Barcelona memories: Breakfast with Pekka

Hi everyone,With the imminent launch of more new Nokia phones at events in Italy and India tomorrow I'd to share with you all a taste of the great experience which @EnjoyLogy, @"Francesco Bacchini", @radu and @TommiS had when we met @"pekka rantala" in Barcelona.

Barcelona memories: Breakfast with Pekka

madbilly madbilly
Super User  / 
Hi everyone,
With the imminent launch of more new Nokia phones at events in Italy and India tomorrow I'd to share with you all a taste of the great experience which @EnjoyLogy, @Francesco Bacchini, @radu and @TommiS had when we met @pekka rantala in Barcelona. I believe that at least one member of our community has been invited to the event in Italy, but I don't know of any others. Personally I hope that there are more there and that HMD will continue the initiative that they started with Dubai and continued in Barcelona, to invite members of the community to join them and share in the experience of new product launches... I have to say it's addictive and I believe it could be infectious too! :D
Pekka Rantala is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of HMD. We met Pekka on the first morning of MWC in HMD's media briefing room in the HMD Nokia village.
Pekka was very welcoming, immediately putting us all at ease and reminding us that we were there for breakfast so we should tuck in whilst we had the chance! He was very polite and generous in saying that he had been really looking forward to meeting us and amongst all of the meetings he had scheduled with media, channel partners etc this was the meeting he had been most looking forward to in the week. Cool! :grin:
Pekka says that for him the most exciting thing - the thing which makes him get up in the morning - is the Nokia brand. I found that it's an overriding theme with all the people at HMD.
Pekka's Nokia story started with being asked to be the export manager for Africa - all of it - at a time when he and his wife were expecting their first baby! He spend the following 17 years working in both sales and marketing for Nokia after which he left to lead the games developer Rovio, famed for Angry Birds.
Austria, Italy and Switzerland were part of much of Pekka's time with Nokia. One particular anecdote he shared was about when he was river-rafting in Finland with Austrian and Swiss customers. Their guide somehow made some mistake and they found themselves having to stop the boats in the middle of nowhere, in the dark. The guide explained that they were now at the border with Russia and could not continue, and because this was before even Nokia had managed to get mobile phone reception to this remote area the group had to endure a starlit overnight hike through a forest 20km to the next house carrying a boat with the engine on the back! Whilst at the time the customers were understandably unhappy they have all since had an incredible working relationship, such was the power of this shared experience. Another memorable story comes from his time in Italy when the 3210 was launched, which was one of the first phones with an internal antenna and he was astounded when one of the networks advertised it by adding an aerial to the picture, because the public wouldn't understand otherwise!
In 2003 the CEO asked Pekka to start the Multimedia business group in Nokia. 9 months later he led the creation of the N-series (which many of us here would like to see the return of hint hint!) and later he started the collaboration with Carl Zeiss, with Oliver Schindelbeck (who is the gentleman from ZEISS who I've written about before), whom they are now working with again through the partnership of HMD and ZEISS.
Between Rovio and the return to Nokia phones with HMD in 2016 Pekka was also responsible for "the second best thing from Finland" - chocolate and confectionary made by Fazer, who generously provided HMD with all the sweets which you can see on the table above (and which @EnjoyLogy did a great job demonstrating the opening of!) :smiley:
Continued below...

