#BrandSaga: Nokia- A resounding success story of 'Connecting People'

Sneha Yadav
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The only one time people probably adored snakes was when it appeared as one of our favourite games on Nokia 3310. From the classic Nokia tune to their grand comeback campaign 2017 - the Nokia advertising journey has been all about connecting people. Here's all a look at their journey…

The only one time people probably adored snakes was when it appeared as one of our favourite games on Nokia 3310. Nokia, the brand has seen us grow from that 90s kid to entering the Gen Z race. Nokia has had an era of its own when it stood as the market leader until its dismissal in 2013 only to make a comeback in 2017 like no other. And Nokia advertising journey reflects that.

Away from all the sleek and ultra slim phones, Nokia’s black and white heavy-weight handsets gave us memories for a lifetime. It came, it conquered, it vanished and it came back again. This week’s Brand Saga goes up, close and personal with Nokia's India’s journey to glory.

Nokia starts the journey to be the ‘People’s Brand’

A year after India welcomed private organisations in the telecom sector and distributed cellular services licenses, Nokia grabbed the opportunity in 1995.

The first phone call on a cellphone in India was made on a Nokia handset through Nokia network in July 1995 when Jyoti Basu, the then CM of West Bengal Chief had ringed then Union Telecom Minister Sukhram in New Delhi.


"My first phone was a Nokia phone. This was when making a call cost Rs. 16, and was a privilege. Having a Nokia phone was a privilege too!" quipped

Rohan Mehta, CEO - Social Kinnect when quizzed about his fondest memories with the brand.

Though we couldn't get hold of the  TVC, the very first time Nokia India had struck the right chord was when it rolled out its very first ‘Maa’ commercial in 1997 urging people to buy mobile phones to give their dear mom a call , and thus the journey to be a ‘People’s Brand and ‘Connecting People’ was kicked off.

Prepping up for ‘Made In India’

At this time, major brands were aiming to integrate ‘patriotism’ in their products; Nokia in 1998 touched millions of  Indian hearts when it launched ‘Saare Jahan Se Acha’ ringtone on a Nokia 5110 handset. Prior to this, it had already garnered a massive fan following for its classic Snake game.

Nokia ’s many moves like introducing the first phone with a user menu in Hindi in 2000 to launching its first Made in India Nokia 1100 showed its affinity towards the country and its apt sense of understanding market sentiments.   Nokia 1100 is the best selling phone yet, selling over 250 million devices. At its peak, the company sold 475 Million devices back in 2008.

Adapting to variant specific advertising

Later for its variants like Nokia 3110 classic, Nokia 1600 colour, the brand created different campaigns suiting the features of the product. For instance, one TVC shows how a nokia device with mega zoom properties has captured every moment gone wrong in a couple date featuring a goat. with

Spreading the colourful vibes with Nokia 1600 colour phone

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Nokia-  Straighten Up showed the world the importance of  a speaker phone and Nokia got to be the problem solver.

Nokia turns into Jeevan Ki Dor

Another one communicating a similar feature took an emotional route to portray the bond that connects a man with his entire family.

In 2007, Nokia roped in JWT (Now Wundermann Thompson) to handle it’s creative account and also worked with several smaller agencies during the course. Nokia’s advertising strategy had a  mass appeal and kept the middle class happy because it was now able to afford the luxury of the elite class.

Seeing India’s increased interest into Nokia Phones and the vibrant market, the company announced global launch of Nokia Asha - the device which was specially curated for ‘Bharat Ki Janta’.  The commercials added a hefty dose of youth and fun.

According to research agency ORG Gfk, Nokia's market share, as of February 2006, was a staggering 78.8 per cent. Relatively, Samsung's was 6.4 per cent.

The ‘Celebrity’ Factor

Nokia had started facing the heat of the competition. To counter it, the company roped in Bollywood superstars like Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra.

Share your special Nokia moments

PeeCee’s Tag and upload challenge

King Khan’s association with Nokia has been a long standing one. We still cant forget his face when his Nokia Lumia 920  was unabashedly thrown into a river from the train by Minamma’s brothers. The brand leveraged the popularity of SRK so much that Nokia was also the official partner of his IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders.

Putting some light on Nokia's advertising strategy, Rohan Mehta shared, With the re-entry of Nokia into the Indian market in 2018 and its announcement that it was profitable again, got me to re-examine why Nokia had such a monopoly over the Indian market. Even in the early 2000s, competition to Nokia existed. (Remember Motorola, creator of the trendy flip phones?) Why, then, did Nokia stand strong for so long?"

