New phones, new owner won’t save the Nokia Brand

In 2002, Nokia was number two in the list of super brands in Britain. by 2010 it was 89th.

In 2010 Nokia, sold 450 million handsets, outselling Apple 10 to one. In 2012 the firm sold 16 million of its flagship Lumia handsets. In the same period, Samsung sold 384 mobile phones while Apple sold 125 million iPhones.

By 2010 Nokia’s mobile phone market share had slid from 36.4 percent share in 2009 to 28.9%. Nokia still sells more mobile phones than any other company but consumers no longer want mobile phones, they want smartphones.

And at the heart of the smartphone is the operating system. By January 2011, Google’s Android, and its Chinese versions Tapas and OMS had become the top smartphone platform in the world with an 888% year-over-year growth.

Nokia’s Symbian system was a very close second with Research in Motion a distant third and Apple’s iOS way back in fourth. Microsoft’s mobile operating system barely warranted a mention with 4% of the market.

Under pressure in a market it once dominated Nokia panicked. Realising the key to smartphone sales is the OS, it began to muck about with Symbian, a perfectly good OS with no more flaws than the iOS.

But because of the now huge size of the organisation, issues bought up during the testing of touch screens and browsers were often ignored.

Desperate, Nokia launched the N-Gage with too few poor quality games and terrible network connectivity for multiplayers, the phone was blown away by the PSP and DS.

Next came another disaster, the Ovi. Nokia’s answer to the iTunes Store was an unmitigated disaster. In 2007, Nokia restarted its touchscreen development after deciding in 2006 that touchscreens were essentially a gimmick!

This delay meant that the N95 and N97, both good smartphones in their own right and with email, music players, the Internet and GPS as well as a slide out Querty keyboard were supposed to compete with the increasingly dominant and cool iPhone. Sadly they didn’t get anywhere near it.

Next up, the beautiful N8, launched in 3Q2010. Someone described the N8 as engineering porn with a 12 megapixel camera good enough for professional photographers. But the N8 was outsold 6 to one in Europe and did even worse in the tech savvy, gadget hungry and fast growing Asian markets.

By now frantic, no hysterical Nokia tried a completely new Linux based OS called MeeGo but it’s corporate heart wasn’t in it and MeeGo only got a year.

In October 2011, in what was seen by many to be a last throw of the dice, Nokia teamed up with Microsoft and launched the partnership with a US$112m global brand repositioning campaign launch of its first phone running on the Windows 7 operating system.

This was a big mistake. Microsoft’s Phone 7 had already launched in Q4/2010 on about twelve handsets from a number of manufacturers. During the quarter it achieved a meagre 1.5 million sales, earning it about a 2% market share and worse than Windows Mobile which had 4%.

During the same period, the latest version of Symbian (the all new user-friendly touch screen version that powers the N8) was launched on 3 Nokia smartphones and sold 5 million units. All Symbian products sold a respectable 32 million units.

The six month repositioning campaign, that was meant to regain lost market share from rivals Android, Apple and Blackberry failed and was soon consigned to the overflowing but ever popular positioning graveyard in the sky.

Yesterday on 21st October 2013, in a valiant but misguided attempt to steal some of Apple’s thunder, Nokia unveiled 2 new 6 inch window smartphones. These new smartphones are well designed and as always, have great hardware including a sensational camera, an app that displays the contents of the phone on a PC and more than one microphone.

Right phone, wrong OS
Right phone, wrong OS

These new phones, developed before the decision to sell the handset business to Microsoft for US$7.4 billion was made, could give Android and iOS phones a serious run for their money. Except there is a problem. The problem is that these great products run on Windows mobile. And Windows is a dying brand. Widows mobile owns only 4% of the global market. And that is unlikely to change.

Windows is a dying brand
Windows is a dying brand

Today, Windows mobile products don’t come close to delivering the experience Android and Apple smartphone products offer. And that won’t change. And if Nokia can’t offer a compelling experience, Nokia (or Microsoft) can’t save the Nokia brand.


