How can Nokia reinvent the brand and build new equity?
A view from Ahmad Badr

How can Nokia reinvent the brand and build new equity?

Nokia has the opportunity to change the narrative and start telling the story of the future, writes Ahmad Badr, the strategy director at Siegel+Gale.

Nokia’s plan to re-introduce itself to the mobile market places a lot of emphasis on its brand.

The brand will need to be reinvented as right now the company lacks the impetus to attract new and younger audiences unfamiliar with its past achievements.

Nokia cannot rely solely on its heritage and nostalgia to win. It has to build momentum for the future, create an aspiration for its experience, and continuously innovate to sustain growth.

The latest case in point is the expansion plans for their 360-degree Ozo VR camera to China. A smart move for the brand to gain a strong foundation before the arrival of other competitors.

Building momentum

Previously, much of the news about Nokia has revolved around its past, the rise and fall and the insuperable losses. It has been drowning in the technicality of its inner workings.

Nokia now has the opportunity to change the narrative and start telling the story of the future. How will it be different? What will its value be beyond "connecting people"? The experience it has accumulated over the past couple of decades has to be repurposed to build momentum for its future.

Blackberry demonstrated how hanging on to what makes a brand successful is not always enough to carry it into the future. The brand's equity was diluted after it lost the one thing that made it different.

Blackberry demonstrated how hanging on to what makes a brand successful is not always enough to carry it into the future.

The exclusive community created by Blackberry messenger was no longer relevant once other messenger services took over. The brand failed to become a platform and was only capable of preserving a niche audience.

Creating aspiration

Nokia needs emblematic actions to further build prestige and stature into its brand. While product performance is instrumental for success, most phone purchases today are image-driven.

What will Nokia have to offer to attract a younger audience? Amid the fierce competition from big and small players, identifying a gap in people’s needs today and catering for it will be crucial if it is to build relevance again in the phone market.

Learnings from Samsung are compelling. Samsung penetrated the market with advanced products accompanied with good (or maybe great) marketing – the latter being the game Apple has mastered since its inception. Through building its brand image, it managed to poke holes at the Apple fan following, leveraging product superiority to convert users and gain considerable market-share.

Sustaining growth

Getting back into the market with full force requires a long-term investment. Brand equity needs to be fuelled with a steady supply of new products, like the boundary-pushing Ozo camera, and services.

Unfortunately, brand equity does not hinge on performance – it takes time for people to change their perceptions. Only massive and sudden failures cause detrimental losses to brand reputation.

Maintaining a steady stream of innovative products and services will keep Nokia ahead, reinforcing its relevance and evolving its equity to sustain long-term growth.

Unfortunately, brand equity does not hinge on performance – it takes time for people to change perceptions.

Learnings from Apple prove this. All eyes are focused on Apple’s next iteration of the iPhone. Expectations are high, but scepticism is even higher. The disruptive innovation that Apple had been known for is now incremental.

It is the existing brand equity that is protecting the halo of Apple, but without fuelling this equity with credible supply of newness, this equity will erode with time.

Reinventing what is now a heritage brand requires consistency and resilience, challenging the status quo at every step of the way.

Nokia doesn’t have to look far to understand what it takes to win. The category's history is telling and the next chapter in the brand's history will either be a stellar case-study in brand building, or a lesson on what to avoid. Time will tell.

Ahmad Badr is the strategy director at Siegel+Gale.

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