It's back, and it has snake: why the Nokia 3310 relaunch needs no introduction

Let's face it, I could have stopped after 'snake' and you'd have known exactly what I was talking about.

Nokia has raised product story telling to an art-form with the launch of the 3310 and Patrick Southwell is in awe
Nokia has raised product story telling to an art-form with the launch of the 3310 and Patrick Southwell is in awe

That’s because the launch of the Nokia 3310 at Mobile World Congress has been everywhere.

From the tabloids to the Today Programme. There are few places that haven’t covered it. For a while it was the most read story on the BBC News website.

Instead of leading with the launch of the Nokia 3, 5 and 6, the brand has opted to unveil a product that’s older than most first-time phone buyers and doesn’t even have 3G.

This is product storytelling at its absolute best. I’m in awe.

Not only is there a business case for a simple, hard-wearing feature phone, but it has allowed Nokia to make an emotional connection with audiences.

How? Because the story has three key elements.

First, there’s drama. Nokia has done something hugely counter-intuitive. In a world of glossy, glass-screened smartphones, it’s rolled out a garish, neon, plastic brick. While the world is zigging, Nokia has zagged.

There’s also a human-interest element. I owned one of these phones when I was at university. So did most of my mates.

I spilt pints over it in the students’ union. I texted my girlfriend (now wife) all night on it. I completed snake.

Then one day I dropped it on my way into my then office and it fell through a grate. I was distraught. To this day, it’s down a drain on Jamestown Road in Camden.

Nearly everyone over 25 has an emotional connection to this phone. Some still use it.

The final piece of the jigsaw is topicality. It’s been unveiled at the world’s biggest telecoms show when thousands of eyes are on the sector.

As a result, commentators in the press and colleagues in the office alike are giving their own personal spin on the launch.

I’ve heard it described as a "digital detox phone" a "secure phone for travel", a "phone for mum and dad", a "phone for ironic Shoreditch hipsters", "perfect for builders" and even – according to one colleague – "the perfect affair phone". I’ll not name her (it was Lindsay).

Through product storytelling, Nokia has reminded people why it was great and connected that to what it really wants to sell.

Most of the articles about the 3310 also mention the availability of the new smartphones.

Before you know it, readers, viewers, and listeners will be thinking to themselves, "I might have a look at Nokia. After all, the 3310 was awesome."

I fully expect to hear about this on BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz on Friday; my own personal middle-class, middle-age litmus test of a brilliant story.

And the smartest bit of all?

It’s not actually a 3310. It’s a new phone that’s half the size, has a new charging socket and a bigger, colour screen among other things. They’ve just lobbed a 3310 label on it.

Well done, Nokia. Well done.

Patrick Southwell is director of strategy at Berkeley

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