A super example of why Nokia needs to get tough and get stuck in

Recently someone described me on Twitter as ‘pro-Nokia’. Like you’d label someone ‘right-wing’ or ‘left-wing’. I can’t find the tweet but it really stuck with me. I am a fundamental fan of the company and I very much respect a lot of the talented people who work there. But I think a better label for me would be ‘Frustrated-Pro-Nokia’, or something like that.

I have been debating with other Nokia fans, across the months, about Nokia’s ridiculous policy of standing in front of the mobile crowd and letting folk carve out chunks of flesh without doing anything. Or releasing a fuddy-duddy press release in response. Or worse, suing Apple. It’s a bit late in the day for that.

The frustrating stand-and-stare approach is causing the company untold amounts of reputation damage. It is almost comical to watch — so much so that I’m writing this post for documentary purposes, just so that it will look good as a screenshot in my next presentation that I give to the financiers and analysts chaps in about 6-12 months.

The company needs to get in the game. They need to let their PR and marketing people off the chain. The company has expertise and capabilities in spades. It’s got super-effective people, ready to go to bat for the company, ready to take the gloves off, ready to jump in and aggressively defend the company.

Right now, there’s no defence needed.

No.

This is the shocking bit.

The company often isn’t even considered. This is what I find most shocking. Would you like some proof? Well then, here we go.

The name Mary Meeker will, I’m sure, ring a bell. She works for Morgan Stanley in their Technology Research department and has a track record of producing interesting, thought-provoking perspective. Andy on the MoMoEdinburgh news group posted this link to the biennial Morgan Stanley Research Presentation on Internet Trends, published this week.

A few slides into the deck, I noticed this one:

It’s titled:

“Mobile Internet Ramping Faster Than Desktop Internet Did – Apple Leading Charge”

The slide shows the growth of iPhone and iTouch clearly ‘ramping faster’ than Desktop Internet, along side AOL, NTT docomo and so on.

I fully appreciate that the graph is meant to illustrate mobile internet and that the author has simply selected iPhone/iTouch to make their point.

But the assumption that ‘proper’ mobile internet means Apple is … well, it’s reflecting of the prevailing wisdom. Further, it demonstrates that when people think Nokia, they think rubbish-phone, especially in North America.

And that’s a problem when you’ve got the online/mainstream media thinking this.

It’s an even bigger problem when you’ve got serious analysts working on that basis too.

Nokia has arguably got more internet connected mobile-internet capable devices on the market that anyone else, period. Who’s reminding Mary? Who’s reminding the rest of the marketplace, the media, the consumers, the tech influencers?

The company isn’t even front of mind. It’s worse than an also-ran.

This isn’t just down to the company’s products. It’s easy to forget that millions of people really do enjoy using their Nokia phones — and that although they don’t have the razzmatazz of Apple or the Android crowd, their devices invariably work reliably. And there’s been a ton of work to bring the company into the next generation. Qt, the open-sourcing of Symbian, the free navigation platform, the Ovi Store innovations — they’re working hard. The trouble is, waiting ’til next year to really get stuck into the game will be far, far too late.

Their PR and marketing teams should be out canvassing support, excitement, delight — continually. And they should be coming down like a ton of bricks on people making inaccurate or misleading statements about the marketplace (by forgetting or overlooking Nokia). The company doesn’t need to play the same game as Apple. It just needs to step up to the plate and actually get stuck in.

Anyway.

Note to self: Remember to take a screenshot of this post for posterity in the months to come.

If you’re interested in flicking through Mary’s presentation, I’ve embedded it below. (Nokia does feature, but only to act as the shoulders for Apple to stand upon).

[Well, I did embed it, but the original file at slideshare has been removed]

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  • http://twitter.com/c_davies Chris Davies

    Painfully true, Ewan. The worst thing is, talking to Nokia people one-on-one – whether they're in the PR teams or on the product development side – they all express the same frustration. Yet there are far too many layers of approval that need to be navigated before they do any self-promotion, not just “coming out fighting” in response to isolated incidents.

    The contrast with Apple's PR style is huge. I think Apple must have a folder of useful stats they can pull out whenever a rival announces something, because invariably if there's a milestone elsewhere you'll get something from Cupertino saying “We've broken X million downloads of Y” or “Customer researchers A say the iPhone is most popular/most attractive/most arousing/etc”. They're so on the ball that it's painful to see good Nokia people being so cautious, and good Nokia news being lost or overlooked because the handling lacks finesse.

    I'm not blaming the Nokia PR team, or the product team, I just think the people in charge need to wise up and trust who they have in place. If you screw up then you apologise and move on – look at Sprint “miscalculating” EVO 4G sales this week, initially saying they were three times what they actually amounted to, and then correcting it asap – because, frankly, it's better to be wrong once in a while than overlooked 24/7.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Agreed!

  • http://www.nokiamobiletalk.com/ Mobile Jorge

    So true, great post, but its the reality that Nokia continues to live in, why does Nokia continue not to shine on the eyes of the people that can make things happen for them, its beyond me really. They have millions of dollars at their disposal and yet fail to reach what most consider the most important market in the world – USA, I know you're in London and the EU is a huge market but for some reason, US always sets the pace. Nokia should spend tons of money on great advertising, hire hollywood directors to make ads and you'll see how things in time will turn around, advertise in baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and all sports in the U.S.

    to be honest, it pisses me off that a great company has such a narrow minded view on things unless we are all wrong and all they really care is selling tons of C series and E series and some very little N series devices, maybe they just don't give a shit on leading the premiere smartphone category at all and are content with selling tons of cheaper phone because it still goes towards their bottom line of making money but on the long road their role as the #1 mobile company is rapidly but rapidly losing ground.

