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Nokia UK head of marketing admits the brand isn't going for the "mainstream" audience as Lumia Live Sessions events return

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By Gillian West | Social media manager

May 19, 2014 | 6 min read

"Music is a great cultural hook for a brand. The event side-lined into 'let's do a series of music events which are true to our product offering’, explains Adam Johnson, head of UK marketing for Nokia ahead of its second Nokia Lumia Live Sessions tonight.

The mobile phone brand, which has been acquired by Microsoft and is set to become Microsoft Mobile, launched the Sessions last year in an effort to make the brand more relevant to a younger audience through a link with new musical talent.

"Nokia is a challenger brand, it would be weird for us to do a big event with Jay Z or One Direction," Johnson tells The Drum.

"We [Nokia] made a conscious decision last year to invest some time and people and money into making the Lumia more relevant to a younger audience. In the tech world there is a lot of love and familiarity for our brand but we felt a need to do new and interesting things to engage a newer and younger demographic.”

He adds: “MixRadio is all about discovery and Nokia devices are purposely designed not to look like other stuff so the music events we run should reflect that."

Last year, Nokia put on seven events with artists including Kodaline and Lianne La Havas in small underground venues like London's Chain Store and Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol with some spaces holding less than 100 people at a time.

Ghostpoet, Bristol, March 2013
Slow Club, Glasgow, June 2013
Kodaline, Dublin, July 2013When asked why Nokia chose such small venues Johnson reveals that the brand could have "literally just spent the money on sponsoring a festival or getting a mainstream artist to play The O2 and plaster 'Sponsored by Nokia' but it wasn't about that" instead Nokia's vision with the Lumia Live Sessions was to "create amazing content that people would want to talk about". In fact one of the reasons Nokia has resurrected the Lumia Live Sessions for a second year is the strength of the content which came out of last year's events. Predominately captured on Lumia handsets - to allow Nokia to "become our own proof point" for the handset's capabilities - with support from La Blogothèque, a team of videographers famous for kickstarting music careers globally, Johnson describes it as a "social currency". "These intimate events are something special for those who are there on the day, and it's our responsibility to make sure that the content is just as special for those who couldn't be there. You can't just put on a gig, film it and put it on YouTube, there has to be an element of 'Surprise and Delight'."Of this 'Surprise and Delight' element Johnson points to last year's Kodaline session in Dublin where the band went off stage and sung accapella outside the venue in a courtyard. Though that was "all choreographed" Johnson said the spontaneous feel of that moment (shown below) created a real 'I wish I was there' vibe to the content making it more shareable online amongst the band's fans.

This year's sessions will follow the same structure as last year's which saw over 20,000 unique social posts generated, and though tonight's event with electronic soulful three piece Years & Years is in London Johnson assures The Drum Lumia Live Sessions will remain a "regional affair". "It's important to us to visit the regions, mainly because our brand is very strong across the country and there are a lot of people who don't live in London and don't get the chance to go to these cool and interesting gigs, it's great for Nokia to be the brand that facilitates that." However, Johnson is keen to point out that Nokia doesn't see itself as "the brand equivalent of Zane Lowe" championing new artists nationwide "there's more authentic voices that can do that," he said. Instead, for Nokia, the driving force is to use the tools and technology at its disposal to create "really interesting and cultural events for the foreseeable". While discussing whether the Lumia Sessions could continue in the wake of Nokia's acquisition by Microsoft, Johnson claims the sessions remain an "important part of our marketing mix" and that will continue to "evolve, optimise and refine as our business develops".Following the acquisition, Nokia will undergo a re-brand, although Johnson reiterates that the the sessions remain an "important part of our marketing mix" that will continue to "evolve, optimise and refine as our business develops".Tonight's Nokia Lumia Live Session with Years & Years is to be held in one of London's disused underground stations to reflect the fact that Nokia Mix Radio, unlike competitor streaming services, works offline. The session follows Ella Eyre at Dingles Fairground Museum, Devon, with Johnson confirming to The Drum that there will be at least four more events this summer.

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