Sunday, March 12, 2017

Old Phones Making a Comeback

The launch of the revamped Nokia 3310 handset, 17 years after its debut, and unveiling of a new Android-powered Blackberry with an old-school physical keyboard show how phone companies are using nostalgia to their advantage.

Looking Back For A Better Future.

With new product launches in the technology and communications markets, it’s often the case that the styling, as well as the features, is forward looking. Unfortunately, this can mean that competing products can look similar and many of the positive associations that people have with older models can be lost. Particularly with the re-vamped Nokia 3310 re-launch, and with the new Android-powered Blackberry, mobile phone companies appear to be trying to achieve ‘contrast’ and therefore grab attention and headlines and re-ignite positive past associations.

Customers are, therefore, being offered two things in one - modern features, coupled with a styling and simplicity that they have emotional (and therefore engaging) connections with.

The Nokia 3310

The new version of the Nokia 3310 (unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona) is actually being released under licence by Finnish start-up HMD Global because Nokia now manufactures telecoms equipment but doesn’t actually make phones.

Nevertheless, Nokia's original 3310 was the first mass-market mobile, and by re-introducing a version of it (updated inside), HMD Global could expect to take advantage of “Restorative nostalgia” (refer Svetlana Boym) i.e. a kind of positive rebuilding of a ‘nostos’ or lost brand (and brand values) home in the minds of customers.

In terms of the features it offers, users may be most impressed by its long battery life, as the colour-screened phone has up to a month's standby time, and can deliver more than 22 hours of talk time.

Technical commentators have pointed out that users may be less impressed by its 2.5G connectivity, relatively small range of apps, and two megapixel camera. Some commentators have already pigeon-holed it a kind of ‘holiday phone’ i.e. one that is just for essential but would spend most of its time turned off.

One thing the new 3310 has been very successful at is grabbing attention and headlines.

The Blackberry.

The newly unveiled Blackberry, which is also being made under licence (by Chinese phone-maker TCL Communication) is using similar visual tactics by having an older look and a physical keyboard. Tapping into the strong brand values of the Blackberry glory days makes a lot of sense when trying to revive a brand.

What Does This Mean To Your Business?

If you’re a phone retailer for example, these models may be good attention grabbers for your business and may perform well in terms of sales, perhaps attracting older or less technically knowledgeable customers to your store. For any other business, this story illustrates how powerful old, positive, product and brand associations can be in terms of nostalgia, and emotional engagement. This is often the reason why many companies re-release old adverts that remind customers of the company’s history, and of their own associations with a well-loved brand. Simplicity and ease of use are also things that customers like e.g. an old-style keypad phone. Simple products can be non-threatening, attractive, and can enable customers to more easily their advantages.

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