly scored the PR coup of Mobile World Congress this year when it unveiled a comeback for the beloved 3310.
HMD Global, which owns the rights to the Nokia brand in mobile phones, revealed the much-rumoured device on Sunday (26 February). It marks the first time a smartphone has been released under the Nokia brand since 2015 and was met with a wave of publicity and excitement from both the press and consumers.
But Nokia’s chief marketer Barry French is concerned. He fears the interest in the 3310 shows people “don’t understand who we are today” or how much it has evolved away from being a mobile phone business in the last 12 months.
Speaking to Marketing Week, he says: “If you look at Nokia today we are so much more than a lovely 3310 or Nokia 6, the vast business of Nokia is making networks work really well. We’re a $24bn business and the amount that comes from mobile phones is fairly small.”
With Nokia moving into 5G, wearables, VR and the internet of things, French has a job to do in protecting the Nokia brand and says he works “closely with [HMD Global] because we are sensitive about our brand and how it is portrayed”.
He explains: “I don’t see my job as selling mobile phones but working collaboratively with HMD to make sure our brand is protected. Not just protected but to make sure what they do is accretive to our brand and our brand helps them.”
This could present a challenge for French if Nokia’s ambitions clash with what HMD is doing in the phones business. French says “in theory there is a risk there that it could”.
But he adds: “If you take a step back and look at our vision of enabling the possibilities of technology, you’ll see that’s used by HMD – a human experience to the devices. That’s increasingly important because to operators and others being the greatest and having the fastest video download isn’t key anymore, it’s [about] the use cases that get enabled from all this wonderful connectivity.”
Turning nostalgia for Nokia into sales
Search analysis from insights company Captify shows that UK searches for Nokia jumped by 797% following 3310 relaunch. The most popular searches were for features such as its phone cases (40%), the game Snake (25%), camera (18%) and battery life (17%).
The comeback of the Nokia 3310, which comes with Snake and a standby battery life of up to a month, harks back to a simpler time for mobile phones. And French says the reaction from the media and consumers alike highlights two things about the perception of the brand.
We are so much more than a 3310 or Nokia 6. We’re a $24bn business and the amount that comes from mobile phones is fairly small.
Barry French, Nokia
First, that the passion for the brand still exists and is strong. “People feel like Nokia and 3310 are something that they grew up with and the amount of fond memories that go along with that is just extraordinary”, he says.
Another aspect of the nostalgia for a phone like the 3310 is in its simplicity. Nokia is aware of the “downsides of technology”, according to French. He says: “There’s risk of alienation; all these things, all these devices, that connect us make us less connected as humans and when you see the response for a simpler phone it taps into some of that.”
HMD Global is responsible for selling and distributing the phones but French admits it is not a “straight forward process” to turn that fondness for a brand and product into sales. He adds that Nokia has been “fortunate” to find a partner such as HMD because they know Nokia, they are former “Nokians” and because they bought the feature phone business back from Microsoft “they have the capability to sell these things”.
A move into VR and connected health in 2017
In his keynote speech, Nokia’s CEO Rajeev Suri told the audience at Mobile World Congress that he wants to move the brand into several “verticals”, including the public sector, energy, utilities, transportation and web scale companies such as Amazon and Alibaba.
But this year will see Nokia push into some consumer spaces too. The rebrand of Withings, a French manufacturer of smart scales, activity trackers and health gadgets, is underway and will be complete by the end of the year.
It’s a move into wearables but Nokia is not setting out to be the world’s biggest wearables company, “that’s not our ambition” says French. Instead it’s looking at the burgeoning sector of connected health and playing into the ‘quantified self’ trend as consumers increasingly look to monitor all aspects of their lives through technology.
It also sees future licensing opportunities in virtual reality with its premium 3D 360 degree camera OZO. French says its “leaps ahead of the competition” in VR capabilities but OZO is marketed as a camera for professionals and is used in Hollywood. But Nokia sees it as an opportunity to show its ability to “develop technology that will be at the heart of the VR ecosystem”, which will give it future licensing opportunities.