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12:19AM

Reviewing the Nokia Lumia 900 review strategy

Today – I believe, Nokia and AT&T released the Nokia Lumia 900 for public consumption.SuperNova Judge

Coincident with that have been quite a few reviews delivered online and in print. The coincidental timing of the deluge of reviews leads me to believe (again) that there was an embargo on those reviews, and that the embargo expired today sometime.

As a result, there has been, as I mentioned earlier, a deluge of posts on the worthiness of the product. The mobiles-focused sites have generally done bang-up and fair efforts regarding the product. Some of the tech sites have also given it a fair shake, reviewing the product on its own, as part of the Windows Phone family, and with respect to the iconic market leader, the Apple iPhone.

What is quite infuriating however, is the sheer number of blog posts and tweets today by people I would kindly class as uninformed jackasses.

These people, lacking any technological prowess to sufficiently review a product resorted to what they do best: SEO and link-baiting reviews.

I was not, and I am not fooled.

As their tweets came across my desk while I was trying to work today, I glanced at the headlines, and compartmentalized them as the trash I was sure they were and are.

I didn’t take the [link] bait!

It would be quite easy to just blame the writers for their stories, but it would mask the couple of issues wrong with the Lumia 900 launch, namely,

  1. Large-scale embargos,
  2. Inept marketing by AT&T, and equally inept, out-of-character marketing by Nokia,
  3. Microsoft reverting to “Bad Microsoft” and seemingly using the team and/or playbook from the failed Zune and Windows Vista launches, and
  4. The potential for the wrong perceptions to become [a distorted] reality.

“Say what now?” you may ask.

Let me explain.

The problem with large-scale embargos for a contender to a market leader

There are times when large-scale embargos work: when there is news that you want to blast all over the planet. For such events, getting a group of self-involved journalists – I have included bloggers and social media twitterers here, with apologies to my journalist friends – to work in lockstep requires the creation and enforcement of a strict embargo, as attempting to keep a large group on message is akin to attempting to herd cats.

Unfortunately the reverse is true when a physical product launch and and attendant reviews drop.

Why is this?

All of a sudden, you have competing websites, publications, and media outlets going after the same eyeballs. To differentiate their reviews, and drive traffic or revenue to their respective properties, a vocal subset of these embargoed folks then decide to play an unethical game of “who can pan this product/device the most”.

It is a game most foul!

So why do companies do it?

Simply, laziness.

What these lazy companies do is look at traffic numbers and decide that they must be in the game over there, because, as the bank robber once said, “that’s where the money is!” A Microserf once told me that as well, when I asked it about the fails surrounding Zune marketing.

However, it soon becomes a zero-sum game. Because the media outlets are looking out for number one, they feel they can perform a follow-up to the piece when the world has proven them wrong. I will give these people the benefit of the doubt, and not insinuate that they are tying to ingratiate themselves with the market leader.

Disbelieve me?

Look at Apple.

For all their product launches, they make sure that the distribution list for unreleased product is limited to (external Apple employees?) Mossberg and Pogue. Period.

As dutiful vassals, they take the product(s) through their paces – supposedly – and always return with fawning reviews.

Making me believe if it was iTurd, they would call it the best ever.

While I don’t advocate such a tight distribution list, I think the distribution list can be a lot smaller, with the engagement of informed reviewers and sites. Funny enough, Microsoft does stuff like this for the Windows Server product, bringing people to reviewer’s workshops that showcase the product(s), letting the reviewers’ experience and constituency to then guide their reviews.

Microsoft is not alone in doing this. HP does it, and the old AMD used to hold workshops before...well, before…

Seems simple, but there you are.

Inept marketing by AT&T, and equally inept, out-of-character marketing by Nokia
Does anyone remember a memorable ad about Lumia 900 that they saw prior to today? Or anyone since then?

Me neither.

Does it bode well for the fortunes of Lumia 900?

What does it say about the approach to marketing by AT&T and Nokia?

AT&T can be forgiven. After all, they are a mobile-telco, and used to using a cudgel to get people to buy their wares, often because they have no choice based on the near monopolies mobile telcos enjoy in these United States.

Nokia however, cannot be forgiven for this gaffe. They are a true multinational corporation. They compete with other mobiles OEMs in shark-infested waters, especially when they are in competition from low-cost manufacturers from the Orient.