Look to customers not competitors to build your brand

There was an interesting interview with Tony Fadell in the Daily Telegraph last week. Tony Fadell is the inventor of the iPod and although the interview is meant to focus on his patest invention – smart thermostats – the conversation keeps coming back to his time at Apple.

You can read the full interview here

What I found most interesting was Apple’s approach to doing business. Tony Fadell talks about branding in a refreshing, relevant way. He says, ““If you’re a company focused on competitors,” he says, “you’ll be a follower. And you’ll talk to the media about all sorts of stuff. But if you’re a company focused on the consumer you’ll talk about the products that you’ve got and how to get the most out of them.”

This is so, so true. In the customer economy, if you spend all your time looking at what your competitors are doing and then try to replicate it, you are always going to be playing catchup.

But more importantly, this is the wrong place to look because companies don’t define brands anymore, customers do. And also, loyalty is a lot harder to earn and certainly isn’t earned by a traditional, corporate driven positioning strategy.

Apple talks about it’s products but more importantly, it lets consumers talk about its products and you need to build an environment where consumers can talk about your brand. Don’t be afraid to be talked about because it is already happening anyway.

In the social economies of Asia, giving consumers platforms or building communities for them to discuss your brand allows you to track the conversations and get involved when need be.

Critically it allows you to identify and engage with influential consumers, those people other consumers listen to. Because brands need to understand that in the customer economy, success will be determined by relationships not transactions. An automotive dealer doesn’t sell cars, they build relationships with people looking to make their lives more interesting, exciting or easier.

As that relationship evolves and solutions provided, they seek introductions to others who may also join the family by buying the product. This requires an investment in the product and also in the relationships. But the investment in the product can be determined by the needs of the customers.

Take a leaf out of the Apple book and look to your customers not your competitors to build your brand.

Steve Jobs has passed away, not Apple

I have to admit that I am a big user of Apple products. At last count I’d say I was responsible for purchasing over 50 Mac desktops over the past 10 years, a dozen or so laptops and iPods, half a dozen iPhones and a whole load of software and apps. I’ve also influenced the purchase of another 100 or so Apple desktops.

But I don’t buy into the Steve Jobs hero worshipping thing that has been going on since the news of his premature death became public knowledge a week or so ago. I was absolutely gobsmacked at the amount of air time his death got on CNN. It went on for days and I can only assume nothing much else was happening in the world.

But I found myself in a minority and so kept my mouth shut. It was reassuring then to read this article entitled “What everyone is too polite to say about Steve Jobs.”

Steve Jobs did a good job but he, or rather those talented individuals who work for him are innovators who have improved a lot of products but I really don’t think they’ve changed the world.

I’ll continue to buy Apple products and I bet the people at Apple will continue to innovate. And judging by this article, for many employees of Apple, working at Apple will be a more pleasurable experience because it would seem that working for Steve Jobs was a tough gig.

Why the iPad will fail – part four

Apple’s shares took a hit of as much as 3% yesterday after a JP Morgan Chase analyst announced that Apple was reducing orders of parts for its iPad by as much as 25%.

This is an interesting move, especially as we’re about to begin the traditionally busy lead up to Christmas.

I don’t want to say “I told you so”, but I did write here, here and here that the iPad will fail.

Why the iPad will fail – Part 3

The announcement yesterday by RIM that it will release a tablet device in early 2011 may be the death knell for the iPad. The new device comes with a 7-inch multi touch touchscreen and a new operating system developed by newly acquired developer QNX.

Called the PlayBook (I’m not sure why they came up with such a lame name), BlackBerry is calling it “the first professional tablet”, and is marketing it as “an incredible gaming platform for publishers and the players”.

Whilst the choice of name for a business tool that is for gamers and publishers is a little confusing, the hardware does a lot of things the iPad doesn’t.

