With the appointment of a CMO for the first time, Nokia has taken another step toward overhauling its management and expanding its presence in the U.S. phone market. The hiring of marketing veteran Jerri DeVard in the newly created CMO role, announced today, signals that Nokia is getting more serious about marketing as part of its effort to turn around its business and regain momentum in the smartphone race.
DeVard's 25-year marketing career includes serving as SVP for marketing and brand management at Verizon from 2003 to 2007. Before that she was CMO for Citigroup's e-consumer business, and has also held senior marketing positions at Revlon, Harrah's Entertainment and the Pillsbury Company. More recently she started her own marketing consulting firm, the DeVard Marketing Group in New York.
DeVard, a U.S. citizen, was also involved in fund-raising activities for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
Nokia's management shakeup started in September when it brought on former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop to replace Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo as CEO. Elop, a Canadian citizen, is the first non-Finn to run Nokia in its 145-year history. Anssi Vanjoki, the company's smartphone chief, left shortly after Kallasvuo after being passed over for the top slot.
Nokia launched a new line of smartphones this fall, including the latest version of its flagship N8, to try to battle its way back into the fast-growing smartphone market. But it continues to lose ground to the likes of Apple's iPhone and devices using Google's Android platform. Nokia's smartphone share worldwide in the third quarter slipped to 32.7% from 38.3% a year ago, while Android phone makers like Samsung and HTC made gains.
Nokia has almost no footprint in the largest smartphone market, the U.S., where it lacks high-end phones subsidized by carrier partners. With her background at Verizon and familiarity with the U.S. wireless business, that's an area where DeVard could help by improving ties between Nokia and operators here.
Formally, the newly created marketing and communications organization under DeVard will bring together Nokia's marketing, brand management, communications and "selected industry collaboration activities." That portfolio sounds broad enough to allow her to develop closer links between Nokia, carriers, electronics retailers and other key segments of the U.S. market.
She has to make the Nokia smartphone brand seem less like an exotic outsider and more like a contender competing on price, features and availability.
In her new role, however, DeVard won't report directly to Elop. Instead, she'll report to Niklas Savander, who heads Nokia's markets unit. Not having a direct line to Elop could undercut her effectiveness. Also, the CMO position is notorious for being short-lived compared to other C-level jobs. Whether she'll have strong support from the top remains to be seen.