Nokia should pull all advertising.

Riding to work the other day I flashed past a bus shelter housing an ad for a new Nokia phone. I couldn’t tell you what model it was,  I can tell you the headline. Actually, after trying for 5 mins and Googling for this article, I can’t. It had something to do with success, implying a Nokia phone is integral to enjoying it. Eventually, I found the model (E7) and the related campaign. But what struck me about Nokia’s continuing approach to marketing, is that it sucks.

Riding away from the ad, I thought, ‘how does that headline make a twenty-something think of getting a Nokia over an iPhone?’ My guess is that Nokia would have between 6? models on offer at any one time, each with different product attributes for several customer types. I’m sure some technological aspects of a Nokia model phone could be superior in memory, processing speed, and camera quality to an iPhone, but;

  1. Is it easy to use?
  2. Am I part of the social conversation?

If the answer to both is a “No” when compared with the iPhone’s interface/navigation (1) and sense of self via image/belonging (2), one has to wonder what Nokia can do if it wants to stay competitive. (Even though it ranked #2 in Worldwide smart phone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2010, its growth percentage was only 30% compared to Apple’s (#3) at 85.9% and Android (#1) at 615% when compared with the same period in 2009). Read more.

As thoughts swirled in my head I compared it to Apple’s approach of not using a tagline. Apple designed one phone with a marketing campaign based on its product design (simple, easy to use, sexy). The less it tried to say, the more it said, and the rest is history. Take Apple’s financial results for its fiscal 2011 first quarter.  You wouldn’t change a thing with its advertising strategy would you?

What do you think Nokia should do?

For one thing, it shouldn’t try and place itself with particular ‘hat tips’ to intangible benefits. They cannot make superior claims that Nokia’s brand of success, efficiency, productivity and connectivity are greater than the iPhone. Nor can they depict scenes that Nokia’s brand of cool, über, hip and fun is anymore exclusive than another.

Blackberry’s smartphone, as a comparison, has taken some steps in recent years to stake out its ground. Blackberry seems to be for business. Big business. You-don’t-even-need-to-work business. Its partnership with Monocle Magazine, as one example, positions it along many of its target users. Still offering the tools of social media (albeit via an IBM skewed interface design), Blackberry is trying to appeal to traditional folk (who, like Monocle, may shun new “trends” of the likes of Twitter), while still appealing to the young, and young at heart. Like Apple however, Blackberry’s marketing strategy seems to place the product at the heart of a simple message strategy. Which is where some brands get it right.

Virgin Blue is one of the best I’ve experienced in Australia and it’s due to its decision to place language at the heart of the company at every available opportunity. Take their latest ‘Sick Bag’, as one small example on board a recent V Australia:

Virgin uses copywriting extensively in its marketing strategy to affirm a positive reinforcement position in the airline market that it deemed was commercially relevant. Somewhere in the vast grey matter of lightning storms and dead-end roads which occupy a customer’s mind, an edifying confirmation occurs each and every time when experiencing a Virgin product. In one satisfying spoonful, the seductive colours of the brand’s red merge with the quick wit of a carry-on luggage sign, which leads you to receiving a smile from a flight attendant while listening to a unique take on the safety instructions for flight, and, as you flip through Voyeur magazine and read about Branson kite surfing across the English Channel, purchasing another Island, or attempting to launch flights into outer-space, you feel good. Even envious. Which is one of the cornerstones of advertising.

Now, critically, in my experience at least, Virgin backs its personality through offering a great product.

An interesting point to consider is that on a scale of effective and ineffective branding and product experience, a price scale is obviously at work appealing to different market demographics. Think of Jetstar, and Tiger, whose product experience can be bordering on inciting violence, but which nonetheless offer alternatives.

Is poor product design and crap branding essential in the free market?

Can a poor product have brilliant advertising?

Lots of questions I know. But I can tell you I haven’t seen a Nokia in someone’s hands for the last 3 years.