NEW YORK--I wrote in January that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) needed to translate the buzz about its Windows phone platform into sales. So far that hasn't happened. According to Gartner Microsoft captured just 2.7 percent of the smartphone market in the second quarter (though that was an improvement from 1.6 percent in the year-ago period).
Now Nokia (NYSE:NOK), which has largely bet its future on Windows Phone, has introduced two new Lumia Windows Phones, the 920 and 820. I was able to play with the devices at the press event here and they are the best Windows Phones that I have seen so far. Nevertheless, my belief holds true. Regardless of the design, user interface and functionalty of these Windows Phone devices, if Nokia and Microsoft can't figure a way to convince consumers of those strengths, Windows Phone will flounder and Nokia will sink.
Like their Lumia predecessors, both Nokia devices are solidly built, feel great in your hand and come in bright colors. The 920 takes advantage of Nokia's "PureView" camera technology, which uses lenses that move as users move to allow them to take better pictures in low-light and steadier, professional-quality video. When asked by AllThingsD if camera technology will be a big part of Nokia's marketing, CEO Stephen Elop said, "absolutely." The company better make it a big part of its marketing, given the amount of time, money and effort it has put into the technology (and how much it talked about it at the press conference).
More than that though, Nokia has to convince consumers not only why Windows Phone is different from Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, but why its phones are different and what its brand stands for. Apple is about to debut its latest iPhone next week. In the face of that, Nokia will need to market its phones simply and powerfully.
And I believe that means that Nokia will have to reinvent its brand. What does Nokia stand for? Great, innovative camera technology, advanced mapping and location services, solid, sleek industrial design. Yet the consumer does not know that from the marketing that has been produced for its Lumia 710 and 900 smartphones.
"We're at a point where Nokia has to bring back the coolness of the brand," said Strategy Analytics analyst Kevin Burden. "Success doesn't just come from having a really great product. This comes down to image, brand."
Added CCS Insight analyst John Jackson: "Nokia has the ability to focus on a small number of things that it can do uniquely well that can resonate in the collective consumer consciousness." Yet Jackson said he doubted Nokia's partners would be able to sustain a marketing push to get that across.
No doubt Nokia will need help from its partners. If carriers are serious about creating a strong third ecosystem, they'll have to lend their support. That means demonstratinjg features like City Lens, Nokia's augmented reality feature that integrates with its mapping and location services to let users see information about restaurants, shops, hotels and other points of interest overlaid the surfaces of buildings. Why not make a commercial that demonstrates how this could help someone? It's visual and appealing and I've never seen an iPhone that can do what City Lens can do. Or take Nokia's Transport app, which gives users real-time information on what routes to take on public transportation in more than 500 cities. That's useful, unique and can be conveyed simply.
Nokia needs to market these experiences, over and over, so that it establishes its brand as something not only new and innovative, but something that helps consumers. "What's the benefit? What do I get if I buy this device?" said industry analyst Jack Gold. "That's the way people think."--Phil