Nokia: when brands try to re-connect with the youth

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In mass media, stereotypes are everywhere. In movies –  an Indian call-centre employee, the loud Sindhi, the perennially drunk mechanic Pinto, the vibhuti-clad South Indian are all stereotypes we are used to. Advertising too isn’t far behind with these kind of images – the eternally exuberant Sardar being just one of them.  The attempt, I guess is to ‘connect’ with the audience by portraying them or an aspirational group on screen. This ‘connect’ business comes into play very strongly when the target audience is the youth – specifically the college going crowd.

Agency planners, suits and creatives sometimes do get a first-hand picture of their end consumer through consumer groups or market visits. But very often they work on a calculated or ‘informed perception’ if I can call it that. There is a mental image of the target audience, their lifestyle and attitudes towards a particular product category. When it comes to youth, such a perception can lead to stereotypes: they are the types who are perpetually hanging out with friends in pubs & discos, are full of masti and are obsessed with trivial things in life.

The latest Nokia Smartphone ads – Epic Dramas are in a way meant to ‘connect’ with the youth. The brand is reaching out to the youth and saying ‘hey we understand you, we speak the same language’ and hoping that the  youth will respond in kind. The ‘dramas’ unfold in the series summed up as ‘being young is not as easy as it looks‘. What are the dilemmas they face, you ask? The answers are: red or green shoes? Which place to hangout tonight?

In India Nokia has been facing competition of late in the form of cool new smartphones form RIM, Samsung and Apple leading to loss of market share. The halo around Nokia has perhaps dimmed. So it was critical to regain appeal among the youth. I guess these connect with the youth – I don’t know. Some questions remain: how deep is the connect? In ‘being young is not as easy as it looks’ and linking it to trivial everyday dilemmas, is there a stereotype lurking around? Do comment in.

Update: @2shar over at Twitter points out: ‘Saddening that they used an app for the ad that’s available on many other platforms, instead of a truly marquee Symbian app‘. True that. The story actually boils down to guys finding their way to a pub using maps and a girl receiving messages from friends that help make up her mind.

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  1. When I saw these ads first, I felt it was time Nokia did some catching up, compared to other brands. But what see is that, the 'connecting to the youth' was is very obvious. It feels almost forced.

    These Nokia ads has this Puma and Levis similarities. They were international campaigns, so they worked fine. But to an Indian crowd, the Nokia ads (according to me) loses the 'connect' part. They are targeting a niche group of the youth. Don't you think?.

    • hi Akshay, thanks for the comment. I agree with you – it seems like an 'attempt to connect'. But as I mentioned in the last para, I wonder how deep the connect is. And if a niche group is being targeted do they really need to be told that they can figure out which place to hangout in, using 'Maps' on a smartphone??:)

  2. Yup agree with Akshay here.. the execution definitely seems to niche and therefore limits it to few.. not every youth's dilemna is which shoes.. it could be which college to get into in the increasing competition.. today's youth is very dynamic and and its very difficult to keep them engaged.. infront of the new blackberry and Facebook rage the ad seems to trivialize today's youth i think because there better and cooler touch points a BB, Vodafone Blue and airtel new ads have touched on when it comes to youth.. the new nokia ad seems yet again..

  3. Just saw this ad on MTV India here, and I thought it was awful! It seemed very condescending – the feel was almost like Nokia was telling the 'adults' what the 'youth of today' was thinking/feeling but the result is a lose-lose situation – if this ad is taken seriously by the audience that is – adults think that we 'youth' really *do* take such trivial issues seriously, and 'youth' feel that Nokia, again, has missed the boat :). slight #kidsthesedays feel (like an old uncle saying "kids these days are always at parties and always look at their phones" but honestly, is that all we really do? insulting, too.), and I don't know if I'd want to invest in a (high end?) phone which makes me feel like I'm buying into this stereotype and hence perpetuating it. I feel like switching the TV off every time this ad comes on!

    So many other ways to connect… unless of course, I'm the disconnected one here 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, Lavanya. Totally agree on the condescending part. Sometimes we tend to portray a set of people as we perceive them to be. And it could be way off mark.

  4. Sachin Dalvi Reply

    Now a days I really feel that Sony Ericsson is, at a moderate speed, taking over the market. After introduction of Walkman Series phones which gives great sound clarity has attracted youth a lot. Again, great picture clarity offered by SE Cyber Shot phones is also attracting young guys. Also, Xperia phones have also capturing the market. Sony Ericsson has done this without much ads. they can still do it better if they advertise their product lot like Nokia, Samsung, Etc.

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