  • http://twitter.com/_brendand_ Brendan Donegan

    No – I think you're wrong. The reason this lady chose to use the iPhone+iTouch (not even a real product name) is because she knew that if she used *all* mobile phones accessing the full internet (not WAP) then the ramp would be much more modest. The explosive growth of one platform does not tell us anything about the growth of the mobile internet. She could do the same slide with Android representing 'the mobile internet' – starting in 2008, and would get the same sort of ramp.

    You're reading way to much into this.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I think it's a pretty good example of Nokia not figuring at the front of mind — you only have to look at Nokia's sales figures last year (440m units) to determine that the company's share of the global market is still massive.

  • rafeblandford

    There's definitely a good point here, but at the same time I'm not sure turning into PR sharks is the answer – I don't see that as particularly sustainable or a way for Nokia to compete. People are not stupid – they do see through a lot of the PR guff. Nokia has a decent reputation as being genuine etc.

    Apple, in my opinion, is an outlier – unique (for a number of reasons we could debate) – which means it is difficult to make a comparison (though lessons can be learned). Instead compare Nokia against some of the other manufacturers… what does the situation look like then? I think Nokia do quite well – especially if you take the global view.

    The very nature of the company means it is never going to be about the excitement around a single product, geographic area or service. This means big bang style stuff and razmataz is not going to work, or rather it would not work for very long…

    That said I think there's room for Nokia to be bolder about blowing its own trumpet – with regards to things like statistics etc., but also in telling the stories behind their devices. And yes there's probably scope for having a flatter hierarchy in the company for such decisions. Big key note presentations (Steve Jobs style?) Maybe. However I would remind people that even these only reach a limited number of people. The geek circle is small compared to whole market. And I'd also point to Apple being a unique again.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Does the geek circle simply stop, though, Rafe? My big issue is that you've got the geeks, analysts, media, all (generally) ignoring Nokia — or showering substantially negative attention. That — surely — translates into the wider market after a little while.

    I'm definitely not advocating Nokia developing a PR 'shark' style attitude –instead, I'd like to see the talented chaps and ladies in the West free to use their expertise to best advantage. I totally agree that they don't need to do anything beyond what they're already doing in, say, Indonesia or India.

    However if I'm an Indian who's just gone out and bought a C3, I want to feel good about that purchase. I want to aspire to the next device. I want to know that I'm making the right decision. I want to look to what the Western media is saying about the higher-end devices like the marquee N8… Which has already been written off by much of the Western media even though it's not even here yet.

    It's why folk can go out and buy a BMW 1 series. It's definitely not quite a 7 series. But it's still got the cachet and 'the brand'.

    I wonder if this discussion is irrelevant. The point being that we are still not Nokia's customers. The customer is the operator, not the end-consumer. Are we just asking far too much of the company?

  • rafeblandford

    The circle does stop, but it does fade away. It's all part of the great continuum! The problem is people in the geek circle tend to massively over estimate their own importance. I think the people ignoring Nokia says a lot about those people too. Nokia has its problem – absolutely – but there a lot of ignorance too. Conversations have to be two way – so it's not just a case of Nokia not educating people (definitely an element of it though).

    Part of the uncomfortable truth for Nokia is that they are playing catch up in the high end. It'll be interesting to see if their comms and PR messaging changes when there's greater parity (I think it safe to assume the situation will improve with Symbian^3 and ^4 and MeeGo). It'll be a much easier sell – especially to the sceptics.

    If you're an Indian who has gone out and bought a C3 you probably do feel good – there's a great deal of loyalty to the brand in India. Something the western media doesn't really even realise. Look at the queues for the C3 in Indonesia – in some ways significantly more impressive than queues in US / Europe given proportion of disposable income.

    I do agree Nokia need to come back at the high end and provide that aspirational device (the BMW argument)… I think that will happen. We are talking relatively short time periods. Nokia's high end problem dates back a year or two – that's nothing compared to the dips of others (Apple in the 90's, Motorola etc. etc.). Nokia re suffering because its the most visible part of their rang, but its not like it hasn't happened before (flips, thin)… and yes even the points I making are a gross simplification… but it not nearly as simple as people suggest.

    But yes agree letting people of the leash is the way to go. Hard to do in the corporate mind set. And complete opposite of Apple's extremely centralised control.

    And yes operators are the customer – that attitude is starting to change. But it ties into a very important point. Nokia is a fundamentally different company both in its actual business operations and its corporate attitude and culture to Apple. Making direct comparisons is always going to be a bit difficult and misleading.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    On the point of operators as Nokia's primary customers, I wonder how much of a problem the iPhone and Marquee Android phones are? It was telling when Vodafone UK, just a month or so into it's Vodafone360 push launched the iPhone… All of a sudden the prominent 360 stands in stores were replaced so that they could give way to iPhone stands… because Vodafone were selling them like the truckload.

    It used to be that Nokia's high-end devices were highly, highly anticipated. People would swap networks and 'save their subsidy' to wait for the Nokia. I get the impression that even the N8 will be an also-ran on Vodafone. I definitely reckon that (specific agreements aside), the company will range it. But I don't think it'll get the push that the iPhone or some of the more popular Android devices have been getting.

    I wonder how Nokia would react in that situation? i.e. selling a million N8s in one year instead of 8 or 10 million.

  • http://twitter.com/_brendand_ Brendan Donegan

    But is it, or is it not true that in order to get that impressive a ramp on her graph she was forced to use the iPhone OS platform rather than Symbian (as Symbian has grown, but at a more tenable rate than the iPhone OS platform)

  • Patrick

    In a consumer market where Brand is everything, PR is one hell of a part of that “everything”.

    Of course, in the case of Nokia it would mean having something to actually promote…*sigh*

    //Patrick (Pro Nokia but now turning to Android)

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