Brand Philosophy : is Nokia a Starfish or a Spider?

Drafted 18/09/09 – Published 24/09/09.
The thoughts/viewpoints expressed are my own.

IF YOU CUT OFF A SPIDERS HEAD, it dies; but if you cut off a starfish’s leg, it grows a new one, and that leg can grow an entirely new starfish.

Quote from Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom.
Authors of ‘The Starfish and The Spider’.


As some of you may know I was recently invited to Budapest to take part in filming and social media production for the new Nokia Nseries Campaign (currently code-named #budaviral it is perhaps a little presumptuous on behalf of the marketing department) but the invitation to join a select team of mobile geeks and bloggers was an awesome opportunity and too good to turn down.


When I boarded my flight to Hungary I was carrying with me a book entitled ‘The Starfish and The Spider’. I was also very aware that my iPhone was my primary mobile handset – so why had Nokia invited me? and what were they expecting from me?

Budapest

Photo: Budapest
Original photo taken and licensed under creative commons by Me

FellowCreative Sustainability
Before I continue, and for those that may question the sustainability of such a trip (900 mile flight each way) I would like to point out that my focus in this instance was positive ‘social impact’ over ‘environmental change’ (although EasyJet do have a CSR Policy I have to admit I’m not an enthusiastic fan of corporate carbon offsetting, but I was pleased to see only one empty seat on-board my return flight, in comparison to the twenty or so available on my outbound journey).

I firmly believe that social media tools and technologies have the ability to connect, unite, empower and educate communities towards positive change (both social and environmental) – as Nokia themselves are demonstrating with their Responsiveness Campaign (exploring the positive impacts of responsive conversation) supported by TED Fellow Kyra Gaunt.
I myself spend most of my days joining dots between technologies and ideas to empower positive impact – hence SustainableWidget and my client list focused on training & development, education and entrepreneurship, and socially and environmentally positive enterprise.


However, getting back to the Starfish…


Nokia’s invitation in this case had me both intrigued and a little nervous for different reasons… given my design background I’ve been an Apple user (some might say fanboy) for thirteen years and a business contract iPhone user since August 2007. However, I personally think the iPhone camera sucks and I find Apple’s ‘corporate non-transparent ways’ and ‘sometimes suspicious governance’ of its App Store ‘specifically for video-streaming services’ extremely frustrating (and some might say non existent).

With this in mind and given the fact my Digital SLR just isn’t portable 24/7, I do tend to carry a Nokia N96 mobile in my bag, from which I sparingly record video footage, live-stream via Qik.com and take photographs of useful quality (5 mega pixels).

Over recent months I’ve also been carrying an Nokia N97 which is equipped with a slightly better camera lens (Carl Zeiss Tessar 2.8/5.4) and comes pre-installed with Qik.com live-streaming; but if I’m honest I do leave the real social media content creation and mobile geekness to entertaining and talented folk like Christian Payne and James Whatley (I’m more interested in how all this shiny stuff can be used at a global/regional/social/academic/community level to bring people and ideas together for positive change).

I prefer bottom-up, multi-channel ‘community focused’ mindsets (some might say web 2.0 principles) as opposed to those of one-way corporate governance and dictatorship – I choose Starfish over Spiders.

The Starfish and The Spider
With this said, and given my recent experiences of Nokia, I’d like to voice my viewpoint to anyone who’s interested:

Apple design and manufacture solid consumer electronics that deliver intuitive usability to a mass and global market. Apple are undoubtedly best-known for their hardware products (including the Apple Mac, iPod and iPhone) but in my personal opinion the most impressive part about their diverse and ground breaking product range is often overlooked (especially by the mass market).

The combination of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system and iTunes media platform delivers an unparalleled and unrivaled user experience! Lets face it, the reason most people overlook beautiful simplicity is because its so simple they don’t need to (or even require time to) stop and think about it. I only wish Apple made ‘touch-tone call-center systems’ – the world would be a better place and I might actually be able to talk to my bank manager!

Apple’s product quality, intuitive user experience and developer community have made them a world leader. The App Store topped 1.5 Billion Downloads in its first year and with less than 3 years in the mobile industry its supposedly on target to be market leader by 2013.

