Dumb phone. Smart Language.

The relaunch of the Nokia 3310 isn’t all it claims to be.

How do you launch a cheap phone without it being thought of as cheap? Or it being called second rate, limited, outdated, woefully under-specced? And how do you do it on a limited budget ($0) so that the world gets excited about it?

You don’t launch it. Instead, you ‘relaunch’ it, cladding the new phone in the physical and linguistic guise of an old, much-loved phone.telephone

Headlines around the world have been giddy with nostalgic excitement for the ‘relaunch’ of the 3310. L’express said “Allô ? Le Nokia 3310 fait son come-back.” Readers of the Sydney Morning Herald woke up to a headline telling them about the return of the ‘unbreakable’ 3310, and in Nigeria, with more mobile phone users than any other African country, The News called it “the most resilient phone”.

If you’re knee-deep in NPD, never forget: you can’t launch a new product without new language. Even if you decide that the best language to use is ‘old’.

Without having to spend a penny on advertising, the new owners of the Nokia brand have tilted the world in their favour, sliding the eyes of the consumers away from the next shiny and expensive Apple or Samsung launch and across to their kind of thing: a £59 phone.

The truth is, the new Nokia 3310 will be so different from the old Nokia 3310 that it doesn’t deserve the name. It might have the same blue button that allows you to do everything (which honestly, wasn’t much), but at its heart, it won’t have the same ARM7 processor(it’s no longer manufactured), or the same battery (it’s not still made either).

None of that matters.

By choosing to call it the 3310, the brand’s owners have leveraged our nostalgia for a time when you could amuse yourself for ever by playing Snake II . Which was handy, because you were probably stuck in a queue at the bank, sitting in the back of an unlicensed cab that didn’t know where it was going, or wondering what was happening in the world right now.

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The brand’s owners, AMD Global Oy (great name, though I wish they’d put an ‘!’ on that Oy) have earned millions of pounds’ worth of coverage just by calling it a ‘relaunch’.

More than that, they’ve skilfully stuck an oyster knife into a niche and prised it open to suggest that what we really want is a good, old reliable second phone.

Of course –  none of us are going to give up playing Spotify through our Sonos systems, or paying the plumber via our First Direct app or using Google Maps to find absolutely any place which we could have found if we’d just looked up from our screen.

But smart phones have a battery life that’s measured in hours. The old dumb phones have a battery life that’s so long you can even go to a festival without taking a charger.

We’re not giving up our smart phones. But Nokia’s skilful use of language has made us realise how great it would be to have a second phone that’s robust, reliable, and never runs out of battery.

Even better, we don’t have to think of it as cheap.

If you want to talk about how language has the power to transform how your customers think of your products, email us. We like to talk.