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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The main purpose of this paper will be to explore the mobile company Nokia's “downfall” in the early 2010's and how the company's choices in design affected this downfall. To gain a better understanding about Nokia's success and failure caused by their design choices, the paper will review Nokia's designs chronologically.  It will also briefly touch on statistics of the company against other mobile phone designers as this will help to gain a better understanding about the extent of the downfall. The paper will also focus on consumer demands in early 00's versus in early 10's, Nokia's competitors and how the competitor's design choices were different to Nokia's designs. The aim will be to analyse whether the different designs of the competitors met consumer demands better than Nokia's designs. The paper will conclude with an overview of why and how Nokia's designs caused the Finnish company to become unsuccessful. This research might be recognised as an interesting topic due to it exploring how important design choices are in business and how much design can affect the success of a business.

Secondary research will play a major role in providing research data to confirm any theories about how strongly design choices caused Nokia to fail.

Some primary research will be carried out to understand modern consumer demands regarding mobile phones. All resources will be listed at the end of the research report.

Research Aim

The aim of this research is to critically assess how and to what extent Nokia's design choices affected the company's downfall, and if the “failure” of the company could have been avoided by making different design choices.  

Research Questions

To be able to answer the main research question “How did Nokia's design choices cause for the phone company to fail”, and to meet the research aim, the research should be broken into smaller sections. To do this, a few research questions will need to be defined.

- What was the technological development of mobile phones like from 2000 to 2013?

- What were the consumer needs/wants in Early 2000's vs 2010's?

- How did consumer needs affect the evolution of mobile phone industry?

o Who became leading brands? Why?

o To what extent did consumer needs play a role in Nokia's failure?

- What did other brands do?

o Business plans and strategies

o How did Nokia differ from Sony in 2000 vs 2011?

o What design choices was Sony making? Were they more relevant to consumer needs or technological developments?

- Compare Toys 'r' Us and Nokia (Toys “R” Us announced bankruptcy on the 19th of Sep. 2017) and if they both failed for the same reasons?  

Other helpful areas of research:

- Journey map for Nokia's design/phone appearances

- Statistics (Nokia compared to other companies in numbers)

Secondary Research

A list of secondary resources that includes a wide range of web-pages, journal articles, books and interviews with audio and video.

• GSM Arena. 2017. The rise, dominance, and epic fall - a brief look at Nokia's history. Available at: Accessed 30 September 2017.

This is a brief overview of Nokia's history. How it started, some of Nokia's products throughout time and how the brand failed in the end. This can be a valuable source as it gives a brief but informative overview of the basics.

•  NOKIA. 2014. Our Story. Available at: Accessed 30 September 2017.

Nokia's own information about their history, mainly focusing on the

business itself, rather than products. Valuable source because it helps to understand the company's values.

•  Häikiö, M., 2017. Nokia. Pearson Education.

Book all about the company itself. Valuable secondary source, as it reveals business plans etc.

•  Steinbock, D., 2017. The Nokia Revolution. AMACOM.

This book, much like the one mentioned above, goes in depth about the

company's business plans and design choices.

• CORD, D. 2014. The Decline and Fall of Nokia. 1st ed. Finland: Schildts & Söderströms.

This book focuses on Nokia's downfall and competitors of Nokia, and

how their existence etcetera affected Nokia's failure. Valuable source to get in-depth understanding of the failure and causes.

•  Lindholm, C., 2003. Mobile Usability: How Nokia Changed the Face of the Mobile Phone. McGraw Hill Professional.

This source is valuable, as it shows what an impact Nokia had on the

mobile phone industry overall.

•  Ryan, D., 2014. Understanding Digital Marketing. Kogan Page Publishers.

This source helps to understand power of marketing and design, and

therefore, helps to understand the importance of design in marketing and


•  Schulze, S., 2017. Apple Design. Distributed Art Pub Incorporated.

This source helps to understand one of Nokia's competitor's

backgrounds, business plans and design choices.

Secondary resources play a key role in research, as it validates any possible theories and helps answering the set research questions. These secondary resources therefore are valuable for research and in order to gain a better understanding of Nokia's downfall.

