Is Nokia too optimistic?

Since its failed partnership with Symbian, Nokia is perhaps best known for the memes on 9Gag that poke fun/praise its sturdy case rather than its actual functions.

But, in case you’re unaware: Nokia makes its own headsets as well as mapping software – which extends indoors to most retail complexes in the city – and its new Lumia model is coming to Asia soon.

The latest product, or what Nokia pan Asia head of marketing Gary Chan calls “the best phone in the history of Nokia”, attracts with a colourful polycarbonate case (the same material he claims is used in making hockey helmets); wireless charging and a 41 mega-pixel camera.

“For the last two years, Nokia has been undergoing a reinvention,” Chan said.

“Before, we were a nostalgic brand to people: we were no longer synonymous to innovation, cool or trendy, and these are the areas we have to fix.

“We want to put a stake in the ground. Nokia has been the best at imaging and this is not an area we’ve leveraged on very well in our marketing tone. But now that we have all these amazing functions, it’s finally the right time to tell the world that we’re not just the third choice.”

Currently, Chan’s strategy is to ride on word-of-mouth, retail experience and social media – such as the YouTube project it did with Agenda Hong Kong this summer that featured popular TVB star flaunting the phone’s new features to navigate reclusive areas in the city.

Sounds familiar? Word-of-mouth, retail experience and social media were also Blackberry CMO Frank Boulben’s strategy when it tried to resurrect its brand four months ago, during which its market share remained stagnant while Samsung and Apple continued to take the crown as the most popular smartphone labels.

“We can’t outspend Samsung; it’s impossible. It bought up every media space possible: if any space is freed up, they will buy it. If not, Apple will buy it."

Media spending is a big challenge, and it’d be wrong to compete with Samsung in that field,” Chan said, adding that consumers spend more time online anyway and that it’s better when “people are talking about your brand rather than the brand talking about itself”.

Whether Chan is too optimistic about the power of a relatively low media budget and the power of digital marketing, or whether Nokia’s household name is already reputable enough to draw the spotlight back on itself, one thing is clear: a mere good product is just the beginning of the ride.