Namah Chawla

Nokia breaks free of its legacy shackles, will its rebranding exercise bear fruit?

Brand experts dissect the new logo of the Finnish mobile brand that is now transitioning to become a 'B2B technology innovation leader.'

Finnish handset maker Nokia has changed its iconic logo in the first major redesign in 60 years. In fact, it has completely changed its brand identity with an attempt to accelerate its ‘market growth.’

The company entered India in 1995 and quickly gained a strong foothold in the domestic market. At that time, mobile phones were still a luxury item, and not everyone had one. 

However, the brand’s strategy to make phones accessible and affordable to middle class Indians, helped to democratise access to mobile technology in the country. 

The Nokia 1100 was one of the brand’s popular models. It was a basic phone, with limited features, but it soon became a style statement among Indian users. 

In the early-2000s, Nokia facilitated the country’s growing technology ecosystem by establishing multiple manufacturing facilities. However, in mid-2010s, Chinese smartphone brands like Xiaomi and Oppo, ate into Nokia’s market share.  

In its new logo, Nokia has used a range of colours that use five different shapes to form the word ‘NOKIA’. With this change, the company’s signalling at a strategy shift - from being a smartphone brand to now becoming a ‘B2B technology innovation leader’.

Nokia breaks free of its legacy shackles, will its rebranding exercise bear fruit?

Did the change come in too late?

The pertinent question here is, whether this change was long overdue. Abhik Choudhury, chief strategist, Salt and Paper Consulting, wonders what took the brand so long to execute this change.

“Nokia has far too much baggage to be a failed Goliath phone company. Its business model has completely evolved over time. Brands wanting to shed unwanted attachments, are by no means an anomaly.” 

Abhik Choudhury
Abhik Choudhury

Comparing Nokia with other brands that have undertaken successful branding overhaul in the past, he says, “Dunkin dropped Donuts from its name, to maximise brand recall for drinks and burgers, while Kentucky Fried Chicken was permanently shortened to KFC to minimise recall of the ‘fried’ part.” 

However, it seems like Nokia has only rebranded for its veteran B2B customers which, as per Choudhury, “is short-sighted, as the brand has traded decades of legacy for something so new, it’s not even a shadow of its former self.”

Moving away from its legacy elements

For Umbrella Design’s founder Bhupal Ramnathkar, a first look at the logo and it falls short of representing the scale and solidity of a large corporation. 

Bhupal Ramnathkar
Bhupal Ramnathkar

“The logo doesn’t say ‘technology’. The font used is sleek, but not strong and cutting parts of the letters, weakens it further. Readability, especially of the letter ‘N’, suffers with this partial letters approach. Every logo has to represent and communicate an essential truth about a brand. This one doesn’t,” Ramnathkar mentions. 

The big tech companies of the world, like Meta, Twitter, LinkedIn, to name a few, all have the blue colour in their respective brand logos. The colour is said to signify loyalty and trust. However, will the new colour scheme work its charm for Nokia?

Elaborating on the colour scheme of the new logo, Ashish Mishra, CEO, Interbrand India & South Asia, mentions. “The colour blue meant tech long ago. Then, it was blue and green. If we see new tech brands around the world, we will find new colours like violets and its nuances finding their way into tech.”

Ashish Mishra
Ashish Mishra

“Brands need to be seen beyond colours and fonts now. They need to build on the overall narratives and represent an evolving trajectory into their future ambitions,” Ashish points out.

Does the new logo fail to build on the brand’s legacy?

Consumers worldwide think of Nokia as a smartphone brand. However, with the new logo, it has become now a B2B company, rather than a mobile brand.

According to Mayank Mishra, head of strategy, DY Works, Nokia’s strategic focus is on networks and industrial digitisation. But in the minds of most consumers, it’s still a legacy mobile phone brand. 

Mayank Mishra
Mayank Mishra

“The new identity is a signal of intent and, for many people, a chance to discover what the new Nokia is all about. So, it’s repositioning in a pure sense. The buzz around the change is an indicator of the fact that people are actively recalibrating their perceptions of what Nokia is,” says Mayank. 

Tazeen Shaikh, design director, Landor & Fitch, says that while the new logo definitely feels more modern, the design aesthetic may not appeal to the Gen Z. This is because, they may have not been the users of the brand, in the first place. 

Tazeen Shaikh
Tazeen Shaikh

“Is the brand name enough for its logo, especially when the legibility is compromised?” she ponders.

Shaikh adds that while the overall change is alright, the brand could have retained some of its iconic elements from the original logo. “The letter ‘O’ was pretty iconic and could have been retained to pay homage to (Nokia’s) originality and legacy.”

Are all rebranding exercises successful?

A rebranding exercise, like this one, is a part of a much larger business canvas. It enables an organisation to pivot and work towards a new brand vision. 

Mishra of DY Works states, “Seen from the point of view of repositioning Nokia, in the larger cultural zeitgeist, a rebranding exercise is effective, because it gets people to update their mental models about a brand.” 

“And, given the evolution of Nokia’s business, a change in logo does make sense. It’s important to have a tonality that conveys a sense of leadership, stature and dynamism, which is what Nokia seems to be going for here.”

Landor & Fitch’s Shaikh believes the shift was important, because the brand was losing its charm in the clutter of its competitors. “Rebranding exercises do attract new target audiences. There’s vibrancy in the new look. However, it will be important for the brand to communicate it correctly.”

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Nokia breaks free of its legacy shackles, will its rebranding exercise bear fruit?

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