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Hello again, Moto

Wednesday 3rd May

2017 has been the year of tech nostalgia. Perhaps it’s the logical culmination of years of exponential advancement in mobile technology – that point where users go “Hey, remember the days when I wasn’t glued to Whatsapp, because I couldn’t be?” Or perhaps it’s just a happy glance at days gone by, when we’d send texts and 1 megapixel photos via Symbian OS, on whichever colourful handset we happened to own at the time.

At the Mobile World Congress this year, Nokia revealed their revitalised version of the 3310 – a genius publicity move that fired off nostalgia receptors everywhere from London to Espoo*. That phone was an absolute behemoth of the early noughties, and all of us, at some point, will have had a go on Snake (it didn’t count if you weren’t on Speed 10, I was told). Nokia’s new version looks much the same, albeit with a colour screen and 2.5G. Apps are not supported, that means no Whatsapp, no Facebook Messenger, no Snapchat… Interest was high around the launch, with strong levels of pre-registrations at Carphone Warehouse, though some said the move was an exposé of how stagnant the smartphone market has become.

Motorola have also harnessed the power of nostalgia to promote the Moto Z smartphone range and the accompanying Moto Mods. Video ads have used the iconic “Hello Moto” slogan to bring back memories of early handsets, firmly repositioning the Moto brand within the smartphone space. The Moto Mods hark back to the innovation shown by the razor thin Razr back in 2004. The way they attach to the Moto Z – a ‘modular’ smartphone – is cool, nifty and exciting. However, the nostalgia potential for the Motorola brand extends far beyond this little soundbite, as I have increasingly noticed while working on the account. Moto’s everywhere – thoroughly ingrained in Western pop culture. Here are a few examples of Motorola cropping up in song lyrics:

earl sweatshirt

Earl Sweatshirt – Off Top

LA rapper Earl Sweatshirt creates hazy hip hop, which is like a window in to the 23-year old’s very soul. In the song Off Top, he raps the following lines:

“I been like this since the Motorola Razr
What a b****d that baby was”

It’s not a song for soft ears, that’s for sure, but the point is that he mentions Motorola, using the brand as a nostalgic throwback to his youth.

Sleaford Mods – The Blob

Another act that are distinctly un-chart friendly, Sleaford Mods consist of two disgruntled men in their forties from Nottingham. Jason Williamson raps, while Andrew Fearn presses play on a laptop, while vaping and drinking cans of cider (genuinely). They’re great though and their music is well worth a listen. Good of them to make a Motorola reference on their 2015 album Key Markets, eh? I’m not sure it’s the most positive inclusion, since their songs are generally very sarcastic, but it’s still there for all to hear. As with Sweatshirt, Williamson uses the brand as a cultural marker – something that is as ubiquitous as a mint Aero:

“People in masks, airport, Motorola
Hey motto, tripping over the Toblerones
Near Victoria’s not-very-good-secret, they’re knickers mate
Ice box challenge and all the Aeros, I like mine in a packet
Mint flavour, no zeros, have it culture”

Vince Staples – 3320

This song’s actually named after an old Nokia. Staples – a Californian rapper – again appears to be using a certain nostalgia associated with these redundant handsets to communicate a picture of his youth:

“Another day in sunny California
The FEDs takin’ pictures and they tappin’ Motorolas
Everybody snitchin’, gotta live with paranoia
A soldier since the stroller, ask my mama if you doubt that”

The Clash

The Clash – Silicone on Sapphire

This is the earliest reference of the lot. UK punk band The Clash gave Motorola a shout on their 1980 album Sandinista! The EXORcizer was a desktop computer built with Motorola’s MC6800 microprocessors. It’s safe to say the brand’s tech has come a long way since then…

“Databus
Databus
I’m pushing your breakpoints
Anytime Mike
Know my subroutine
Motorola EXORcizer
Modem connecting”

By no means is this an exhaustive list of the number of times Motorola appears in songs – a search on Lyrics.com reveals over 150 lyrical references to the brand. And it doesn’t stop at music – everyone used a Motorola phone in Prison Break, the MicroTAC early flip phone cropped up in Reservoir Dogs and the chunky DynaTAC appeared in Wall Street. These are admittedly all paid-for placements, but they will have no doubt found their way into the minds of the musicians listed above, subconsciously prompting them to namecheck the brand in their music.

Total Media’s journey with Motorola has only just begun, but I’m excited to see how the brand might capitalise on its historical influence on pop culture, and how our media planning and buying expertise might lend to it. There’s a great opportunity here to stir the nostalgic memories of older audiences, reconnect them with the brand, and have a great deal of fun along the way.

*Nokia’s HQ is located in Espoo, Finland.

Article Written by

Tom Phelan

Digital Display Executive, Total Media

Tom works in the display team, working across the Moto, Folio Society and Fred Olsen accounts. He loves injecting his zany ideas, where possible, into his client work.

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