People & Players

Marketing a Finnish Brand Worldwide From Beijing

Q&A With Chris Leong, Global Head of Marketing Services, Nokia

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BEIJING ( -- Talk about global. The Beijing-based Chris Leong is responsible for running the a Finland-based brand's marketing worldwide. This month, Ms. Leong talked about reaching Nokia's 1.2 billion consumers around the world and the challenges of handling a global job from China.

Ad Age: What are the most important markets for Nokia globally right now?

Chris Leong: We sell phones in over 100 countries, so everywhere you can think of ... we are there. The key markets are China, India, Russia, the U.K., Brazil. We are increasing our focus in North America right now, and we just relaunched in South Korea, home turf for Samsung, after a long absence there.
Nokia's Chris Leong
Nokia's Chris Leong
Ad Age: You mentioned China, where 3G services were just launched by three major local players. How has that changed Nokia's marketing and product lineup in China?

Ms. Leong: We've been waiting forever for this, since I came to China three years ago, It's finally here, so we're all very excited. Since Nokia is the global leader in 3G handsets, we are very encouraged with this move and will be able to support the 3G migration using our experiences from other markets across the world. For consumers, it's less about technology and more about ... giving them a richer experience.

In China, we just launched N97, which has a personalized home screen with live feed, offering e-mail, Twitter, Facebook ... everything. It optimizes the 3G experience, and that's how the whole thing comes together, through handsets that maximize the experience. For sure, we are pushing 3G in our retail outlets and marketing in China, and we work with all three partners.

Ad Age: In China, the world's largest mobile-phone market, is competition coming from other foreign brands such as Motorola and Samsung or from local players?

Ms. Leong: China has a mixture of both. Nokia is still the largest brand in the country, followed by the usual suspects. Samsung is next after us. Motorola is a much smaller player now, but there are also a lot of local brands.

Ad Age: It's very unusual for a Western company to have a global marketing head based in China. How do you keep on top of the job's geographic scope and stay in touch with Nokia's headquarters in Finland from Beijing?

Ms. Leong: I'm more often than not in Finland now, but my job is actually managing all of Nokia's marketing efforts outside of the headquarters, whether it's planning, media investments and implementation, or marketing. All of our regional marketing directors report to me. My job is global in nature, so I spend at least half a month in Europe now. When I'm in Europe, I focus on Europe. When I'm in an Asian country, I focus on Asia.

In the current economic climate, there has been a major reduction in travel budgets. That means you have to learn how to be extremely effective in other ways. We often work through virtual meetings, conference calls around the clock, video-conferencing ... like all international companies. But that also creates a better work and life balance and increases their working time, since we don't make people travel all over as much.

Ad Age: Nokia's Ovi Store offers far fewer apps than are available for other high-end handsets such as the iPhone, which limits the appeal of smartphones such as the N85, the E75 and the 5800 XpressMusic phone. What is Nokia doing to improve Ovi?

Ms. Leong: Watch out, it's coming this summer. Ovi will be completely decked out. The marketing campaign hasn't launched yet, but it's going to be huge. Nokia has about 1.2 billion consumers around the world, and we are making moves toward selling more services, navigation tools, games, music, movies and other entertainment.

For example, on the Nokia Music Store, we recently launched a Comes With Music, a music service with unlimited access to millions of tracks that users can download and keep. It's Nokia's answer to [Apple's] iTunes and was launched first in U.K., Singapore and Australia. It's also in Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Germany and other countries, and many more are coming.

Ad Age: Nokia recently parted ways with its global media agency, MediaCom, and is conducting a review. Sources say the move is mostly about cutting costs. What's the likely outcome of having a new agency -- lower fees, a remuneration plan that rewards agencies if sales rise or something else?

Ms. Leong: I wish I could talk more about that, but I will not be at liberty to do that because the pitch is still going on. But I can say we are a technology company, we want continuing innovation in our touch point strategies, we want to continue to be leading and innovation in that space, want to continue to have amazing media ideas and innovation and also, of course, a fantastic efficiency.

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