Primary research

A Survey aimed at 18-50 year olds who are looking to purchase a mobile/telephone in the next 6 months, or have done so in the past 6 months.

This survey would be carried out online as this would be the quickest and most effective way to reach a large amount of people in a short amount of time. Most people in the age frame researched would also be reachable through social media and other virtual platforms.

The survey would start with a question asking about the participant's age, and whether they have or are looking to purchase a mobile phone in the past/next six months. If the participant does not belong in the target group, the survey would either a) not show the rest of the survey questions, and thank the participant for taking part, OR b) continue with rest of the survey questions (but only if the survey tool lets the admin filter what data they can view at once etc. for example “under 18, 18-50s, 50+), as the information might be useful at some point.

Questions following could be multiple choice with an option of “other” which opens a comment box.

- How old are you?

• under 18

• 18 – 21

• 21 – 24  

• 25 – 30

• 30 – 35

• 35 – 40

• 41 – 50

• 51 – 60

• 60 or over

- What is your gender?

• Male

• Female

• Prefer not to say

- When looking for a phone, which matters you the most?

• Cost

• Popularity

• Functions

• Appearance

• Other

- What brand should your phone be?

• It does not matter.

• Apple

• Samsung

• Sony

• Nokia


• LG

• Huawei

• Other

- What kind of a phone would you like to have the most?

• A smart phone

• Flip phone

• Slide phone

• Extremely durable phone (waterproof, shock proof etc.)

• Custom-made phone

• Other

- What size would you like your phone to be?

• Small

• Medium

• Large

- How many physical buttons would you like on your phone?

• none

• volume, lock and “home” buttons (3)

• above + other shortcut buttons (4-5)

• all of the above and a keyboard (6+)

• Other

- What functions do you feel are necessities for you in a phone? (select all that apply) Add any you feel important at the “other” comment-box.

• calling

• texting

• long lasting battery

• enough storage space

• camera

• front-facing camera

• Internet connectivity

• Bluetooth

• Calculator

• Flash light

• alarm clock, timer etc.

• most up-to-date apps

• games

• headphone jack, built-in speakers etc.

• edge-to-edge screen

• ergonomically comfortable

• touch screen

• water proof or otherwise durable


- How much would you be willing to pay for a new phone?

• Less than £100

• £ 100 - £ 200

•£ 200 - £ 300

•£ 300 - £ 400

•£ 400 - £ 500

• £ 500+

- How much do opinions of friends, family, or otherwise the phone's “popularity” affect your decision?

• not at all

• a little

• somewhat

• quite a bit

• completely

• other?

- Have you previously owned a Nokia phone and then swapped to a different brand? If so, why did you choose to change and would you ever go back? Why? (Comment box)

- Have you got any other comments/opinions about phones that you feel are important when planning to purchase a phone? (Comment box)

Sampling / Choice of Subject

The age-group has been chosen to be between 18 and 50 as people belonging to this age group have got some or full control over their spending/finances. People below the age of 18 do not always have a full control over their money, nor do they always get exactly what they want as they are still under the control of their guardians. Often people under 18 will also be more influenced by their peers' opinions, than people over 18 years of age.

People over the age of 50 might feel intimidated by technology and therefore affect the outcome of the research.  

The timeframe of “6 months since purchasing a phone” or “planning to purchase a phone in the next 6 months” can be justified by this being an appropriate timeframe for someone to start planning their purchase or recall what was important to them when purchasing their mobile phone. If a longer (than six months) timeframe was to be considered, peoples' phones purchased over 6 months ago would be out of date, and therefore the factors important to the consumer over 6 months ago would be outdated.


There are quite a few different ways of organising the data from this survey to analyse the data collected. Below are some of the ways that the data might be analysed.

Most answers would be shown in percentages. For example, the overall data of what gender people taking the survey are, would be displayed as the following: “male – 34%, female – 42%, prefer not to say – 24%”. This will make analysing the raw data easier as it will be easy to see possible trends and overall popularity of certain answers.  

1. Organising data by age of participants – Data about how different age groups feel about the importance of brands, what influences the consumers' phone choices depending on age and what functions are important for each age group. It could be analysed if certain age groups find certain functions necessities when some might not, as well as it could be analysed whether some age groups care more about cost of the phone. Through the data, it could also be analysed whether there is any specific quality or function that all age groups find important.

