Will Nokia speak the right language?

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Nokia is changing its strategy to focus on young people. A brave move. A friend of mine, who teaches 11 to 18-year-olds at a north London comprehensive, has told me about the “different language” kids speak these days.

It might sound like the pair of us were having the same sort of conversations that every generation of adults have had on seeing young people acting or speaking in a different way than that which they consider the norm.

No. This was different. The tone of our conversation was one of admiration, not one of disdain. I was fascinated with the latest twisting and bastardisation of our language that my teacher friend was filling me in on. There were whole phrases, not just words, that I didn’t understand. One example was the description of something as “bare long”, meaning bad or undesirable.

My friend had learned the meaning of the phrases by listening to his students talk among themselves every day. In my everyday life I hear nothing of the sort because, without kids of my own, I don’t spend too much time with teenagers.

But I hope the people at Nokia do because that’s the only way they are going to get this strategy right and avoid coming across as something akin to the ’drunken uncle dancing at a wedding’ in the words of Nokia’s UK & Ireland head of marketing John Nichols.

Nichols can only talk about the strategy thus far as the product is under wraps, scheduled for launch at a Nokia event in London next week. It’s likely that launch will see the first results of the partnership between Nokia and the Microsoft Windows OS. The market will wait to see if it matches the cool factor of the iPhone or the ease of access to peers normally provided by BlackBerry Messenger. It also needs to be priced right for those kids that can’t afford pricier smartphones (Mark Ritson has a good take on accessibility over premiumisation).

But it’s the language, and the cultures that spawn such language, that should most concern any brands looking to target young people. I wonder if we’ve taken enough notice of the riots that hit Britain this summer. They shouldn’t just fade into history as a big news event of 2011. There are lessons still to learn from them about the new generation, the way they feel, think and behave. For more insight check out Laura Snoad’s first Marketing Week cover feature, detailing the effects that 21st century technology are having on the consumer’s brain and why “brain change” matters to you.

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