How the new Nokia can make your promotional material 3310 x better:

One question that I thought I’d never ask is; how can the popularity of an old phone be transferred to the world of promotional merchandise? After attending Mobile World Congress recently, I began asking this question when a 17 year old device stole the headlines. In this article, I’m going to explore the factors behind the popularity of the new phone and how you can use and mimic this to promote your business.

At the beginning of this month, the streets of Barcelona were abuzz with visitors from all around the globe, all flocking to the Catalan capital city for one reason — Mobile World Congress. In case you wasn’t aware, Mobile World Congress is the event of the year for those in the mobile industry. Actually, change that, in reality it’s the event of the year for anyone who’s even remotely interested in technology. Many, many companies use MWC as a launch platform to promote new phones or technologies and this has made the event the week for defining new technological changes, advances and setting the trends for the forthcoming year.

To say I was a little impressed with the innovations that were presented at the show would be an understatement. The advancements in technology this year made is scarily easy for me to be able to start thinking that hover boards (as seen in Back To The Future) are actually an old fashioned concept. However, it has to be said that the most interesting take from the event wasn’t the virtual reality goggles, it wasn’t the amazing 5G technology that was present, no the stand that gathered the most visitors was actually the stand hosting a 17 year old Nokia phone.

If you attended Mobile World Congress, or even if you checked Twitter during the event, then you’ll know that a lot of people were talking about Nokia’s 331o handset making a comeback. The popularity and the interest generated from the relaunch of the 3310 was, unexpectedly, astounding. All preconceptions of the MWC crowd attending to be wowed by the latest innovations from the likes of Google, Samsung and others of a similar ilk had been thrown out the window. Instead, what arose from the event was the idea that a new trend is emerging in society — a trend of reversal.

Yes, this popularity has been interpreted by some as highlighting a stagnating smartphone industry. However, if you look at other long growing trends you soon discover that this isn’t the only reason. Instead people need to look at the desire of the public who want retro designs which promote stability.

Right now, I’ll forgive you if you’re thinking “That’s nice of you to let me know. But what does this have to do with promotional merchandise? Why are you rambling on about this when I read this article to find out how to achieve promotion through printed merch?”. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about that. Strangely the popularity of the retro handset tells us an awful lot about what companies now need to do in order to promote their business, their products and their services through printed merchandise.

Don’t be worried I’m not going to try and convince you that retro is coming back like a hipster trying to convince you that they need those black rimmed glasses. I’m not going to attempt to fob you off with some long apparent fashion trend. In fact, the trend that the Nokia 3310 is creating actually tells us something completely different. It’s not the idea of offering customers something that looks 20 years old. Instead its about offering your customers something that items had 20 years ago but they now lack — Reliability and simplicity.

Cast your minds back and I’m sure all of us has had a conversation which involved something along the lines of: “Remember when you used to lose your old Nokia and the battery would never die?” or “Candy Crush has nothing on Snake.” (Yes, if you’re wondering the 3310 does still have Snake). The common themes that people remember about this handset is the fact that it was incredibly reliable, trustworthy and, above all else, simple to use. We’ve gone through a period of rapid technological advancement, where increasing abilities have meant increasing complications of use. Now, in honest, that’s simply not what the public wants.

Realistically, does it come as any surprise that people are beginning to revert back to the desires of using a device that just works? If anything, 2016 has shown us that the world is ever-changing, that unexpected events are quickly becoming yesterday’s headlines. Therefore, isn’t it normal that the public are on the look out for consistency in these times of uncertainty?

This is something that can be easily translated to both the fashion industry and the world of business. In terms of fashion, the idea of long-lasting, simple designs is fast becoming the more dominant trend. In terms of business, watch a five minute ad break and you’ll soon discover that there’s a growing popularity in businesses promoting their companies transparency and simple operation style.

So, if you really want your printed merchandise to bring you a high return on investment then simplicity and reliability are definitely things that you need to take into consideration. Here, I’m going to present to you two different ways in which you can achieve this, how design can promote simplicity whilst product choice can show your reliability.


Remember when having a T-Shirt with a glittery design or, dare I even say it, the brightest neon colours around, was popular? If you’re of a similar age to me then you’ve probably also searched through the high street for a neon T-Shirt to match your glow stick bands. Cringeworthy? Yes. But at least at the time you could basque in the knowledge that, at that time, you was one incredibly fashionable individual.

