BlackBerry Is Dead

You’re a company on its knees. Your future depends on selling significant volumes of a new product in one particular territory. You have an opportunity to tell your target audience why they should buy your new product.

You spend millions buying air time. And then you develop this 30 second spot…

BlackBerry called it an ‘execution’. I’m calling it suicide. It’ll be studied by marketing students for generations to come. As a marketer I can’t even begin to understand why somebody at the company thought this was a good idea!

I’ve been saying that it would be the marketing that killed RIM [now rebranded BlackBerry] and it’s new BlackBerry10 operating system. If this doesn’t convince those that told me I was wrong, I don’t know what will. I didn’t think it could get any worse than the ponytail cutting that preceded the launch of BlackBerry10 last week. I was wrong.

BlackBerry’s Marketing Director, Frank Boulben, should be fired. Whoever developed the creative for the advert should never be allowed to practice again. Anybody who saw the advert before it ran and didn’t say anything deserves everything they get!

I’m calling it now. BlackBerry. Is. Dead. #RIPBlackBerry

You can read my previous posts about RIM/BlackBerry/BlackBerry10 here


BlackBerry [$BBRY] stock rose more than 15% on the first day of trading under its new ticker symbol and is up 5% in pre-market activity at the time of writing this.  This does not change my fundamental view that BlackBerry will fail as a result of an inability to market its products and differentiate against its competition.

What BlackBerry needs to demonstrate today

Today is #BlackBerry10 day! We’ve waited a long time for it.  I’ve been pretty pessimistic about RIM’s chances of turning things around over the last year. BlackBerry claims its new operating system is ‘Re-designed. Re-engineered. Re-invented’ so today I wanted to write about what I’m hoping to see at the launch today.

Without them there’s no chance RIM will be Re-serected.

Passion.  It’s the foundation of every great brand and I’m hoping that today RIM starts re-building an emotional relationship with both existing and potential new customers. A straight product introduction won’t cut it for RIM this time.

Some ‘Holy Sh!t’ moments. Steve Jobs was famous for them, and RIM needs to deliver a few at today’s launch presentation. RIM needs to disrupt the market and without any moments it’ll be fighting an uphill battle to make BlackBerry 10 a success.

Renewed Focus.  I wrote last year that one of the biggest missteps by RIM was that it lost sight of its customers. Having built an established Enterprise following RIM chased the iPhone crowd – and has been on a losing trajectory ever since.  BlackBerry10 will have 6 products in 2013 – and each one needs to be targeted at a specific user demographic group.

A killer strategic and tactical marketing plan.  RIM’s marketing has been woeful for longer than I care to remember – and that needs to have been fixed. The company has invested in its first Superbowl commercial to support the launch of BlackBerry10. It’s got to be good. The company also needs 7 tactical plans – one for rebuilding the corporate brand profile and one each for its six new BlackBerry10 products launching in 2013.

If RIM still hasn’t fixed its marketing problems it’ll be the marketing, not the technology, that kills BlackBerry10!

Carriers. In order to make BlackBerry10 a success RIM needs to have major carriers willing to take its new handsets from day 1 – a strong turnout of support at the launch would certainly settle investors nerves. Without them, BlackBerry10 could be dead on arrival. If reports I’m reading about a story in today’s Wall Street Journal later today are to be believed… RIM could be in trouble.

Something ‘cool’. And I’m talking subzero cool. While the reviews and leaks of the new BlackBerry Z10 handset and OS look good, if RIM wants to persuade former BlackBerry customers to return to the fold – let alone persuade dyed-in-the-wool iPhone and Android users BlackBerry10 will need something cool. And, I’m talking Samuel L Jackson cool!

RIM is streaming the long-awaited launch via its newsroom page which starts at 10am ET/7PT/3pm UK

Why BlackBerry failed…

There’s been a lot of discussion about RIM since it announced its Q1 2013 earnings yesterday.  Today it’s stock price fell almost 20% and the company appears to be in free-fall. While some have blamed it’s outdated handsets and others the failure to keep pace with Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, the problem is, I believe, far more simple than that. RIM has failed to understand its market and, as a result, has failed to market on its strengths.