Comments

  • madbilly madbilly
    Super User  / 
    Pekka spoke a lot about things from a marketing point of view, we didn't really discuss specific products. For them it's essential that they promote both the devices and the brand, portfolio benefits, such as the 2 years of OS and 3 years of security updates, which they think is a very important message which they are trying to find better ways of conveying to the public. I think this is why we saw the change this year from "Pure, Secure and Up to Date" to "Just Keeps Getting Better", because the latter message suggests improvement, whereas the first suggests staying still. Pekka wanted to know how this message was being received now (although I think at the time it was too early to tell), and @EnjoyLogy with her experience in smartphone retailing was able to tell him that when customers have "Pure, Secure and Up to Date" explained they can understand the benefits, but until then it's not clear. Pekka did say that to him "up to date" includes getting the latest innovations, not just security and OS updates, so I hope that he's reading this and notes that this should also mean that the older phones get the updates to the camera app as well (check the first-gen devices @pekka rantala, e.g. the 8 against the 8.1 and you'll see what I mean).
    Promoting the brand and getting the message across that Nokia phones are back is still very difficult though. They need to get support from retailers and networks for this, but since they don't have anywhere near as big a marketing budget as the other manufacturers they just can't buy the prime positions in shops, on the websites, etc. They have made some big steps, such as the launch of the 2V which now gets the Nokia brand seen again in about 800 stores in the USA. Still, I don't recall seeing Nokia phones on display near where I live, and I know firsthand people saying "Oh, a Nokia, I didn't know they still existed"!
    That's why Pekka believes that HMD's best chance is through consumer word-of-mouth and recommendation style marketing. Unfortunately I don't think this is working so well and HMD know that, so they're seeking new ways to do this (hint - the answers are already written a thousand times over in this forum - if you want me to help you find them then you only need to ask!). ;)
    To be fair, HMD have evidently got a plan for this and it does involve this community forum to a certain extent, though we're not seeing much evidence of that recently. Pekka explained that he wants the My Phone app to become the "living room" of the Nokia phones community, the place we come to chat about our Nokia phone experiences (and they obviously hope in a positive way, not the largely negative way that most people are currently doing, sometimes with good reason). Whilst we were discussing the forum @edo (who's now left HMD and I don't know if his replacement has joined yet, have they @tim.m) explained that one of the things that @HMD_Laura and @megan do is to collate the feedback from the forum each week and share a digest internally at HMD.
    Speaking about the brand Pekka explained that Nokia already has a personality, it is an "authentic" brand, which comes from its 150 years history. It cannot be easily reinvented in the way that more recent brands can be (e.g. I note like Android One!). Since it already has this identity it does not make sense to try and present it as something which it is not already associated with, or have global celebrity endorsements (although HMD do do this on a local level, e.g. in India with the KKR and in Finland with some ice hockey players - congrats on the world championships btw :up:). Pekka asked us if we thought there was value in expanding this and our general concensus was that it was not. @radu told a really nice story about his E61, which he used for years even after it had fallen out of a moving car and had kept working! He feels that the community forum is more valuable than any celebrity endorsement (hear hear!). He explained that Nokia was there when people had their first experiences with mobile phone technology, which is why people have a connection, and this connection and trust is authentic, it cannot be faked. Radu felt that the fact that Pekka came to talk to us is a sign of Nokia's brand values and that in the long term this will be successful.
    Whilst a large part of HMD's early success was off the back of nostalgia for Nokia, this was not universal across all age groups. One of the biggest challenges for HMD is how do they connect with younger people, who never had a Nokia phone and who are in their early years of phone ownership and don't have that historical connection (as a sidenote I can say that never had a personal connection with Nokia until I got my first one, the N8, so it is possible, HMD just need to find the right buttons to press (hint N-series hint!)). One of the things which attracts attention is innovation, and since they have been at the forefront of mobile phone technology for so many years the Nokia brand obviously has a long and rich history of that, which HMD are now expected and trying to emulate. They launched the 9 PureView in Barcelona which was clearly innovative, even if it was not necessarily a critical success. Pekka said we should expect the innovation to continue - you will find many suggestions here on the forums, Pekka, just go looking!
    Continued below...

