Have Nokia, Blackberry, Sony and LG made a mistake launching at MWC?
It’s that time of the year again. The telecoms world has once again descended on Barcelona for the annual Mobile World Congress.
Every part of the ecosystem is there, from infrastructure suppliers to consumer tech manufacturers.
It’s only Tuesday and already we’ve witnessed announcements from Nokia (which has revived the 3310), Blackberry (with its new smartphone manufactured under license in China), Sony (with the world’s first 4k HDR mobile display), and LG (with a wide angle forward facing camera on its new G6).
But why are they announcing these evolutionary consumer devices in a crowded, insular corporate conference, surrounded by other industry members and journalists whose readers are early adopters and already have entrenched brand allegiances?
Whilst each device has an outstanding and unique feature or two, they all have very similar competition at their respective price points.
Is the mass market really going to buy a phone for one or two features? For me a product needs the whole package to go big – it needs a personality.
The launch of a device is all part of building a brand and showing that there is real investment and passion behind it, not that it’s just the latest in a long line of similarly names products which’ll be cast aside in six months.
(And I’m keen to point out it’s not usability that holds back the latest smartphone contenders, most run on Google’s Android so it’s not an issue.)
These companies are desperate to break the rut of declining sales too.
Francisco Jeronimo from the market research firm, IDC, told the BBC: “Despite this being one of the best devices at MWC, I don’t see it changing Sony’s fortunes,”
“If you go through Sony’s financial statements you can see it now makes more money from selling phone cameras to its competitors than selling its own smartphones, which is quite remarkable.”
Apple mastered showmanship years ago. The hype and interest surrounding one of its launches is all part of its brand building. So why has it taken everyone else but Samsung so long to catch up?
Ok, so Blackberry might now be focussing it’s efforts on the corporate market, but everyone knows B2B is still person-2-person. The IT manager will look to choose a device they want to use personally and is still going to have to take the stick from the rest of their team if they choose a device everyone hates.
The new 3310 on the other hand needs to be cool in order to sell volumes. Once the novelty wears off it’s at a high risk of fading into a large pool of similar priced feature phones that flood the market, bought by people that just want a phone that’s cheap.
It needs to become the sort of device that kids don’t feel embarrassed of when they go to school and all their friends with rich parents have iPhones. If the branding is right then it’ll be cool and it’s price will become part of its identity.
Take Timex watches for instance. You can pick up a brand new ‘Weekender’ for £38, yet there are billionaires who are known to wear these things because of the statement they make.
The mobile industry (Apple, and perhaps Samsung to some extent, aside) are living in a hardware and feature obsessed bubble which is floating further and further away from reality.
It’s time that they wake up and smell the Spanish coffee this week. They need to take a leaf out of the sharing economy’s marketing play book and start building on emotions, relationships and dreams.
The marketing teams need to lead and deliver.
Sadly, I don’t see this happening before more big name handset manufacturers disappear from our phone shops.