For a start, the new tablet will run Adobe’s Flash, which Apple’s iPad doesn’t. It offers micro – USB ports and micro – HDMI, again not offered with the iPad. It has dual (front and rear) HD cameras for video calling, also unavailable on the iPad. It weighs about 400g. 16GB and 32GB models will be available. One drawback is that it will initially connect to the web via wifi or via a BlackBerry smartphone, however 3G and 4G models are in the works.

BlackBerry is very excited about the new operating system that will offer open standards, which the smartphone maker promises to be “a breakthrough development platform for IT departments and developers”. The developers’ kit will be out in the next few weeks.

This new tool is undoubtedly a smart move by RIM as it dominates the business tool segment. According to research firm ComScore RIM has a 39.3% share of the smartphone market in the US. The iPhone’s share of the same market is only 23.8% whilst Google’s relatively new Android already has 17%.

Some are forecasting the tablet space to be worth up to US$40 billion by 2012 and is becoming increasingly competitive with the recent announcement by Samsung of its Galaxy tablet and the 5 inch Streak introduced by Dell recently and with HTC, Lenovo, Acer and Asus as well as Google and Microsoft all threatening to launch tablets, the battle of the tablets has begun in earnest.

It is too early to say whether or not RIM can deliver on promises made, especially as the new tablet will be introducing another operating system. But if it can keep the price attractive for everyday users and retain all the high quality features, it will pose a serious challenge to the iPad, and may even see off what is essentially after all, a superfluous gadget that no one really needs.

Why the iPad will fail, part 2

As far as I am concerned, Apple is one of the finest brands on the planet. It ticks just about every box for me. Design, product innovation, user interface, image, brand culture, service, communications and so on. But when the iPad launched, I wrote a piece about it and gave 8 reasons why I thought it would fail. You can read the full article here. At the end of the article you can read a number of comments from readers. I am responding to Carl Brooks comment.

Carl makes some interesting comments about the iPad, including “Who knew many people could get by with a device that allowed them to do 90% of the tasks they did on a PC.” He adds, “f you don’t have an iPad pad yet, you are missing out on a truly mobile device. Instant on, long lasting battery, huge screen, multitouch interface that even a baby can pickup.” He also says, “I don’t even bother dragging my laptop offsite anymore.”

I have a couple of reactions to Carl’s comments.

A few of days ago I tried to plug in a portable hard drive to an iPad so I could show someone some TVCs. Unfortunately I couldn’t do so because the iPad doesn’t have a USB port. I’m serious. I also tried to show the same person some images but the iPad doesn’t have an SD slot. Now I appreciate this isn’t an industry standard but it meant that I was unable to use the iPad in a way that I have become accustomed to using computer hardware.

As for missing out, well that doesn’t appear to be the case as I have a superb Apple laptop that does everything an iPad does plus I can multitask. I can listen to Pandora and write a document at the same time. Something I can’t do on an iPad. On my laptop I can have my Twitter app open at the same time as my browser.

I heard that an iPad won’t allow you to have AIM open at the same time as your email! Well I can on my laptop. Oh, and on long flights I can watch a DVD on my laptop, something I can’t do on an iPad. Talking of flights, when I am away, I can talk to my kids on skype with my laptop, they can see me and I can see them. Something you can’t do on your iPad.

Carl mentions that the iPad does 90% of the tasks done on a PC. That’s not much use if you want to do one of the tasks included in the 10%. If you do, then the iPad is useless. To me, that’s a bit like saying a Trabant does 90% of the tasks a Rolls Royce does.

Carl finishes with this comment “I will enjoy this device until a better one is created by Apple or by any other competent competitor that can make something better.”

Well Carl, that moment may be here sooner rather than later. The iPad may have the market to itself now, but by early 2011, it’s nemesis, the Android may gatecrash the party in the same way it has gatecrashed the iPhone party. 10.6 million smartphones using the Google developed platform were sold during 2Q2010, equal to about 17% of the market. Apple sold 8.47 million iPhones in the same period, equal to about 14% of the market. A recent report in Digitimes says that Google, Verizon and Motorola are creating an Android tablet with a 10.1-inch screen that could be on sale at the end of 2010.

