Meet the Man Charged With Reviving Nokia’s Phone Brand

The pieces are slowly coming together for the Nokia phone to make a comeback.

In May, Microsoft unloaded the phone businessit originally purchased from Nokia on FIH Mobile, a unit of Taiwan-based manufacturing giant Foxconn, and on HMD Global, a Finnish startup tasked with selling phones and tabletsunder the Nokia brand. Former Nokia executive Arto Nummela would lead the company as CEO.

On Monday, another piece clicked into place. HMD tapped Pekka Rantala, former CEO of Angry Birds game maker Rovio, to revive the Nokia phone brand as its chief marketing officer.

Rantala has a daunting task in front of him. The notion of a high-end Nokia phone is more the stuff of nostalgia than reality now. Nokia was once the dominant player in the phone business — if you owned a phone in the ’90s, there’s a high likelihood it was made by Nokia — but faded into irrelevancy amid competition from Apple’s iPhone and phones running on Google’sAndroid software.

HMD will also use Android to power its phones and tablets, unlike Nokia’s previous embrace of Microsoft’s Windows Phone software. The company hopes the strength of the Nokia name will draw in new consumers.

“Nokia is a globally recognized brand, and we have a chance to rejuvenate it like never before,” Rantala said in an e-mail. “I love Nokia, I love what it stands for, and I’d love to see it rise again.”

He argued that consumers still recognize the brand, and believes they still prefer to buy a Nokia phone.

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At Rantala’s disposal is HMD’s commitment to spend $500 million over the next three years on global marketing. While Apple and Samsung spend billions of dollars on marketing, HMD will focus on “being different, cutting through,” he said.

While HMD declined to comment on the timing of its products, the first run of Android-powered phones won’t show up until next year.

Rantala previously only spent a year as the CEO of Rovio, a tumultuous time in which the company cut jobs and slashed costs after the blockbuster success of its Angry Birds mobile game franchise fueled aggressive expansion. He stepped down last year.

All of his previous roles dealt with consumers, which Rantala believes puts him in a good position for his role at HMD.

Rantala’s new role at HMD is a return of sorts to his roots. Like Nummela, Rantala got his start at Nokia, where he held various positions throughout his 17-year tenure at the company. He left Nokia in 2011 after serving as the senior vice president of marketing.

“Pekka has an important mission to rejuvenate the Nokia brand in mobile phones,” Nummela said in a statement.

HMD has a 10-year license to sell Nokia-brand products. Nokia still exists as a separate company, but primarily sells telecommunications infrastructure equipment. Foxconn’s FIH Mobile will be responsible for manufacturing and distributing the products.

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