2. This way of organising data might be useful, if looking at possible target markets of phone companies. Organising the data by age groups of consumers might also help to understand what are the common “needs”/trends of consumers, across all age groups.

This way of analysing data might not be helpful as it does not directly aid to answer the research question, “How did Nokia's design choices cause for the phone company to fail”, but can only slightly provide theories of what the Finnish phone company was lacking in their designs based on common consumer “wants”.

3. Organising by brand – Look at how consumers choose their brands, if it depends on design choices, cost, and functions of the phone, or if brand-choice is solely based on influences from friends, family, social media etcetera. Analysing the survey data this way will be useful to help understanding what brands are chosen for, and if, in fact, design choices do play a major role when consumers are making decisions on purchasing a phone.  It could also be analysed if, whether people who chose, for example “Apple”, as their brand, chose similar functions as necessities, or if they chose completely different functions and just chose the brand because of external influences.

Depending on the results of the survey, analysing data through this method could not be effective, if the data shows brands are mainly chosen because of external influences and not because of certain functions.  

3. The third way of evaluating the data could be by analysing the most popular “necessities”/functions chosen in the survey and whether those have any correlation to what brands were most popular. By looking at most popular necessities, it could also be assessed whether consumers with more demands on necessary functions are prepared to pay more. If there would be a clear correlation between preparations to pay more for more functions, this could be used as an argument against Nokia's design choices and whether they could have avoided their failure.

Organising the raw data by different functions classed by “necessities” (by the consumers) would be the most useful way of analysing the data, as this qualitative data is what will help answer the overall research question.  Analysing data this way will also help to understand what people find important in phones and possibly why certain phone brands were more appealing than Nokia. This way of analysing data will also help figure out why Nokia possibly failed.

Therefore, the last, or third listed, way of analysing data would be the most effective; it helps to partially answer the question by just looking at the data from the survey. The two other ways of organising data focus on qualities that are not as essential to the research question, as the third method of organising data.

Research Considerations

With primary research, it must be taken into consideration that most people under 20 would have not had a phone 10-15 years ago, and therefore their opinions and demands of phones' functions would be higher. People under the age of 20 will not have (most likely) used anything but a smart phone during their life either, and therefore would not have extensive knowledge past modern phones and their functionalities. This might affect the answers given in the survey.


For effective research and to answer the research question “How did Nokia's design choices cause for the phone company to fail”, both primary and secondary resources are needed. Secondary research can be done through books, articles and websites and these will provide some basic information as well as theories to answer and support some of the research questions. The primary research survey will be carried out to understand and provide insight into consumer needs and trends. It will be carried out through a survey aimed at 18 – 50 year olds who will purchase or have purchased a mobile phone in the past 6 months. The secondary research will focus on Nokia and its competitors; how mobile phones developed between 2000 and 2013, how consumer needs affected the evolution of mobile phone industry and what design choices were other mobile phone companies making, compared to Nokia.

From the start, it should be expected that while secondary research and data is studied, the primary research will be sent to the target market and data will be collected. After either enough responses are collected or enough time has passed, the data from primary research will be analysed. Both, primary- and secondary data will be put together to form a thesis with supporting arguments about why and how Nokia failed because of its design choices.   


Design Research methods: 150 Ways to Inform Design. Curedale, R. (2013).

Mintel. 2015. CONSUMER TRENDS 2015. Online. p 5-30. Available at: Accessed 30 September 2017.

Cottrell, S. 2011. Critical Thinking Skills: Developing Effective Analysis and Argument. Macmillan Education UK.

Creswell, J. 2014. Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. 4th ed. SAGE Publications.

Bodden, V. 2012. Doing Primary Research. 1st ed. Creative Education.

Robson, C. 2013. Real World Research. 4th ed. Italy: Printer Trento.

McNeill, P. 2005. Research methods. 3rd ed. London: Routledge.

Images (in order of appearance):

Cover photo:

John-Paul Joseph Henry. 2017. Telephone. Available at: Accessed 25 October 2017.


NOKIA. 2004. Nokia Logo. Available at: Accessed 28 October 2017.

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