It wasn’t just the teenagers that took advantage of this look-at-me-standing-out trend, businesses did too. For businesses the popularity of printed T-Shirts with huge stand out slogans seemed like the dream. It got your company name out there, it got you noticed, it got you talked about. Now? Model your promotional merchandise around this concept and you’ll quickly find that your printed attire is shoved into the back of the wardrobe and delivering nothing close to what you would consider a return on investment.

The days of stand out design are dying. Just like the old black and gold sparkly phone that I used to carry around with me, it’s just not cool anymore bro. People want designs that promote simplicity. Just take a look at the clothes that make up Spring’s collection on the high street. Pastel colours with small and simple designs are taking over.

So, if you want your merchandise to be used, this is something that you really should be taking into account when you’re designing it. Opt for simple logos, simple colours and delicate patterns.

You’re probably worried now that by doing this your merchandise is going against the rules of advertising and it’s preventing your business from standing out. Don’t be. Creating something simple without bombarding it with tonnes of information can actually encourage more people to find out about your business. When people are provided with all the information about your company on a plate; i.e the company name, number, website, address, industry, photo’s of the owners dog, they’re less likely to look up that business because they think they already know everything that there is to know. This means that you’ll blend into the sea of advertisements and you’ll be quickly forgotten. By creating a simple design you’re actually creating a design that can heighten intrigue, encourage your audience to look you up and put them on your trail for a sale. Thanks to smartphones, people are able to look up your company instantly wherever they are. Because, let’s face it, despite the overwhelming popularity of the 3310, fashionistas are unlikely to ditch the iPhone’s in favour of using a device without internet full time. By completing a simple action of a Google search, your company is sure to live on, not just in their search history, but also in their minds.


OK, the idea of simplicity of a Nokia isn’t exactly the same as adding a simple design to clothing. while fashion sense can apply here, the actual ease of use isn’t. The ease of putting a T-Shirt on is hard to beat, however, one trend that can be taken away from Nokia’s new found popularity and printed printed onto some customised merchandise is the concept of having something which is long-lasting.

Whereas once, the amazement of being able to but iron on transfers and apply them to a T-Shirt made crappy quality excusable, it’s not the case anymore. Create something of crappy quality now and you’re only presenting your company in the same way.

Once, embroidery was the epitome of long-lasting, now printing techniques such as Direct to Garment (DTG) and Screen Printing are also perfect for this. They create a finish which is sure to last, look good and feel good as well. Put it this way; Iron on printing is similar to your new smartphone, put it in the washing machine and you’re screwed. DTG and Screen Printing, much like your Nokia 3310, are sure to last countless spins.


The idea of creating something long-lasting doesn’t just refer to the printing technique which you’re using, the product choice can also have a huge impact. You want to create something that people will use over and over again, not something which is temporary or seasonal.

Pens? Nah, the ink runs out. Notepad? The paper doesn’t just magically refill. Umbrella? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s lost count of the amount they’ve left on the bus or in a bar. All of these items are designed to tie in with the trend of easy disposability, something that we are trying to prevent. Did you go out and buy a new Nokia every few months because the handset bent (gentle nod to you Apple)? No, because unless you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger that’s pretty hard to do. They lasted. This is the kind of products you need to focus on.

The answer? Clothing and bags.

By using high quality clothing and bags, you know that they’re going to last. A large section of my wardrobe is full of promotional T-Shirts, hoodies or bags that I’ve either bought or been given as a freebie. Giving away these items is perfect because the public know that, not only do they last, but they can get repeated use out of them.


OK, I might have lied. I said that I wasn’t going to write an article describing how retro was coming back and the need for businesses to use retro merchandise. So far, I think I’ve lived up to the idea of writing an article about the comeback of reliability and simplicity in contrast to the concept of the comeback of things looking old. However, unfortunately, there is still a part of Nokia’s popularity that is down to the simple fact that it just looks retro. Sorry. So, the last suggestion I’m going to make is a quick look at a retro product which you can use to promote your business.


There is one product that springs to mind. A product that incorporates all of the previous points; it looks incredibly retro, it can hold simple designs, it can be printed on using high-quality printing techniques and it is long-lasting. Are you ready for the reveal of this magical product?

A printed tote bag.

Expecting something more extravagant? It seems that you’ve quickly forgotten about the popularity of the simple, once called brick-phone Nokia.

Yes, that’s right, the printed tote bag is the perfect way to promote your business whilst keeping on top of current fashion trends and the desires of the public.

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