Rather than being proud to be a BlackBerry and providing compelling reasons – in terms of handset design, operating system functionality and application eco-system – the company lost sight of its market and became obsessed with being an alternative to an iPhone. It forgot that customers who buy BlackBerries don’t want iPhones.  They also – wrongly in my opinion – believed they could convince iPhone lovers to switch to BlackBerry.  Reports even suggest that the reason for the delay to BB10, announced yesterday, was that senior executives felt that it couldn’t compete with the iPhone 5, which many expect to be launched later this summer.  The truth is that a BlackBerry will NEVER be an iPhone… but who, apart from RIM, ever expected or wanted it to? Certainly not loyal BlackBerry customers!

I wrote a few months ago that I believed RIM was the biggest threat to the long-term sustainability of the business, suggesting that it should embrace – and own – it’s niche. BlackBerry users love their devices. The BlackBerry was designed to be a business tool, not a toy. The Enterprise is routed deeply in RIM’s heritage – it’s the foundation on which the company’s success was built, and, I believe, neglecting it – in the pursuit of consumers – will ultimately be responsible for its downfall.

It’s not a new story… RIM won’t be the first company to fall because of a failure to understand its market. It also won’t be the first to have good technology become the victim of misguided marketing.  It’s worth remembering that Apple suffered the same problems back in Steve Jobs’ first ‘act’ at the company, but whether RIM will be able to do the same, and pull up from the death dive it finds itself in, will depend on refocusing its attention on business users, developing products that fulfill that niche in the market – and marketing them like its life depends on it.  And it very well might!

Other stories you might like:

10 Years?! BlackBerry 10 won’t serve RIM for the next ten weeks!

How Well Do You Know Your Audience?

Is Apple Starting To Lose It’s Competitive Advantage?

Why RIM Must Eat It’s Own Marketing ‘Dog Food’

Why RIM’s Biggest Challenge Is To Change Perceptions

Why RIM Must Eat Its Own Marketing ‘Dogfood’

I posted a picture of RIM’s new advertising campaign targeting Apple and it’s iPhone asking visitors to the site to tell me what they thought about it.  The comments were, almost entirely, negative.

‘Let’s hope this ad is self-talk. RIM do desperately need to try something different’, wrote Buckle Up.

‘This is a great ad for Apple as they have built their business on both thinking AND doing different(ly). RIM have not only run out of ideas, they have started to take good ones and turn them into bad ones’, wrote Dean Johnson of Brandwidth.

‘The problem with it is that there is nothing behind. BlackBerry is not different in any positive way, so their “difference” means nothing.

‘I don’t see this being at all effective, just a parting shot of a tired brand.’, said Richard Beck of Digital Possibilities.

Now, I don’t agree with all of these viewpoints.  I’m not sure that, having seen the Blackberry 10 demo at the recent BlackBerry World Developer event a couple of weeks ago, I don’t agree that they’ve run out of ideas. there’s no doubt there is innovation, development talent and understands what its customers need in their next Blackberry devices.  There’s also some talented product marketeers.

I also don’t believe that BlackBerry is a tired brand.  It still has strong market recognition and a loyal customer base… 70 million is still a sizeable customer base. So, what’s going wrong?

I wrote a few weeks ago about why I believed RIM was it’s own worst enemy and that I believed it needed to focus its attention on Enterprise customers. I wanted RIM to drop its focus on Apple and the iPhone – right now I don’t believe that the company will persuade any current or potential iPhone owners to choose a Blackberry instead.  Cheap shots will be seen, as commentators on my earlier blog post saw them, as exactly that.  The latest advert is like picking a school yard fight with the kid that’s already beaten you up – while you might feel better for it, everybody knows who really won the fight that mattered.

If RIM is to turn around its ailing business, convince people to choose a BlackBerry over an iPhone it needs to focus on delivering products that people want to buy. That deliver something customers can’t get from competitors handsets and they need to change consumers perceptions about its brand.

In order to do that, it actually needs to THINK DIFFERENT AND DO DIFFERENT.

