Microsoft: you bought into the Nokia brand, don’t just gobble it up

Marketing for Nokia phones is shifting ever further towards advertising Nokia services, as demonstrated by plans for the forthcoming Lumia 830 marketing campaign. Microsoft may well have gobbled up the Nokia business, but it shouldn’t be gorging on its brand equity too.

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Upcoming ads for Microsoft’s new “affordable flagship” Lumia 830 will zone in on Microsoft’s personal assistant software Cortana – its version of Apple’s Siri and Google Now.

Therein lies the first problem with this approach. Both Apple and Google’s advertising for at least the last 12 months have played heavily on the utilities of voice-activated personal assistant software.

Microsoft Devices thinks its software is superior (of course) because it learns who your family and friends are and allows you to set reminders to talk to them and so on. But that is hardly the kind of differentiator that’s going to get consumers to chuck their iPhones in the bin. They’ve probably already “got an app for that”.

And besides from the fact that Cortana is basically Siri and Google Now launched two years too late, it’s not even the best feature on the Lumia 830.

The phone looks great, fits well into the hand, supports wireless charging, features a stand-out camera and has a feature much-lauded in the tech blogs: the ability to improve the quality of dodgy photos taken in the dark on nights out, with software that allows users to effectively insert flash by post-editing the amount of illumination in the image.

All of those features scream Nokia innovation. So why isn’t Microsoft shouting from the rooftops about them?

When Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia was first announced last year, analysts warned that dropping the Nokia brand name would be a “risky” move as to do so would wipe the slate of the years of innovation and positive consumer perception the company had built up.

Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who is now president of Microsoft’s mobile devices group, confirmed to Marketing Week in April that the Nokia brand will be phased out slowly from future smartphones.

But on the marketing front, it seems to have happened even sooner than that. Even the current Lumia 930 campaign hones in on the Windows Phone experience, not the “Nokia” features.

Microsoft did not just buy patents, staff and a product pipeline when it acquired Nokia, it bought the Nokia brand and its history of making reliable, easy-to-use and beautifully designed hardware. Microsoft should not be looking to Nokia as a fast-track to a pure Windows Phone conversation when it comes to marketing.

Rather than treating Lumia marketing as a Microsoft vanity project, it should be focusing on the full package if it wants to stand any chance of contending in the smartphone race.