One solution to some of the issues above would be to buy yet another adapter but even I, a long time Apple devotee am tiring of all the extra money I have to spend on Apple accessories to carry out basic tasks. And anyway, that wouldn’t solve the SD issue.

I still think that Apple is one of the finest brands on the planet. But the cynic in me thinks that perhaps the reason there isn’t a SD card slot on the iPad is to stop consumers buying a 16GB model and increasing the storage themselves, depriving Apple of further income.

Although I’ve been aware of Apple’s strategy of only letting proprietary products complement its devices, it hasn’t really bothered me. However, I do think that if a brand pushes consumers too far or constantly adds new products that require existing customers and those brand ambassadors who build the brand to spend more money then the brand will eventually lose its lustre, especially today when consumers are more fickle and less loyal.

But that is another story. This article began as response to a comment on a story I wrote giving 8 reasons why I thought the iPad would fail. The iPad, in its present form is a flawed product and there are opportunities over the next 12 months for other tablet manufacturers to take market share from the iconic brand.

However, if we take iPad sales (3.27 million units in Q32010 alone) then it could be a success but I still reserve my judgement!

Branding is more than a communications exercise

The most common definition of a brand that I hear is: “A brand is a name, sign, symbol, slogan or anything that is used to identify and distinguish a specific good (product), service, or business” This comes from the respected American Marketing Association. The problem is that this definition belongs to an era of limited competition, limited choice and limited knowledge of consumers.

In the mass economy that no longer exists, it was relatively easy to build a brand and your brand could easily become the name, in your category, on everyone’s lips. And it got to this position by mass advertising via mass media. 50 years ago, a good ad on prime time TV was enough to get someone to write a brand name down and ask for it at the department store the next day.

Quite often, even if the product was unable to deliver value, consumers would still buy it, quite often because they didn’t have a choice or because they were less demanding, and willing to put up with poor quality. In some cases consumers believed they were wrong and the product was good so they continued to buy it.

Today consumers are far more knowledgeable and much more demanding. They have more choice and there is more competition, especially for consumers attention via mass marketing channels. Moreover, a lot of those products with their flashy names, creative symbols and signs have lied to consumers in their slogans and consumers have been let down. It is no longer enough to tell a consumer your product is the best. If they are let down they won’t buy it again.

Instead, they go elsewhere. Today, to build a brand requires a comprehensive investment in organisational excellence. Building a brand is no longer a creative exercise or a communications exercise to differentiate a product. And the key metric must be profitability.

At this stage, most articles give an example of Nike, Coke, Apple or a similar brand. But these companies are exceptions and I’ll explain that in another article. But this time I am going to use Apple as an example because they have adopted their brand better than most.

Apple is a brand but 15 years ago the name, logo, etc that differentiated the good/product was not helping the company gain market share in the computer business. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were thinking of changing the name.

But instead, what happened was a massive investment in operational excellence, R&D, purchasing, supply chain, distribution and strategic alliances in manufacturing, etc plus a complete overhaul of sales processes, customer service, a huge stroke of luck and later, an investment in clever creatives.

The result, the ability to match product attributes to give consumers economic, experiential and emotional value that has built a global brand. I would say that the ads didn’t build Apple, it was the investment in R&D, organisational excellence and a lot of luck.

Another example is PAN AM. PAN AM had a great name, nice logo and spent a lot of money on mass marketing. I’m sure we all remember the tagline “PanAm. We’re flying better than ever”. Where is PAN AM today? PAN AM doesn’t exist.

So the next time someone says a brand is “A brand is a name, sign, symbol, slogan or anything that is used to identify and distinguish a specific good (product), service, or business” Ask them how many products they buy because of the name.

Are we seeing the commoditisation of the iPhone in Asia?

