New Owner. Same Problems Remain For BlackBerry.

The announcement that BlackBerry has entered in to a tentative agreement to sell the company to its largest investor, Fairfax Financial might appear on the surface to be good news.  The deal reported to be valued at $4.7 billion – or $9 a share – will take the company private and likely bring about a clean house.  But, while the deal would bring an end to the public bleed-out of the company it is unlikely to change any of the fundamental problems that face the beleaguered brand.

I’ve written regularly about the problems faced by BlackBerry as it planned what was billed as the start of its renaissance.  I’ve criticized the company’s marketing and public relations approach, it’s focus [if you can call it that] on the wrong audience, it’s attempts to chase a consumer market that had moved on and the abandonment of its core customer – the enterprise user, and its bungled BlackBerry 10 playbook.  New owners won’t fix much of this.

A renewed focus on Enterprise customers, a new marketing team and fresh ideas will definitely help.  The delivery of the right message to the right audience at the right time via the right delivery mechanism will also make a difference. But, the company’s biggest asset – it’s name – is now also one of its biggest problems.  BlackBerry’s new owners need a clean slate and must consider renaming the company as part of its turnaround plan.  The BlackBerry brand is, sadly, tarnished beyond redemption.

Another problem that isn’t fixable is timing.  BlackBerry’s long overdue BB10 launch has only served to make the company and its products more irrelevant in the eyes of many smartphone users.  The company was behind the likes of Apple and Samsung when BB10 was announced; by the time it landed Sure, there are the BlackBerry die-hards, but how many of those remain will become clearer when the company reports its latest quarter at the end of the week.  Of those that remain it’ll also be interesting to see how many switch to a competitive platform within the first six months of the company going private.

So, while many see the acquisition as a new dawn I still believe that it is merely an exercise in slowing the blood-loss and preparing for the inevitable – the transplant of many of the company’s most valuable assets in to the companies that need [or, in this case, can afford] them.

I wrote more than a year ago that I expected Apple to acquire BlackBerry for its patents and I still expect to see BES and BBM as a part of the Cupertino-based company’s ecosystem within 18 months.

Read: Why BlackBerry must die if the company is to live

The 4 Rs of Startup Public Relations and Marketing

At the end of last week I ran a session on the fundamentals of any startup public relations and marketing program.  There are essentially four pillars that entrepreneurs must address in order for PR and marketing to add value to their new businesses  – let’s call them the 4 Rs.

  • The Right message
  • The Right audience
  • The Right time
  • The Right delivery mechanism

Here’s the slide deck that formed the basis of my day-long workshop – please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on lyndon@thinkdifferently.ca or + 1 647.773.2677

PR & Marketing Fundamentals for Startups from Lyndon Johnson

 

Low cost iPhone changes perception of Apple

If, as is being widely reported, Apple launches a low cost iPhone and an update of the iPhone 5, rather than regaining leadership in the segment, it spells the end of the company that Steve Jobs grew from almost bankruptcy in to a technology leviathan. The company that was once a leader in innovating technology, feared by its competitors for the unbending loyalty of its customers and as a company that consumers aspired to own will have gone full circle – and be competing in a commodity market – where price is more of a differentiator than the product itself.

I’ve written about my concerns about Apple’s marketing in recent years. It has gone from being industry leading to being sugary-sweet, self-congratulatory, contrived and a parody of itself – and competitors, most recently Google – have taken delight in poking fun at the company.  This is a slippery slope – just ask BlackBerry.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company lost sight of what its loyal customers wanted and, as a result, lost many of them. It failed to innovate and the result is clear to anybody who has been following the fate of the company formally known as Research in Motion.  Without an insanely awesome announcement that changes the smartphone industry Apple runs the risk of befalling the same fate as its Canadian rival.

Apple needs to announce a $1000 iPhone, not a cheap handset for the masses in order to regain its market competitiveness and reestablish itself as an aspirational brand.  It runs the risk of becoming the Burberry of the mobile phone industry!

You can read more on some of these topics here: thinkdifferently.ca/differently/tag/apple/‎

Do you agree?  What’s your take on Apple’s latest announcements?  I’d love to hear your views in the comments section below.

I Have An MVP. Now what?!

I wanted to share some video clips of a session I participated in at Product Camp Toronto 2013 that looked at building a public relations plan for start ups with a minimum viable product and how to apply lean principles to ensure that you deliver the right message to the right audience, at the right time via the right channel.

Please let me know if you have any questions and please feel free to share any strategies that have worked for you.  If you have questions about creating the right go-to-market strategy for your MVP then please get in touch on 647.773.2677 or lyndon@thinkdifferently.ca

KitKat 4.4 – The Best Apple Parody. Ever.

Google announced the name of the next generation of its Android OS yesterday – KitKat 4.4.  Dubbed ‘The Future of Confectionery” Google had some fun, which chocolate bar-maker Nestle fully embraced.

One of my favourite parts of the launch is this – a parody of Apple’s design videos.  It’s not too throw-away, or cringe-worthy; it’s short, and also communicates a very clear message in a fun way.  It also pokes fun at Apple who have, in my opinion, become slightly too self-celebratory and cliched in an attempt to cover the fact that there’s been a lot less ‘insanely awesome’ to Apple’s recent product announcements by over-intellectualizing the process.

KitKat 4.4.  Take a closer look
Take a closer look

Take a closer look here http://kitkat.com/#/acloserlook and let me know what you think in the comments below.  Have you ever poked fun at a competitor while trying to promote your startup?