  • madbilly madbilly
    Super User  / 
    At the point @radu had finished eating (like me!) and was now on a roll. He shared that he had done the Helsinki marathon last year and Pekka revealed that he had done it before as well. If HMD could bring back another "originals" phone Radu would vote for the 6210 (or was it the 2110?), which he thinks is beautiful, and would like to see HMD offer it as a sales bundle with a smartphone, because Radu likes camping and smartphone batteries can't last a weekend (anymore... my N8 could!). What about that, Pekka, an "originals" companion phone to a Nokia smartphone, like the new Palm is intended to be used?
    On the subject of the 6210, I think this was the phone that Pekka said Bob Geldof had when he met him once. The keypad was completely worn off and Pekka offered him a new one, which Bob refused... revealing that he already several spare phones back at home!
    Minor product spoiler speculation! Pekka revealed to us that they had been discussing with Juho the possibility of bringing another "originals" phone to market this year, but with more modern internals... could this be a sign that the rumoured return of the N9 is real?!
    When discussing key differentiators and USPs for Nokia I volunteered that I think radio reception is still a key selling point for Nokia phones, if they choose to push it. Whilst reception is not such an issue in most populated areas of western Europe any more it is still a problem in many other parts of the world. For me, I feel like I can trust a Nokia to always have good reception, and I think this is genuinely true of the current Nokia phones. I think the low SAR values for HMD's phones are also a good indication that they don't need to use a lot of power to maintain good reception, which also indicates that they have more headroom when the network is weaker as well. Maybe I'm wrong about this, so if anyone knows otherwise then please tell me.
    As you'd expect, the conversation meandered through many topics. At one point we talked about the history of Mobile World Congress, which is where we were. Pekka told us that historically the ITU organised an event in Geneva but it was only once every 4 years, which just wasn't often enough for the businesses involved. The GSMA then started MWC in Cannes and it was held in various places before being held in Barcelona for the past 10 years or so. The HMD village, which you can see pictured above, was built for MWC last year for three reasons 1) indoor space is expensive! 2) they felt that being outdoors in the fresh air gave them a different angle from most of the other vendors and 3) they wanted a space separate from Nokia to do their business (although the HMD village is outside, HMD do have a display space in the corner of the main Nokia area inside the exhibition building). The weather last year was terrible, it rained so much that the roofs of the village huts leaked and they had buckets on the floor to catch the drips! They used this to show people they were a "real startup"! :D Obviously this year they fixed all the leaks and even fitted heaters to keep people warm and ironically it didn't rain at all, glorious sunshine every day!
    I asked about their roadmap, how they decide which spec of phones they will make. Pekka said they have a roadmap but didn't elaborate much on how they decide. It is based on customer feedback, marketing info, target segments and what their trade customers (retailers and network providers) tell them. Ultimately it is based on what they believe people want for a specific price, not so much based on what specs they can provide. At MWC they had lots of meetings with trade customers and were focused on the phones they revealed at MWC, and later in the year they would discuss upcoming products with them (although I did speak to another invited guest of HMD who told me they had accidentally seen one of the upcoming (and not yet revealed) products through a window...! They didn't tell me anything about it though, so please don't ask me).
    Very interestingly at this point @pekka rantala said that they are considered a "circle of trust" with some members of the community, or high profile consumers, (would this be "influencers" or normal people like us?) to share concepts for early feedback. I think @maria.03 also mentioned this to us later as well and it was hinted at by @juho when I said farewell to him in Dubai at the end of the event there. I don't know but I hope that HMD have started to do this as I can think of several people in our community who would give very useful constructive feedback on some features, especially the camera. However, I'm sure that the nature of this group is that it's not even permitted to acknowledge membership of it, so we'll never find out.
    Continued below...
  • madbilly madbilly
    Super User  / 
    Back on the subject of technology and innovation we learnt that voice is becoming a very important way for people to interact with their smartphones, especially in the "developing" countries and amongst women more than men. This is in turn changing what is meant by a "smart" phone, which is probably why we are seeing HMD include the dedicated assistant button on their new phones - Pekka confirmed it will be on future phones as well. He said that the existence of the button will increase usage of Google Assistant. At the launch event Austin Chang from Google said that next year they predict that 50% of searches will be done by voice, which is an incredible number which I struggle to believe, but it could well be true. I asked about how the button would be used in countries where Google Assistant was not available or the native language was not supported and Pekka said that it was not certain that phones with this button would be launched in China, and for countries without the native language support (like Finland!) they would obviously not be able to emphasise the voice support, although in these countries people may speak supported languages anyway, and that coverage will improve (though they are dependent on Google who I note will only do it if it helps them sell ads...).
    On the importance of voice Pekka shared his experience of the launch of SMS in Finland. In the preceding year I think he said that 99% of the public said they would not send a picture message instead of a postcard, and the next year, when SMS was launched there were 1 billion messages sent! (looking back on this, I note that pictures need MMS, not SMS, so I probably didn't remember this quite correctly). The moral of this is that sometimes people don't know they will use something until they have it and a company has to have the courage to go with their beliefs and not what the marketing survey is telling them. Obviously this is easier when your company is as big as Nokia, harder when you're HMD, but this could be why HMD decided to try the penta-lens camera setup on the 9PV. Hats off to them for trying, IMO. And could convergence between desktops/laptops and smartphones be coming? @Francesco Bacchini believes that it will happen very soon (whilst I think it happened with the N900!).
    I said that one thing which could help HMD leverage the Nokia brand was if the new phones felt like a Nokia, because whilst the hardware is nicely designed and somewhat evocative of Nokias of old the software is actually quite bland lacking identity, or any feeling of being a Nokia. I asked if HMD found that the Android One certification limited their ability to innovate in the interface and the experience that customers get. @pekka rantala explained that they had not particularly found that to be a problem. On the subject of Android One, Pekka told us with glee that when HMD launched their first generation smartphones Google were jealous! They contacted HMD to tell them that they had managed to hit the nail on the head of what they had been trying to do for ages with the Android One brand, and after that Google changed what Android One meant and HMD became the lead partner for the Android One and Android Enterprise Recommended programmes (though I note that HMD did not release the first "new Android One" phone, I think that was Xiaomi). To HMD, this Google endorsement of their approach confirms that it's a good thing, they just need to continue to work on getting the importance across to consumers, that a Nokia smartphone really "Just Keeps Getting Better".
    Finally, On the subject of China-specific software, Francesco asked if they could bring some of the features there to the global software and unfortunately Pekka did not tell us they are considering this, contrary to what Juho suggested in Dubai. He noted that the share of the global smartphone market which China has is greater in value than in volume, so it is actually worthwhile for them to make regional customisations for that market.

