Nokia Tarnishes Its Own Image

The road to product failure is often paved with the best of inventions

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When I started working for Nokia in late 2005, I was not a cell phone user.  In fact up until that time I had made only one call using a friend’s mobile device… and that was the extent of my experience.  I joined the Finnish outfit’s US factory quality operations based on the intriguing job description and the company’s reputation.  Quite frankly, I didn’t get the mobile phone hype and hoopla back then.

Until I was introduced to smartphones.

Of course, others have claimed since their introduction that smartphones are over-hyped, but I never witnessed that while working for Nokia.  I felt, as many others did, that Nokia’s marketing was actually rather bland and even often obtuse.  That was tolerable while they were a market segment leader.  Now with the once-proud business in dire straits, aggressive marketing is a natural necessity.

What isn’t necessary is deception… intentional or otherwise.

Following a buggy* and rather lackluster launch event where the cool new Lumia 920 and 820 were passively introduced, sharp observers deduced that demos showing off the Lumia 920’s diminished version of PureView were actually created using more professional equipment.  To its credit Nokia quickly apologized, but then had to follow with a second apology when another example was found.

This comes at a time when the company cannot afford to stumble in any manner, but most certainly not in ways that impugn its own reputation.

Some outside of Nokia have defended the demonstrations, saying that they were positioned as examples of the technology involved (like Optical Image Stabilization) and not specifically claimed to have been created with a 920.

Sorry, still fails the sniff test.  Especially since Nokia rightly acknowledged that they should have included a (prominent) disclaimer.

However, I want to assure readers that the Nokia I’ve known isn’t defined by this faux pas.  And even though the company has gone through many changes since I last worked for it in 2008, I’m told that the core culture is still there, at least for the rank and file.  What’s different is a desperation at the top, I hear, that is apparently driving some really regrettable decisions.

And those bad decisions aren’t limited to faked feature demonstrations.  In my opinion Nokia has also damaged the PureView brand by diffusing its meaning.  Sorry, Damian Dinning, but while your comment regarding PureView not being “about the number of pixels but what you do with them” may be technically true, it still comes across as disingenuous.  It’s an insult to those many loyal customers who bought your insanely popular 808 model even though it runs a deprecated operating system.  Spread that definition far and thin enough and it loses all meaning… and there goes one of your strengths.

These are fundamentals, folks.

Nokia, you’re better than this.  I believe you can recover, but it’s going to take more than your usual effort.  Stop making defensive excuses, and address questions over branding and related subjects with pure intellectual honesty.  Refrain from deceptive demo tactics that don’t even need to be used; the 920’s capabilities are good enough to quiet the competition.

Maybe you also need to sub-brand PureView to distinguish between feature sets.  PureView Lite?  PureView XL?  Regardless, you are now hurting your brand with Bizarro World marketing ploys that confuse the purchasing public.  The defense of it points to a crippling disconnect between engineering and sales that has wrecked many a company.  Solve that ASAP.

And as for launches: take a cue from Amazon’s Kindle event just a day after your own.  A classy affair that answered all the right questions and made the mission very clear.  There’s no reason you can’t do the same.  Start by maintaining a tighter grip on those leaks so that you actually have some surprises.  And keep Microsoft off the main stage; this should be about YOU.

Now let’s get that stain removed.


*refers to the Silverlight-based event stream malfunctioning

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  • Michael

    Thank you for this post. I totally agree with you. But the damaged is done, I think that Nokia has lost the trust from the consumers and customers. The brand has lost it’s value, it will be very difficult to get it back. Nokia needs to start over and I mean really start over. I don’t see connecting people anymore, it’s all about “ecosystem” or pleasing Microsoft or beating Apple at design. I have been using Nokia phones since 1998. I don’t recognize Nokia anymore… The values that I as a user have gotten to know and features I have been accustomed to are forgotten or shoved aside. Not talking about OS here, the five Nokia phones I have bought have got different OS, but all have are true Nokia phones and have Nokia features and quality.

    Nokia used to have a deep local knowledge with a global reach. In my view and experience friendly and proud. Today you see arrogance and narrow-mindedness.

    One observation we can see is looking at the comments at Nokia websites (fx Nokia conversations blog, Nokia Youtube channel or Nokia Support forum), is that the consumers are speaking out about disappointment and are really angry. That makes proud that fellow consumers are engaging in this way. That means that the Nokia brand and loyalty is still strong but very quickly going away. The sad part about this observation is that Nokia is ignoring these comments from users. They don’t listen (or can’t do anything because of bad management).

    I really enjoy my current Nokia mobile device but I feel that Nokia doesn’t want me as customer anymore.

    Nokia needs to change and do something radical, go back to connecting people, understand how they became that global company with deep local knowledge. What they are doing now under the current leadership is destroying the brand and loyal user base. When you loose a customer it’s very difficult to regain that user, and Nokia has lost that trust between users and a brand/company.

    I’m a user and when Nokia deliberately hides functions which are working, it makes me furious and angry. Fx, I have seen this in a built in app in my phone: “uncomment when management makes up their minds”. I just don’t understand that…

    Well I hope the shareholders wake up just as users (responding back with comments) are doing and so that Nokia can radically change this course and leave this downward spiral that started 18 months ago.