No, Nokia! Market Share Doesn’t Determine Mindset.

In an AdAge article released this morning, Nokia CMO Tuula Rytila discusses the new spirit of marketing that apparently exists inside the mobile giant’s hallways.

Nokia Challenger Brands
Connecting fewer people, lately.

According to the article, Nokia’s sales plunged by 22% in 2012. To hear Ms. Rytila tell it, that’s a fabulous thing, because now everyone’s head is right. She says:

“For years we were the leader in the industry. When a leader is [at the top] for a long time, naturally we have more to lose and become more defensive. Now we actually get to act like a challenger. It’s quite natural, and we’re having a lot of fun with it. We want to be more bold in our approach, and [we want] a global brand as well.”

If Ms. Rytila’s statement reflects reality, it’s as good an explanation as any for why Nokia fell so far, so fast.

Should you find yourself at the top of your particular mountain, a few thoughts:

“Defensive” is rarely the way to play it, even if it feels safer to management. Sales and customers don’t magically regenerate on their own. You earn them every day. That means playing offense, and most importantly, continually finding new and better ways to serve.

Always “act like a challenger,” even if you’re at the top.  You should be thinking about where the world is headed, not struggling to maintain the status quo. Kodak’s tailspin is one massive example of this “status focus” instead of “future focus.” (It also illustrates the difference between internal category definitions and actual consumer frameworks.) True market leaders continue to show leadership thinking and behavior.

Time will tell if a new marketing focus is all Nokia needs to change its fortunes. (They also seem to suffer from deficient products. When’s the last time you heard a friend rave about his new Nokia phone?) But the historical record is pretty clear: Few that slip from the top successfully make it back.

The original AdAge article can be found here.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2013 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.

2 Replies to “No, Nokia! Market Share Doesn’t Determine Mindset.”

  1. Matthew, I can’t agree more with your take on this. But maybe your title ought to be: “No, Nokia! Market Share SHOULDN’T Determine YOUR Mindset”? I can appreciate the point Ms. Rytila was making, or trying to make (if we give her the benefit of the doubt). If marketshare truly was dictating Nokia’s risk-averse, defensive, and overly conservative culture, then this change in some ways can be a good thing for them. A good lesson to learn in a very tough way. Yet, like you say, a company needs to be offensive and act like a challenger constantly. It’s what got them to their level of success originally.In my past life at P&G, we occasionally would do theoretical exercises where we would challenge ourselves, for example if the need for our product or category were suddenly obsolete. What would we do?!? How would we replace millions or even a billion dollars worth of revenue? That’s the kind of offensive and challenger behavior that can help build AND maintain a leadership position.

    1. Greg, you nailed it with this line: “A company needs to be offensive and act like a challenger constantly. It’s what got them to their level of success originally.” It will be interesting to see whether Ms. Rytila’s claims of “acting like a challenger” are reserved only for their advertising, or if it’s a deeper strategic and cultural shift.And the P&G strategy exercise you describe is a valuable one – most companies fail to do ANY contingency or scenario planning, let alone in such a dramatic fashion. Good tip.Thanks for your comment!

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