Finland is the first country in the world to release its own set of emojis. The first three to be unveiled by the Foreign Ministry are a heavy metal headbanger, some naked people in the sauna, and the good old Nokia 3310.
For years people have complained that Finns were good at innovation but terrible with marketing. I think that is true, generally speaking, but this is a brilliant little bit of national marketing. The Foreign Ministry’s Finland.fi website is releasing thirty emojis in all, and they are doing it via an online Christmas Advent calendar. Christmas is a big time for Finland because Santa Claus is Finnish, you know. Don’t believe what those Canadians and Alaskans claim about Santa’s residency.
I am a frequent writer for the Finnish Foreign Ministry so I might be biased, but from the Finnish perspective these emojis are a good idea. They have already generated a lot of international attention. The emojis perpetuate some Finnish stereotypes, but they are stereotypes which Finns have generally embraced.
Nokia’s place in all this is rather curious. Nokia is famous around the world for their ultimately failed role in the mobile phone business. The idea of the unbreakable Nokia 3310 has been around for a number of years, from back when Nokia still made mobile phones. At that time the meme poked fun at the new generation of smartphones. The screen on the iPhone would shatter with the slightest drop, while the old 3310 could be thrown against a brick wall and still work fine.
When that Nokia meme began in 2011 the company’s social media accounts began to play it up because it was complimentary to the quality of Nokia’s hardware. Their operating systems may have sucked but one thing Nokia could do better than anyone else was make good handsets. Yet soon Nokia seemed to have given up and ignored the meme. After all, when you think about it people were looking to the good old days of great Nokia products instead of the crap they were then selling.
Today Nokia has once again embraced the old ‘indestructible’ meme. The official Nokia Twitter account has proudly talked about the 3310 emoji. It is interesting to think about their corporate motivations.
For one, the emoji is generally positive from their point of view. Additionally, Nokia has never quite retreated from the consumer electronics industry despite the sale of their handset division to Microsoft. They have the N1 tablet currently on the market in Asia and have a fascinating new professional camera for virtual reality applications.
Nokia has repeatedly hinted that they were not done in the smartphone business and recently some images of a concept C1 device has been leaked to the press. Nokia are contractually forbidden from getting back into the industry until 2016 but there are multiple signs they are planning a comeback.
The current smartphone market is becoming more than a bit stale, not unlike the situation before Apple and Google created a marvellous new industry. It would be nice to think that Nokia is planning a similar revolution and is not intending to come back to the business with cheap Android commodity devices like dozens of other manufacturers.
In my book The Decline and Fall of Nokia I predicted that Nokia would return to the consumer product industry at some point, but they are doing it much sooner than I imagined. Perhaps these new emojis will be available on their first product.