Here in Malaysia it took time for the mobile service providers to agree terms with Apple to offer the iPhone to subscribers. But finally, Maxis signed up and has invested heavily over past year or so in traditional aquisition focussed marketing.

Recently, another provider, the aggressive and innovative provider, Digi signed an agreement with Apple and has started to promote the iPhone.

Last night, I was watching TV and was astonished to see first a Maxis ad for the iPhone, featuring the numerous applications (there’s one for just about everything) and then, I think separated by another commercial but possibly even back to back, the same commercial for the iPhone, featuring all the applications, this time with a Digi logo!

I have a number of reactions to this. Firstly, don’t advertising agencies know how to do a deal with a TV station anymore? If you can’t get an exclusive deal at least ensure no competitor products advertise on the same program.

Secondly, what are these telcos doing slugging it out in public on TV? Do’t they have any understanding of the iPhone and what it stands for and means?

Thirdly, these telcos are commoditising a valuable brand that deserves better. A more sophisticated approach for a sophisticated product that offers value for many people in many ways targetted at existing subscribers and personalised would be far more effective than a mass economy spray and pray approach!

Creating awareness via TVCs is a complete waste of money for a product such as the iPhone. If anyone out there is unaware of the iPhone, the applications and how they can add value to a person’s life, then that person is not the type of customer Apple, or the telcos want!

8 reasons why the iPad will fail

Apple owns some of the finest brands on the planet. And I’m an Apple loyalist and brand ambassador. I bought the green iMac when it first arrived in Malaysia. Even though there wasn’t any software to run on it and because it wasn’t compatible with anything else it required multiple peripherals. And even though it spent more time being fixed than it did on my desk and despite the fact that the keyboard was awkward and the mouse hopeless, I loved it and I’ve never had anything else since.

I now have macs in my home and at the office. Every morning when I walk into the office I catch my breath as I look at the sleek lines and brilliant screen of my top of the line iMac.

Every member of my family has an iPod and my two older kids have macbooks. I even convinced my luddite wife to switch from PCs to macs and her company now has 10 of them. Baes on my recommendations, at least one friend bought macs for his event management firm.

I’ve seen the stock I once owned soar over 5,000% from the price I sold it at.

And even though I know that Apple is making margins of over 40% on some of the products I own, I buy them because they are cutting edge in terms of design and functionality, are easy to use and have great features. And because the experience I have with my sales agent is brilliant and he’ll come to my house at nine o’clock at night to help me troubleshoot. At every touchpoint, it’s a great brand.

So you’ll never hear me say a bad word about a mac product. But I think the iPad is a mistake. And here are 8 reasons why:

1) It doesn’t have a camera or a webcam. If the iPod can have a camera, why can’t the iPad? A webcam would also have made sense.
2) The touch screen on the iPod is temperamental so if it’s the same with the iPad, users will need an external keyboard. Reading through the information, users will have to buy a separate keyboard that costs US$75 and can’t use any of their existing Apple keyboards.
3) The iPad doesn’t have any USB ports or card slots so I’m not sure how users are supposed to transfer documents from other devices. There is an iPod connector feature that means users will have to buy another adapter.
4) The iPad doesn’t have Adobe flash which means that any web pages that have applications, videos or advertisements on them will have large blank areas. You read that correctly, users can’t watch video on websites. If true, what are the implications for the travel industry?
5) The iPad doesn’t allow more than one programme to run at a time. So users can’t be working on a document in word and have a video downloading on youtube at the same time.
6) The iPad is not HD ready so watching movies will not be the experience it should be.
7) It can’t be used as a phone.
8) Apple will be able to remotely disable applications.

Before the launch of the iPad The Wall Street Journal wrote: ‘The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.’ Apple leapt on that and included it in there marketing collateral at the launch.

Personally, whilst it won’t affect Apple’s position as one of the finest brands on the planet, I don’t think the iPad will fly. Only time will tell if I am right. What do you think?