N97 24/7 Tour Wrap-up: Was it worth it?

Guerrilla Marketing

This will be my last post about last month’s N97 24/7 Tour of the USA. And it’s a biggy.

Was the tour a success? For me, absolutely. Beyond the free ride and fancy accommodation it almost single-handedly validated all the blogging I’ve been doing since 2001. I met a whole bunch of like-minded folks, made lifelong friends and rubbed shoulders with some bona fide blogging celebrities. As for my resume… Well, I’ve put rockstar blogger there, whether I’m worthy of the title or not. ;)

But what about Nokia and their flagship N97?

They clearly poured many buckets of money into this campaign, and from where I sat I’m not entirely sure if it was a success for them or not.

George, Jon, Matt and I joined many others behind the scenes in trying to make this thing work. But there were some frustrations along the way…

Bloggers Need Time to Blog

Sleepin' on the Subway

This was the single biggest issue on the tour for me. While Twitter and Qik proved to be stellar tools at capturing moments on the move, neither has the Google Juice that only an olde tyme blog post with text and links can provide.

But finding time for said blogging proved almost impossible for the few first days in Los Angeles, due to a variety of factors which basically boiled down to strangers getting to know each other and trying to figure out a game plan on their feet, without stepping on each other’s toes.

We eventually hit our stride midway through San Francisco, with city-specific challenges that we could split up and do by day, then blog about it by night. The downside of that LA felt like a beta product rushed to market.

Marketing Disconnect

N97 24/7 Media Strategy

Had someone ponied up for a PR firm and done a little extra legwork ahead of time we probably could have made the local news in at least one of the cities we visited. Instead our media strategy looked like this — names drawn out of a hat.

Of course we all wanted to be celebrities wherever we went, but in this particular case an entire day was spent pursuing old media outlets, which had a nagging feeling like a lost cause.

It was all to drum up attendees for the Mobile Camps we hosted in every city but New York. Matt Bennett was able to tap into his MobileTron community in San Francisco; I tried my damnedest to get people from The Chicago Second City to come out, and failed.

Preaching to the Choir?

PseudoFinn's Tricked-out Netbook

The Mobile Camps were largely successful, I think. We never reached the capacity of 35 attendees at any one event, but those who came brought lots of insight, opinion and devices to share.

But, largely because of our failure to make an impression on the local old guard old media, there weren’t a lot what we call “normobs” there — that is, normal mobile users who could stand to benefit from hands-on time with a high-functioning Nokia device.

Nokia really has their work cut out for them in North America. For starters, every carrier in the U.S. has their flagship handset — the iPhone for AT&T, the Palm Pre for Sprint, the G1 for T-Mobile and the BlackBerry Storm for Verizon. Though AT&T now carries their own version of Nokia’s E71, there is arguably no place for the N97 in any carrier’s lineup.

Nokia is doing what they can to address this, with flagship stores selling unlocked devices in Chicago and New York City. They’ve also produced a video trying to school North Americans on the benefits of an unlocked mobile:

But with the mindset of most normobs being something along the lines of: “What can I get for ninety-nine dollars?”, maybe Nokia is better off going after actual rock stars and secret agents — those with deeper pockets, as I suggested in a previous post.

It all sounds pretty grim for Nokia in North America, doesn’t it? Almost like they should have never bothered in the first place? Well, not so fast…

Here’s The Thing

Nokia’s outreach to bloggers around the world is unlike anything else on offer from any other manufacturer. The “pro” blogs and bloggers bash Nokia and the N97 specifically (I won’t name names, but I’m looking at you and you). Might this be because they don’t want to jeopordize their relationship with another handset maker (I’m talking about you) that’s known to be a bit of a bully when it comes to the press?

Nokia on the other hand seems perfectly willing to take its lumps. Bloggers are sent trial devices and are urged to provide honest feedback. And though my way was paid across the United States I myself was most certainly was not, lest what I write here be taken as lip service to a certain handset maker in Finland.

So while Nokia users in North America may be relatively small in number it seems that there is nonetheless a genuine respect for us and what we have to say.

I probably won’t end up purchasing an N97 of my own, but I picked up another Nseries handset this week — the N79. I’ve also got my eye on the just-released N86. I’m holding out for a white one.

Further down the road I’m watching the Symbian Foundation with great interest. This open-source mobile OS for Nokia (and other) devices seems like a perfect companion for my Linux netbook.

And all this talk of Nokia being doomed? From where I’m sitting, I just don’t see it.

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About Andrew

Mobile phones, Linux and copyright reform. Those go together, right?
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5 Responses to N97 24/7 Tour Wrap-up: Was it worth it?

  1. Roy says:

    If Nokia wanted to target Normal Mobile Users and not blogging geeks than they should have used more traditional marketing methods. I would imagine that Normal Mobile Users don’t read blogs about mobile devices and their only source of info on the latest handset is from the local Carriers shop. Or maybe the idea was right but the product was not?

    • I would imagine that Normal Mobile Users don’t read blogs about mobile devices and their only source of info on the latest handset is from the local Carriers shop

      This is exactly right, and is why Nokia has to first sell the idea of unlocked handsets to North America before they can move any significant number of handsets here.

      To be fair, the flagship store in NYC was surprisingly busy when we visited…

  2. D says:

    followed your progress virtually. my 2 yrs just up w/ VZW, thinkin’ time to up from a RAZR, they’ve been blitzing me for their smartphones- it’s like snail mail/week now. was gonna pull the trigger on the iphone, but seeing your adventures there, now 2nd thoughts…

    Nokia really needs pair up w/ a carrier- what if Nokia goes w/ the budget carriers: Metro for example? that would be in line w/ their dominance in the developing world. In the Philippines, for example: “what’s an iphone?” but I saw farmers tilling w/ carabaos texting on Nokias. My aunt (w/ T-mobile) even brought back a Nokia from ‘Pinas.

    btw, that Oaktown invite still hella stands…

    • Re: The invite, good to know! :D

      I’m not sure about the U.S., but there are plenty of low-end Nokia phones available on-contract through carriers in Canada — I don’t think this does much for their street cred against the iPhone, though… And I think this campaign did show that they’re serious about increasing the visibility of their high-end phones here.

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