October 06, 2003
Case Study

Nokia Tests Viral Marketing Via Bloggers to Launch New Phone

SUMMARY: Blogging is a red-hot subject, but until now we haven't been able to find data from a mainstream marketer who'd tested it. So, this is a very rare Case Study indeed.

Includes tips on how to recruit bloggers to evangelize your offering, and some fun screen-shots of Nokia's results. Enjoy.
"People are consuming media in different ways now,"
say Nokia's Manager Consumer Marketing, Bridget Ahr. "They're
not sitting in front of the TV as they used to. How could we talk
to people where they hang out?"

This spring, Ahr and her team masterminded an eclectic mix of
online and offline tactics to get the word out about Nokia's new
3650 phone. The campaign included banners on cool sites such as
Bolt.com and GameSpy, ads on desktop apps like RealPlayer, and
even buzz-marketing street teams who roamed major cities.

The 3650 is a complicated phone to explain - especially in a
brief ad like a banner - because it includes a camera and the
ability to take short movies, as well as a calendar, an
organizer, and game player.

That's a lot to get across, and frankly many consumers might not
believe product claims. "The belief is, 'Yeah it does all those
things, but it doesn't do any of them well.'"

If consumers don’t believe your message, advertising can only do
so much.

Ahr decided she needed an evangelism marketing campaign
where consumers would tell other consumers that yes, they tried
the phone's cool new functions and it really, really worked.

Who are the coolest buzz-creating consumers around these days?

Nokia's TV ads were focusing on the camera function of the 3650,
so Ahr decided to support this campaign by getting a cadre of
individual bloggers who had great personal photos on their site
to use the phone.

She wasn't sure how well the campaign would work, so she limited
the initial effort to a test of 10 bloggers.

-> Step #1. Selecting bloggers

The team found likely bloggers by surfing the Web, and also
through a third-party database, ProjectBlog.com, that recruits
bloggers for surveys.

There are more than 1,000,000 blogs on the Web, so, the team made
rules to narrow the field. Bloggers had to be:

o Over 18-years old
o Posting photographs in an innovative way, rather than
posting standard snapshots
o Not too high-tech and not a commercial Blog advertising
photography services -- had to be someone consumers
would relate to
o Not posting exclusively black and white photos
o "Cool"
o Posting on a fairly regular basis over a period of time
(many blogs are begun in a rush of enthusiasm and then
abandoned after a month or two.)

Ahr finalized the list herself, cutting her team's shortlist of
20 to just 10 bloggers. She was careful to keep a nice balance
of geographic and demographic variety.

-> Step #2. Recruiting the selected bloggers

The team sent each of the 10 selected bloggers an emailed note
saying in effect, "We love your Blog so much that we'd like to
send you a new Nokia 3560 phone free with two months cell phone
service if you'll agree to try out taking pictures with it."

Notably, the letter did not ask bloggers to post to their own
sites or to mention the phone in their own blogs. While that's
exactly what Ahr was hoping participants would do, she didn't
want to come across as sounding too blatantly commercial.

So, instead she asked participants to post photos to Nokia's own
microsite for the 3650 which had space for some extra content.
(Link to microsite below.)

To avoid the possibility that these bloggers might think the
Nokia email offer was a scam (because let's face it, there are a
lot of similar-sounding scams out there), the letter included
names, email addresses and phone numbers of real people at Nokia.
Recipients were encouraged to get in touch directly if they had
any questions.

To participate they had to email back their postal mailing
address to get the phone. After waiting a few days for
responses, Ahr's team sent invites to a handful of runner-up
bloggers to try to bring the total to 10.

-> Step #3. Follow-up

Ahr was very hands-off when to came to follow-up, again because
of the delicate balance between blogging and commercialism. She
did not send any emails or contact the participants in any way
during the two-month trial period.

However, participants could contact Nokia's team if they had

At the end of the trial, Ahr sent a survey to participants asking
about which of the phone's features they used, and how they liked
them. Then bloggers were thanked for their attention and the
relationship ended gracefully.

Although blogs weren't chosen on the basis of traffic (because most bloggers don’t know their traffic and it's
generally too tiny to register on NetRatings) several
participating blogs were in the top 15 sites sending traffic to
Nokia's microsite.

This is impressive considering Nokia's other online media buys
reached millions of consumers, and individual bloggers only reach
a tiny fraction of that. Obviously consumer evangelism is much
more powerful than any ad a marketer can create.

More results:

- Of the original 10 bloggers contacted via email to participate,
three were not interested, one responded weeks past the project
deadline (so Nokia politely turned that blogger down), and one
had to be reassured that the project was not a scam.

In the end, eight total bloggers agreed to be involved in the

- Five of the eight included pictures taken with the phone on
their Blogs and wrote about the experience, including a link to
Nokia's microsite. Two bloggers went so far as to create
separate "phone blogs" of their own accord. (Link to samples

It’s worth noting again that Ahr hadn't asked the bloggers to do
this - she'd only asked them to try out the phones and post
photos to Nokia's microsite.

- Most bloggers posted fairly complimentary testimonials about
the phone on their own sites. One said, it was "a fab little
device", another said, "you can do anything with this phone, it's
like a computer in your pocket." A third said the photos were,
"not the greatest quality, but hey, it's a mobile phone."

- The follow-up surveys showed that participants loved the
product. In fact, one blogger said that she never carried her
cell phone with her in the past, but now she carries it

Overall Ahr was pleased with test results. "It won't replace
anything, but it's a nice way to get the viral word out."

Encouraged, this fall she's rolling out a bigger blog campaign:
students in the advertising programs at five colleges will be
making 30-second Nokia commercials and will chronicle their
progress on their own blogs to be hosted at a Nokia microsite.

Useful links related to this article:

Samples of blogs involved in the campaign:

ProjectBlog.com where Nokia found some bloggers to recruit:

Richards Interactive, the agency that helped Nokia create this

Nokia http://www.nokia.com

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