    Phew! That took way longer than I expected! I hope it was worthwhile, I hope that I managed to convey to you how interested Pekka was in spending time with us, how open he was and how genuinely enthusiastic and emotionally attached he is to Nokia phones. Maybe I didn't, but trust me, I'm sure this is the feeling that all of us left the room with. @EnjoyLogy, @Francesco Bacchini, @radu and @TommiS please correct anything I've got wrong and add any of your own thoughts and memories :)
    I hope that writing this encourages HMD to continue their programme of engaging with the community, inviting our members to their events and gets them to join in discussions with us more on the forum - it is worth it!
    Cheers :smiley:
  • Muser Muser
    ✭✭✭  / 
    Thanks for sharing! The comment about "voice" usage is interesting and I guess it makes sense, a smartphone can be daunting especially for first time users. A conversation is natural and can allow just about any user to access advanced features.

    I still think they might be over-estimating the value of "stock Android" to the average consumer, especially in competitive markets like India where OS offerings (in addition to support) seem to be what makes or breaks manufacturers. Motorola gets this right IMO, they provide a stock Android experience but make OEM apps (gallery, an assistant, OS customizations, etc) available via Google Play for users that want more than stock.
  • madbilly madbilly
    Super User  / 
    Thanks @Muser :smiley:
    Yes there are many on the forum that think Android One is not a good strategy, including me, but then we can't see the sales figures and revenue!
    I would prefer a Nokia-ised variant of the UI, because right now I don't feel like I have a Nokia, I feel like I have a generic Android.
    Cheers :)
  • Muser Muser
    ✭✭✭  / 
    madbilly said:
    Thanks @Muser :smiley:
    Yes there are many on the forum that think Android One is not a good strategy, including me, but then we can't see the sales figures and revenue!
    I would prefer a Nokia-ised variant of the UI, because right now I don't feel like I have a Nokia, I feel like I have a generic Android.
    Cheers :)
    The general public does have estimates from analysts and Nokia smartphone sales seem to be declining. I'd post a link but for some reason my posts get blocked when I do that. If you go to NokiaMob and search for "HMD shipped more than 16 million Nokia phones in Q1 2019" you'll see the article I'm referring to.
  • madbilly madbilly
    Super User  / 
    Hi @Muser,
    Yes I know there are estimates. I didn't explain myself well, what I meant was revenue and profit per sale, because even if Android One isn't the most popular strategy it may generate most profit for HMD. Still I don't think it will be good in the long term unless Google become somehow dependent on HMD and I can't really see how that could happen, unless Trump stops Android sales to Samsung as well! :D.
    Cheers :)
  • madbilly madbilly
    Super User  / 
    Hi all,
    So I learnt via Nokiamob that it's been announced that @pekka rantala will be leaving HMD later this year. HMD didn't announce this, it was announced by the company which he will be joining (I forget the name). I have to say I find this somewhat disappointing, considering what he told us of how he felt working for Nokia phones again. It's not clear whether Pekka is leaving voluntarily or under duress and I suppose we will never know.
    Most interesting will be how this changes the marketing approach for HMD and who will take over responsibility for this and whether anyone else will take over the role of senior VP of HMD (I read this as deputy to Florian Seiche).
    Whoever it is, they need to be able to speak about Nokia with the same feeling which Pekka did.
    Cheers :)
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