Why BlackBerry’s biggest challenge is to change perceptions

There’s a saying in my industry that perception is reality. Change perceptions and reality follows. But, changing press perceptions isn’t easy at the best of times, and when times are tough it’s magnitudes harder.

I’ve written before on this blog about the troubles Blackberry manufacturer RIM is facing, and the inspiration for this post came while reading an excellent article in The Globe and Mail, ‘RIMs hard choices‘ a couple of weeks ago, but it can equally apply to any company that finds itself being savaged by the media.

BlackBerry needs to think of your business as a sick patient… in this case the condition is potentially life threatening. The rapid administration of the right treatment at the right time can be the difference between life and death.

The first thing that any organization needs to do is stop the bleeding. Stopping a constant stream of negative articles can appear almost impossible when you’re in the middle of it. The key to stopping the bleeding is understanding what’s causing it.

Once you understand the causes, you can develop a treatment plan. The primary objective must be to change the conversation to something that enables you to control the agenda. One of the biggest causes of negative perceptions into positive ones is not having control of the media agenda. There are two main tools that can be used to regain control: a major announcement or story – something that journalists want to write about more than the problems an organization is experiencing – or a new frame of reference. One example of changing the frame of reference is when Steve Jobs was taken to task about Apple’s small share of the overall PC market. His response? ‘Apple’s market share is bigger than BMW’s or Mercedes’s or Porsche’s in the automotive market. What’s wrong with being BMW or Mercedes?’.

Once you have control of the news agenda you will be able to stabilize the patient. Once the patient is stable, anything is possible.

I’ll be posting about each of the specific steps I’ve talked about in more detail in the coming weeks, but if you’d like to know more about how you can change negative perceptions into positive ones, contact me for more details.


Watch between 1 minute and 1′ 50″ of this video and you’ll get a perfect example of what is happening to Blackberry – manifest through its stock price – over the last two years.

Other RIM posts

Windows 8 will be BlackBerry’s 10

10 years?  BlackBerry 10 won’t see RIM through the next 10 weeks!


Has RIM lost its nerve?

Be Bold, proclaim the latest Research in Motion adverts… and for a moment it seemed that the company had taken its own advice.  Reporting another dire quarter, a clear out of several senior executives, including co-founder Jim Balsillie, RIM appeared also to be turning its attention back to its core Enterprise customers and giving up on its efforts to conquer the consumer market currently owned by Apple’s iPhone and Android devices.

Just hours later, however, RIM stepped back from this – announcing in a blog that it remained committed to the consumer market.  What happened to ‘Be Bold’?

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I believed that RIM itself was the biggest threat to the ongoing success of the company. I thought, it had, perhaps seen the light… giving itself a chance at redemption… sadly, it appears intent on pressing the self-destruct button.  Unless RIM does what it implores its customers and prospects to do, the company’s fortunes will, I believe, continue their downward spiral.

Here are a few reason’s why RIM’s continued failure to drop its designs on the consumer market and refocus its efforts on the Enterprise market will eventually be its downfall:

  • Continued confusion over messaging, resulting in a failure to connect with both customers and would-be BlackBerry-ers
  • A lack of targeted apps to appeal to either corporate or consumer customers
  • Compromised handset design – is it a serious productivity tool, a consumer ‘toy’ or a hybrid that fails to appeal to either customer group
  • Disillusionment of employees and a failure to attract the top talent needed to make RIM great again
  • A perception [and reality?] that RIM is continuously playing catch-up to iOS and Android devices
  • Erosion of its existing Enterprise client base, as BYOD strategies become increasingly common
  • Falling sales
  • Falling stock price

Unless it takes its own advice and is Bold… soon, Canada will lose another a tech institution – most likely to Apple.  Sooner, rather than later. C’mon RIM – #BeBold

Why Apple will acquire BlackBerry

After another dire quarter, a clear out of top executives and an acceptance that partnership, licensing or sale were all possible paths for RIM make it almost inevitable – in my opinion – that RIM will be acquired.  In a report I heard new CEO Thorsten Heins seemed to suggest that, while a sale was not an option at the moment, it may be in the future.