As successful as they have been globally, Nokia has faltered here in America. You would think that they would have learned the error of their ways, and put together a team that would take their impressive investments in Windows Phone to a higher, financially successful level.

They haven’t.

Microsoft reverting to “Bad Microsoft” and seemingly using the team and/or playbook from the failed Zune and Windows Vista launches
Microsoft. //groan// O, Microsoft!

In the Zune era, the (for want of a better word) idiots running marketing for the device looked at the biggest loudmouths in the mainstream and social media communities, and decided that because of the traffic those people had, they would send them Zune devices, and hope for the better.

That strategy, also known as throwing crap at the wall in order to see if any globule is sticky, is almost always doomed to fail.

I remember reading a ‘review’ from one of the people Microsoft gifted with the device.

The reviewer was named Om Malik.

His objectivity was apparent. You can also understand why I thoroughly discount anything he does today.

Completely!

Not at any time, did Microsoft read deep into the various Zune enthusiast communities back then to find people who knew enough about the product to be informational, and create their own [Zune] media heroes. They just keep on trying to change the closed minds of these numbskulls to no avail.

The result?

Zune failed.

Woefully.

In fact, I would wager that the silly-named and technically inferior German MP3 player, the I.Beat Blaxx, probably sold more copies than Zune!

The same error was repeated with Windows Vista

Microsoft woke up for Windows 7, and I/we thought Microsoft had finally seen the marketing light, and turned the corner.

Nevertheless, they seem to be making the same mistakes again.

They have proceeded to seed the punditry with Lumia 900 products based solely on some nebulous metrics, and not as a result of the technological savvy of the selected sites.

It is quite appalling for me to read constantly of several Windows Phone, and indeed, Mobile devices MVPs using their own funds to purchase Windows Phone units. Meanwhile, uninvolved members of the mainstream and social media received the phones, and resorted to point #1 above.

On what planet does that make sense?

Evidently, it makes perfect sense at #1, Microsoft Way in Redmond, Washington.

The potential for the false & wrong perceptions to become [a distorted] reality
Somebody – I don’t remember who – once said, and I paraphrase: “if a lie is spoken with enough authority and repetition, it then becomes [perceived] as the truth, no matter what the truth is.”

A modern day manifestation of that phenomenon is the current birther situation in the political United States.

Thanks to the turdheads at Fox News, the oft-repeated mantra the President Obama is not an American has not only gotten a foothold, but completely engulfed the imaginations of the weak in our society. As a result, you hear people who should know better, including several physicians I know, ask themselves the question, or try to illuminate me into believing their delusion: that the President is a secret Kenyan, a secret Moslem, or whatever their feeble minds have glommed onto.

Don’t worry, I studiously avoid these well-read, but obviously unintelligent humanoid bipeds.

Coming back to the matter at hand, a serious barrier to success for the not just Lumia 900, but all of Nokia, and by proxy, Microsoft, is the gap between unfounded and untrue perceptions, and the reality of their entwined offerings.

I was going to write something, but blogger Romit Mehta, beat me to the punch with his excellent analysis of this issue in his blog post titled The Problem with Reviewing the Nokia Lumia 900.

In fact, I was moved to write this after reading his article.

I cannot add anything to this point that he has not covered.

Conclusions
Microsoft and not just its Windows Phone, but also all its partners in general, have to wake up to the fact that they are now the underdogs.

Their silly practice of looking at traffic numbers as a determinant for who gets advance information and review materials have to change, especially if they are to improve the fortunes of Windows Phone, and deliver Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 with a bang. Appealing to the self-appointed cognoscenti is a failed strategy.

The mainstream and social media types they currently pamper do absolutely nothing for them, and they have to make a concerted effort to recreate a genuine, and authentic groundswell that would help them to prosper enough to be a formidable competitor to the false perceptions they have to overcome.

Barring that, we just might be writing an appropriate epitaph for Microsoft a year from today just as we are mentally writing the ones we would like to publish for the likes of Yahoo! and RIM.

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Reader Comments (2)

Determinant for who gets advance information and review materials have to change, especially if they are to improve the fortunes of Windows Phone, and deliver Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 with a bang. Appealing to the self-appointed
April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStage Hypnotist
Spot on, Sir!

While you don't want front-runners skewing the review into a lovefest, it behooves the OEMs to seek out impartial, yet knowledgeable reviewers.
April 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterJohn Obeto

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