A solid advertising strategy could be part of the answer.

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Wward winning ‘Nokia Recycle - Planet Ke Rakhwale’

Nokia India , in 2008, took upon itself to take care of e-waste management in the country. According to DownToEarth, after the pilot campaign, Nokia launched its “Planet Ke Rakhwale” take-back and recycling campaign in September 2009, which extended pan India.

An intensive media campaign was undertaken on TV, radio and print, featuring the Shahrukh Khan. The campaign aimed to inspire young minds and spread the recycling message. The film won Effies Gold, NDTV Greenies and an internal Nokia award in Finland.

The Nokia ‘Fall’

According to Voice and Data, Nokia dropped a rank to be placed at number two behind Samsung during the last financial year with a 27.2% market share with a significant 18% drop in revenue.

In September 2013, Microsoft announced its purchase of the Mobile Devices division of Nokia, which included a selection of patents and trademarks such as Lumia and Asha. Nokia kept its Networks and Services and Advanced Technologies divisions as well as it's brand, but its future as a smartphone manufacturer remained completely uncertain.


The report cited that Nokia’s drop in market share (in India) started when the company failed to sense the need of a dual-SIM phone. Nokia’s choice to go with Microsoft Windows software for its smartphones, rather than Google’s Android platform, left potential customers with too little choice. Nokia’s Lumia series phones, which witnessed huge growth globally in the initial phases after its launch, did not draw much attention in India.

The hits and the misses

Nokia claims to have attained leadership in the segment, on the back of a more intuitive and user-friendly product. It also introduced ‘Funny Pammi Aunty’ . Directed by Bauddhayan Mukherji (Buddy), the film had 1.6 million YouTube hits within the first 3 weeks.

ET quoted  Viral Oza, Director – Marketing at Nokia saying that the company is very open about it’s shortcomings. “We don’t see why we should not be open about our strengths. ‘Blown away by Lumia’ was us just being ourselves. Over the years KKR’s performance has not been sterling but they went from strength to strength and Nokia has too.”

Nokia’s Comeback Challenge

As promised, Nokia in 2017 was ready to hit the market and what better to drive nostalgia by throwing snake challenge. Nokia relaunched its iconic 3310 phone in the market and with it rolled out a #MakeSnake challenge.

Reviving the ‘Maa’ bond it created with it’s very first campaign in India, Nokia returned to the market after a gap of two years with a newer version, titled, Mom’s Bothie’ and #UniteForLove for Nokia 8. Conceptualised by Dentsu One and directed by Amit Sharma of Chrome Pictures, #UniteFor series was launched around Diwali and aimed at re-connecting people.

“We thought it was important that a brand that showed all of us the way to connect, could also remind us that technology has the power to both unite as well as make people feel disconnected,” shared Jyotsna Makkar, head of marketing, HMD Global (India).


"A lot of international brands were involved in taking Indian habits closer to the evolving globalist culture. One of these brands is Nokia - they were instrumental in introducing the mobile phone to the subcontinent. The first phone that most people in this nation used after their landline, was a Nokia," shared Shrenik Gandhi, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, White Rivers Media.

He added, "Their old ads are product-based or feature-based, so they don't fall into the 'iconic Indian advertising' bracket... Their impact has been more in making mobiles affordable for India, than in advertising campaigns. Lastly, let's remember: Snake was never a desktop game."

My Way or Alia-Way

To launch it's second Diwali campaign, Nokia roped in Alia Bhatt owing to her strong connection with today’s generation who are multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, multi-achievers.

The key thought behind the film was that Nokia phones are not just restricted to a particular category of audiences but it is for all.

Alia 'Connects People' with Nokia

The 'Digital' Pro Nokia

In a 2014 interview, Viral Oza, ex-CMO, Nokia India boasts of being

successful in terms of engaging
core audience in the digital space. "The fact that Nokia is the third largest Facebook community in India and the only mobile handset brand with around 10 million fans is a testimony to the fact that we understand what the youth wants today. sees 12 million unique users a month, and our average monthly online reach is 70 million Indians. On Twitter, we have about 0.15 million followers; Nokia Google Plus has 0.525 million followers and Nokia YouTube has crossed 28.5 million views."

From devising social media specific campaigns like 'Trendify' to asking people to create their own apps with

'Your Wish Is My App' - Nokia India has been successful in keeping the buzz on in the digital verse.

The then Managing Director of Nokia India D Shivakumar had once said that the consumer can live without most things, but he can’t live without a Nokia cellphone. And Nokia ads played an important role at that...

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