I’ve been saying it for a while that I  believe we’ll see Apple acquiring the IP and assets of the company.  After today’s earnings announcement, the corporate reshuffle and the likely impact on the company’s share price, it’ll probably happen sooner than we think too.

Here’s a few reasons why:

  • RIM can’t survive many more quarters like this one.  It has to find a buyer sooner rather than later
  • Apple has huge cash reserves that mean it could outbid any of its competitors should RIM become the subject of a bidding war
  • Apple has the most to gain from adding secure email to its armoury.  It would add the most sought after business tool to its portfolio and stop the likes of Microsoft/Nokia, Samsung, LG etc. acquiring it for their handsets
  • Apple could become the darling of the Enterprise with BES running on iOS devices.  Corporate BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] strategies have grown in organizations because they reduce capital expense: basically, iPhones and iPads have been tolerated by corporate IT because users already own them. With BES on iOS devices Enterprise could build a device strategy around a single platform [iOS], rather than Windows, Android and iOS.
  • Corporate device strategies around a single platform would offer significant capital and operational economies of scale. The result of this would be large volumes of iPhones and iPads by corporate IT department
  • BES + iCloud would bring the benefits of secure email to consumers and smaller organizations.  While not a huge money-maker, it would give Apple something to beat its opponents with.

Samsung and Microsoft/Nokia have also been suggested as possible bidders for RIM… who else could you see throwing their hat into the ring?


RIMs hard choices: Five ways to rescue Canada’s tech icon‘ is an excellent article by Iain Marlow and Omar Elakkad for The Globe and Mail.  While I still believe that a sale is the most likely outcome, I hope that I’m wrong and that via a combination of 5 and 4 the company can find success.  Part of returning RIM to its former glory will require the development and execution of a complex communications strategy that is difficult to do successfully at the best of times… that said, with the vision and the will [both of which I believe the company has in abundance] to succeed, anything is possible.

Update – July 12 2012

I came across this great Infographic created by Firmex that looks at who might acquire RIM. I’ve posted it here

Update – Feb 21 2013

With both companies floundering – RIM’s stock is volatile and, if reports of lacklustre sales of the Z10 and carrier issues in the US are accurate, BlackBerry10 will have failed to turn the companies fortunes around.  Apple needs a clear differentiator to fight off the Android assault and with a new Samsung Galaxy S4 being slated to launch in March, adding secure email would give it a clear advantage at companies implementing BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] strategies AND give it a strong play in regulated industries like finance and government.  An Apple acquisition of BlackBerry’s mobile business, leaving the Waterloo company clear to focus on developing QNX, appears to make more sense than ever.

Move over iPhone… BlackBerry is the biggest threat to $BBRY!

I’ve been watching RIM closely for a number of years… hoping that they’d turn things around.  I’m a self-confessed Mac fanboy, but I own a Blackberry – my third – and I recently chose to replace my old Bold for a new 9900 model.  Why?  Because it does what I need it to do for business [mobile email, social networking, browsing].  I don’t want to carry two phones… have two numbers… so my personal preference takes a back seat.  While many business users may want to use their personal ‘idevices’ for business purposes, their employers may not.

There’s a saying in marketing… ‘own your niche’.  Do what you do well and market it to your target audience – in RIMs case, that’s Enterprise email.  Refocusing on its strengths could be the saviour of RIM.  Also, while it fails to own it’s niche [the not insubstantial mobile Enterprise email market],  choosing instead to chase the consumer mass-market, RIM risks somebody else – Google, Microsoft/Nokia or Apple, for example – developing a competitive email offering and beating them at their own game.

When RIM replaced its joint CEOs in January, I hoped that this would signal a change in strategy and, in turn, the fortunes of the company.  I’ve long said that it needs to give up trying to be a contender to the iPhone’s [or the iPad’s, for that matter] crown in the handset and tablet markets, and return to its roots   Why?  Because, in my opinion, it is never going to compete with Apple’s device and, I believe, continuing to lose this battle can only do the company’s reputation and financial performance significant damage.

RIM implores consumers to #BeBold in it’s marketing.  Perhaps it needs to take it’s own advice…