The slowdown and its effects were apparent in all the discussions, in and outside the Conclave, at the Goafest 2009. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to listen to a success story for a change.
Vineet Taneja, head, marketing, Nokia India, spoke on 'Building Brands', outlining the brand's 15-year journey in India, from an entry player to a market leader.
Furthermore, he shared that Nokia has, slowly but surely, managed its brand stretch across various economic segments rather skilfully -- from launching phones for entry level buyers (the 'Judey Raho' communication is a case in point) to rolling out high-end phones resembling gizmos (the N-series) that became a part of the lives of tech enthusiasts.
But all hasn't been hunky dory for the brand in India. In the early 90s, the Indian mobile handset business was only 10 per cent of the global Nokia business, claims Taneja. The downturn that happened then didn't help either. However, Nokia focused on the concept of mobility to set things right.
"In the last quarter of 2006 too, we faced a crisis -- that of an aggressive competitor who hit us badly with slim phones and slick advertising," Taneja said, perhaps hinting at rival, Motorola. Furthermore, there was negative publicity for Nokia on its batteries heating up. "But we handled it by innovating at the right time," said Taneja, thereby summing up that the current economic situation need not be a looming, unsolvable problem.
Nokia has taken several measures to counter the slowdown. It has launched Nokia Life Tools (Mera Nokia) in rural areas in Maharashtra, giving people reasons to buy a mobile phone by providing innovative value adds in the handset, such as agricultural news updates (crop prices and so on), education (learning English) and entertainment (ringtones etc).
Second, Taneja advised marketers in general to spend more smartly. Nokia itself launched 11 campaigns in 2008; this year, it plans to reduce that figure to almost half.
Further, he said that it would help if marketers slowly inched towards digital -- Web, WAP, and SMS -- from conventional media. Nokia plans to spend 16 per cent of its above the line (ATL) monies in digital in the first half of 2009. On-ground activations and launching services that get interested consumers to respond, such as short-codes, will ensure that there is more targeted, focused marketing.
Launching of CRM tools such as My Nokia to provide tips and updates to a Nokia user base and Nokia Care -- service centres specifically for after-sales -- have also helped.
"Market leaders can't have a better time during this slowdown," Taneja said. "A quality such as trust is what consumers are looking for desperately right now, and a risk with newbies isn't an option."
Further, Taneja hinted that the times are ripe for collaborations. Apart from the usual suspects -- telecom operators, retail chains, distributors and agencies, Nokia has tied up with Jet Airways, Sprite, ICICI Bank and even some government institutions, in order to spread its wings.
Lastly, Taneja concluded that simplified organisational structures will help in countering the slowdown. "We merged our marketing function with another division called Go To Market, for instance," Taneja signed off.