But remember I personally think the iPhone camera sucks and I find Apple’s ‘corporate non-transparent ways’ and ‘sometimes suspicious governance’ of its App Store ‘specifically for video-streaming services’ extremely frustrating. And more importantly still, I know I’m not alone.

I might be an early adopter in the technology space but I’m confident that those who frequent my circle will agree that being able to upload a video to YouTube is not enough (especially when its sprinkled with targeted advertising later), and its certainly not enough when so much more is easily possible (I’m reluctant to believe its a matter of cost).

It may surprise some of you to hear me say, others will have heard me openly say it already, but compared to the iPhone I actually prefer the look and tactility of the Nokia N97, and I’d even go so far as to say the build quality is better – if only it had an intuitive OS interface and keyboard (?)

It is with the above ‘open mindset’ that I landed in Budapest…

A nagging voice in my head kept telling me that Nokia wouldn’t be able to live up to my Apple expectations. What I found made me re-evaluate.

I found Nokia’s team to be extremely ‘community and socially minded’ in there approach and very open in conversation; not just excited about their products but more interested in what I and those around me thought we could (or wanted to) do with them. They appear to understand why I carry multiple devices and they didn’t appear at all threatened by the presence of a competitors product or a non Ovi Store App (I fail to name another brand that would be so open to this situation – perhaps Google?). Nokia appeared to understand why I prefer the App Store to Nokia Ovi, and they appeared to recognize iPhone OS is more intuitive than Nokia’s current Sybian OS.

The independent bloggers I met all shared their own stories about how the Nokia Marketing Team had actively promoted blog posts that highlighted ‘traditionally negative’ product flaws and drawbacks. Nokia seem to understand that ‘learning through doing is key’ and providing an open platform for constructive criticism and negative consumer feedback is a strength not a weakness in today’s connected ‘bottom-up’ world. Inviting bloggers and Nokia fanboys to see the latest toys is one thing but to boldly invite an opinionated Mac Addict along shows confidence in product.

Nokia N00 (N900)

Photo: My hands on an Nokia N900 Prototype
Original photo taken and licensed under creative commons by Me

The very fact that Nokia are developing innovative multi-channel Social-Media tools like Noise Cancellation Headsets and products like the Booklet 3G’s makes me feel they understand a growing audience and mindset; and better still I think they understand their competitor marketplace (especially with Google and HTC now on the playing field). The N97 and specifically the N900 demonstrate to me that Nokia understand that one button clad product doesn’t fit all but making an adaptable touchscreen interface can help. Sure their current standing is in mobile (especially in developing markets) but I’m encouraged by the fact its building upon its impressive audio and camera know-how to develop new legs in other markets like Netbook’s and VOIP.

I left Budapest impressed with a Starfish, and I keep my fingers crossed that Nokia sort out their OS Interface before a competitor releases a decent quality camera and signs-off on a live-streaming App. The fact that they are working in developing markets gives me confidence that not only will a more intuitive and useful user experience emerge on a Nokia device but its sense of social media and global connectivity/transparency will grow.

Nokia, if you are listening, thank you for making me welcome =)
I’ll leave you with three thoughts, imagine what you could do away from Ovi…

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To read more content from our Budapest adventures here are some relevant links:

#BudaViral: Social Media Adventures in Budapest with Nokia
Nokia Nseries Campaign: A Storyboard of Secrets from Budapest #BudaViral
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My Review: Nokia Bluetooth Stereo Headset BH-905 (Probably the ideal freelancer/co-working headset?
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My Review: Nokia Booklet 3G
Ben’s Review: TheReallyMobileProject.com – Nokia Booklet 3G
Stefanos’ Review (in Greek): Pestaola.gr – Nokia Booklet 3G
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N97 mini and N900 stuff can be found here: http://thereallymobileproject.com
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1 Comment

James Whatley

about 5 years ago

A good, well-informed and refreshing blog post Carl. Nokia chose well it seems and hopefully you'll be along to other events in the future. Thanks for the name check, but really - must you insist on using that N96? ;)

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