Maximum mobility

'At first, we were targeting everyone. Canadians thought we were a Japanese company and not sure what products we brought to market,' says Grace Belmonte, Nokia Canada's director of marketing. So she created a mobile phone road show.

‘At first, we were targeting everyone. Canadians thought we were a Japanese company and not sure what products we brought to market,’ says Grace Belmonte, Nokia Canada’s director of marketing. So she created a mobile phone road show.

But that’s just one piece of an innovative ad strategy that has helped Nokia Canada achieve a forceful marketing presence, especially in the last year. And it all comes courtesy of the deft hand of Belmonte and her team, who, by upping the cool factor and honing in on the choosy youth market, has taken brand awareness from a low of 60% in 1998 to the 90s of today.

While the focus on youth has been part

of a wider North American strategy for

Nokia, Belmonte drives how the company speaks to that demo here. And she has been adept at not only putting Nokia into the hands of consumers – a strategy based on the insight, culled through research, that consumers may not get the opportunity to experience Nokia phones firsthand – but also picking the

right partners to reach fickle kids, and pushing traditional media campaigns to be as

engaging as possible.

In January for instance, youth got to take part in the Nokia Sno Hunt contest that ran during the FIS Snowboard World Championships, (which Nokia has sponsored for the past seven years) in Whistler, B.C. The event, considered a prelude to the 2010 Olympics – snowboarding is really the only sport that appeals to the fringe at the Games – is recognized internationally and lured more than 50,000 fans this year,

the first time the event has been held in

North America.

Rick Shaver, VP and partner at The Hive Strategic Marketing, which designed the Sno Hunt, says the event backdrop was key to reaching the fast-moving teen category. ‘The imagery around snowboarding is very leading-edge, attractive and interesting to youth,’ he says. ‘To have

that property culminating in Canada and to use it as impactful was an exciting opportunity,

and Grace wanted more than just a

hospitality tent and stage signage.’ The contest leveraged the popularity of reality shows

in an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt

that used text message clues to locate

double gold-winning snowboarder

Jasey-Jay Anderson.

Shaver lauds Belmonte’s ability to encourage consumer interaction with the brand. ‘Grace understands the importance of being an enduring brand and recognized the power of key touchpoints to hipify Nokia,’ he says. ‘It’s not just about winning at retail; she knew that the World Championships were a big opportunity and that we could take this property to young consumers in a hip, cool way. She’s an innovative marketer who knows how to generate the right kind of awareness with the youth market that is the future of her business.’

Similarly, last July’s Nokia Playground Tour – an interactive, traveling display equipped with the Nokia N-Gage mobile gaming deck – also visited key youth events. Some of these, other marketers may never have heard of, such as Wakestock, a music and sport festival

around wakeboarding (like snowboarding but

on water). Nokia also tapped into edgy music concerts such as Canadian punk revivalists Billy Talent.

Developed with Toronto-based Youthography, the Playground Tour was a hit (the tour achieved close to 44,000 consumer intercepts and over 10,000 data acquisition entries), so Belmonte and her team made it bigger. Renamed the Mobile MVMNT (‘Movement’) Tour, the roaming exhibit comprises a 22-foot-long futuristic-themed trailer fitted with plasma screens, DVD system and LCD TVs where visitors can try out various Nokia handsets and their features, including wave messaging and personalized phone covers. It hits popular ski and snowboard resorts across Canada through April.

Says Belmonte: ‘Our drive with sponsorships and promotions is: ‘How do we get this product into the hands of the consumer and get them using the features of the handsets as well?’ You have to make sure the message is consistent and that people are seeing it in different places,’ she asserts. ‘People are going to get [the most out of it] where they’re more comfortable. We bring the technology to consumers, basically.’

This spirit of connection and engagement was realized in Nokia’s ‘Say Hello Toronto’ promotion last December. In order

to educate consumers about picture messaging, Belmonte, along with The Media Company, devised an initiative where

Nokia teams roamed the streets of downtown Toronto taking pictures with handsets and then picture-messaged the images

to the giant video screens of Dundas Square and other key locations. More than 37,000 people were exposed to the campaign and 14,000 interacted with the brand. ‘Once people realized what was happening and they saw themselves on the big screen, they got very excited,’ says Belmonte. ‘It was a larger-than-life demonstration of how Nokia technology instantly connects people.’

But unlike other marketers, Belmonte

doesn’t believe interactivity should be limited to promotions and events. Rick Kemp,

ECD at Grey Canada, Nokia’s AOR since

last June, points to Nokia’s subway dominations in Toronto for the 3205 handset and the N-Gage mobile gaming device. Not settling for the unremarkable print ads the agency had created in other markets for the Ashen game on N-Gage, Belmonte

challenged Kemp and his team to really create a stir with Torontonians during the 2004 Christmas season.

‘Grace pushed us to an idea that was really interactive,’ he says. ‘She basically challenged us to do something that was outside the box. She was looking for something that would create some noise and make some impact around the launch of the game.’ In turn, the agency created ads of creepy yellow-eyed aliens that dominated subway cars last December and seemingly whispered and physically surrounded subway riders. And consumers seemed to like them: the alien boards suspiciously disappeared from subway cars during the campaign’s run.

Belmonte also called upon Grey to create a branding campaign that captured the essence of the global premise, ‘Connecting people’ while getting on the youth radar. The result was a fashion-forward outdoor campaign featuring stylized images of beautiful hipsters, one with an emphasis on music, the other focusing on people connecting. ‘To craft a campaign like that, there’s quite a bit of back and forth,’ says Kemp. ‘Grace was continuing to push us. She champions the thinking within her own organization and is great at championing our work.’

Some would say Belmonte has a knack for getting the most out of her partners. Lillian Tepera, Belmonte’s former boss at Nokia, praises her ability to work effectively with channel carriers such as Bell, Telus and Rogers, while still maintaining the integrity of Nokia. ‘Consumers’ perception can be skewed by the service providers,’ she says. ‘You need to be able to work with them and strike that balance, while maintaining the uniqueness of the brand. It’s a challenge to do that and she just gets it.’

One such recent example, a subway domination effort for the 3205 phone created by Grey, successfully marries Telus’s chameleon imagery with the slickness of Nokia’s phones. The effort features cutout phones on leopard printed and tattooed backgrounds. ‘We partner with our carriers on our initiatives so that expectations are met on both sides,’ says Belmonte. ‘We work hand-in-hand with them to develop stories around those handsets and how the product will look in market.’

To further engage youth, Belmonte hopes to bring Nokia’s music platform,’Nokia Unwired’ to greater prominence in the months ahead. As a banner for sponsorships and online initiatives that seeks to connect people to their favourite music, Nokia Unwired touts access to concert tickets when you buy a Nokia phone or N-Gage, or the chance to win VIP concert access and trips such as in the recent ‘Rockstar’ contest. ‘This is just the beginning,’ says Belmonte of the North American initiative. ‘We’ll have some exciting initiatives that fall under the Nokia Unwired brand this year.’

What else does Belmonte have up her sleeve? She hopes to further the youth-minded positioning, as well as forge ahead into the Quebec market, where Nokia launched recently. At the forefront there is L’Artiste du Mois – a sponsorship program targeting youth where Nokia acts as title sponsor of a monthly showcase of local and national Quebecois music artists on the music channel MusiquePlus. And already, Nokia has achieved a surge of 9% in brand awareness in the last six months. ‘We want to continue and grow our relationship with the consumer directly and take a leadership role with technology and consumers’ understanding of it.’ Above all and perhaps not surprisingly Belmonte wants ‘people to lust after our products.’