Not too long ago, most technology providers marketed their products and services in similar manners- with a modicum of market research under their belts, a well thought out business and marketing plan, perhaps a media partner, and some kind of lead generation strategy. However, the rise of social networking has really changed the practice of marketing products or services. Web 2.0 platforms and the new tools being invented to mine data and report on new and potential customers, are increasingly becoming important. In this economy, it’s even more critical for companies to find, entice, gain, and then retain their customers.

Today, I sat through one of Nokia’s many “Nokia Talks” webcasts for analysts — this one entitled “Nokia Marketing,” by Pekka Somerto, VP of on-line sales and marketing.  Nokia’s brand’s been increasing in strength in many areas of the world, especially in emerging markets, while it continues to have challenges in North America. Over the last two years, the Finnish mobile phone and services vendor’s been reducing its marketing focus to fewer and bigger media campaigns. You could dismiss it as current economic conditions, but it’s also due to a changing customer landscape. Larger, targeted traditional media campaigns still help solidify a brand and its message across a demographic. However, Web 2.0 marketing efforts are now increasingly combined with online and traditional campaigns to provide a more comprehensive and consistent marketing approach across multiple channels. And as Nokia recognizes, the way to build brands has truly changed with the merging of TV-led broadcasting and word-of-mouth social media-led interactions.

Marketers today need to deal with even more customer complexities when building and elevating their brands. Many of the steps they may have gone through in the past need to be reordered. You used to build your product or service, create demand, grow market share, and then retain those customers and get new ones while increasing customer loyalty. But in this world of Facebook, Twitter, and Apple’s iPhone, more emphasis is put on executing a successful first launch, rather than the older approach of versioning your product or service until customers eventually catch on (like by version 3.0?).  Differentiation is still key as you market your product or service, but so is playing to people’s emotions, exciting them, as well as others who touch your brand as it reaches customers’ hands (mobile operators, service providers, distribution channels).

Creating buzz pre-launch on a Web 2.0 platform is now a marketing requirement. Nokia still believes that one of its marketing roles is to add premium. That may be fine if you’re a large brand with a lot to lose, but if you are just starting out, you need to create and deliver value. I’d also argue that many of today’s big brands need to increasingly find ways to add value and solve the common problems that people have. Today’s economic climate does not give brands the luxury to solve problems that people can’t see. I still run across many companies mentioning this in their marketing pitches today — “well, we’re creating solutions for problems that consumers didn’t even know they had yet,” as one product marketing manager recently said to me. Today, with any product or service, the role of marketing is to deliver value, solve a perceived problem, and not just increase sales, but also retain customers and build loyalty. Those are the fundamentals.

-Randy Giusto