Nokia Lumia Advertising Debacle Could Have Silver Lining

NEWS ANALYSIS: Nokia's introduction of its new Lumia phones has been overshadowed by a marketing debacle, which, if handled properly, could work to its benefit.

Nokia's seemingly boring bicycle footage has succeeding in getting the brand some attention, though likely not the type the Finnish phone maker was hoping for.

On Sept. 6, Nokia issued an apology, saying that in the video it posted Aug. 29, it should have included a disclaimer, explaining that it showed a representation of the optical image stabilization (OIS) technology it will include in its upcoming Lumia 920, though not actual footage, as the phones and the technology aren't ready yet.

Nokia extended its apology Sept. 8, according to The Wall Street Journal, adding that other marketing materials, including still images, were also simulated.

In an initial apology, Heidi Lemmetyinen wrote on the Nokia Conversations blog:

"In an effort to demonstrate the benefits of optical image stabilization (which eliminates blurry images and improves pictures shot in low light conditions), we produced a video that simulates what we will be able to deliver with OIS.Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but we should have posted a disclaimer stating this was a representation of OIS only. This was not shot with a Lumia 920. At least, not yet. We apologize for the confusion we created."

The other purpose for the video was to advertise Nokia's planned Sept. 5 event-"Things are about to change," flashes on the screen at the end-at which it introduced the first Lumias to run Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system. With the move from Symbian to Windows Phone constituting the company's big play to reverse its fortunes and regain some lost market share, the importance of the new Nokia it put forward Sept. 5 can hardly be overstated.

"It certainly doesn't help to improve Nokia's image, but to Nokia's credit, it addressed this issue quickly and decisively and I don't expect it to be a thorn in its side for very long," Jack Narcotta, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK.

"Ultimately, though, the success [or lack of] of Nokia in the mobile marketplace will be dictated more by how it can create demand for its Windows devices and woo customers away from Androids and iPhones, and less by a failed marketing stunt," Narcotta added.

Neil Mawston, executive director of Strategy Analytics' Global Wireless practice, also sees the misstep as one Nokia can likely recover from.

"The ad problem is a double-edged sword for Nokia," said Mawston. "On one hand, Nokia's brand credibility has taken a knock. If consumers don't trust you, you will lose heart share. On the other hand, Nokia has been getting extensive press coverage that is raising its brand awareness among Americans. If you gain mind share, you will have more chance of capturing market share."

If Nokia can turn the press coverage into a positive ethical apology, it could eventually even benefit from the mistake, he added.

"In a world where computer-generated effects have become a part of everyday life for most young people," Mawston explained, "we expect the 'faked' advert to have limited long-term impact on Nokia's brand. [It's] really a side issue, and Nokia's main challenges remain distribution, subsidies and product acceptance among consumers and developers."

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop learned of the matter upon landing in Finland after his New York visit, and quickly called Nokia's chief ethics officer, according to The New York Times.

"We are dealing with situation swiftly, fairly and privately," a Nokia executive told The Times.

In retrospect, the video delivered on exactly what eWEEK noted was its most arresting detail-the tension that its distracted bicycler forebodes of an unfortunate, if not just unexpected, fate.

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