BlackBerry has a death wish!

$BBRY, BlackBerry, Mobile, Telecommunications

The BlackBerry Passport launches tomorrow. The question is will anybody care?

The company has, yet again, failed to build the relationships it needed to change the perception of the company, and its marketing around the launch of the new handset has been woeful. Again.

I wrote 18 months ago about my launch plan for the company’s BB10 devices and have been reflecting on what I would do differently for Passport. In reality, much of my BB10 remains unimplemented and would have give the company a better chance of success than anything I’ve seen to date.

The only thing I would change from my original plan would be the device cost. Announced yesterday, $599 dollars off contract is too much. A 50 dollar difference between the Passport and the iPhone 6 won’t persuade people to give BlackBerry another chance. Many wouldn’t switch if the price differential was $500. It’s not so much about the handset, although the Passport is an acquired style choice, but about the brand image.

There are those that have claimed, ‘market share is not BlackBerry’s game’. Some have said it’s about margin. Some who say the company is focused on Enterprise, not consumers.

So why even mention the price differential to the competitors? Why mention the comparative size of the screen? Make a clear statement that you’re focused on a different market.

Lastly, and most importantly, BlackBerry has failed to communicate these clearly via PR and marketing to build relationships and get people to take the action you want them to. BlackBerry has failed on all counts and it’s running out of runway.

I wrote almost three years ago that BlackBerry was its own worst enemy.  Nothing I’ve seen since convinces me otherwise!

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip:  Don’t get distracted by the competition. Don’t be scared to sell on differentiators. Be prepared to trade on the value you deliver in the eyes of your customers and prospects – and if that doesn’t work… it’s over.

BlackBerry’s Turnaround Has 7 Days To Succeed

BlackBerry

If the response to the BlackBerry Passport, which launches next Tuesday in Toronto, Dubai and London, is the same as the one that met the company’s BlackBerry 10 announcement the company’s turnaround will likely fail.  Over recent weeks I’ve been analyzing the communications portions of the Passport pre-launch, as well as following the rumours and speculation to see what the company has learned from its recent failures.

While there have been some improvements – there can be no doubt that John Chen has done an amazing job stabilizing a critically ill patient: cutting costs and reducing headcount has been the easy part.  Now, the company must show it can overcome the more difficult part of the turnaround – repairing the company’s brand and reputation, as well as selling the device in large volumes.

There are still some worrying signs that tell me BlackBerry will struggle – and it has just seven days to fix them.  Here’s my take on the PR and marketing efforts to date, and what I believe the company needs to do on Tuesday.  If it fails, the turnaround will be fail.

Let’s start with the advert BlackBerry ran in the Globe and Mail last week.

BlackBerry, BlackBerry Passport, BlackBerry Turnaround
Canadians Love A Good Comeback

With the headline, “Canadians Love A Good Comeback” the body copy reads, “At BlackBerry we’re proud of our Canadian Heritage.  It’s what pushes us to continuously push security and productivity boundaries, allowing those with unstoppable energy to work smarter, collaborate better and accomplish more.  The soon-to-be-released BlackBerry Passport is further proof of our commitment to serious mobility for serious business.”

It’s wordy.  It also doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Being Canadian pushes the company to push security and productivity boundaries? I don’t see the link – or why it matters.  While it’s in a Canadian newspaper [the company playing to a home audience], the advert has been shared globally.  Perhaps I’m nit-picking!  Given the obvious associations with travel something more global would perhaps have played better.

The company says the upcoming Passport is further proof of its commitment to serious mobility for serious business… again, I’m not sure that there’s been much proof of that lately.

Serious mobility for serious business appears to be the strapline under which the Passport will be launched.  It’s not bad.  But it’s not great.  It’s something that would have worked had it been the company’s strapline back in 2006 – differentiating itself from consumer-chasing handsets like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S-Series.  Now it seems more like a defensive tool to protect from competitors that, having captured consumers have now focused their attentions on BlackBerry’s supposed core market.  BlackBerry is back-peddling.

Then there’s the web form used to sign up for more information on the Passport, which has been circulating in recent weeks.

The subhead reads “Don’t limit yourself to the narrow world of today’s phones. See the bigger picture.”, followed by three bullets [the power of three!] focusing on a large, square touch screen, an innovative touch keyboard and a day-long battery life.

That’s it BlackBerry?  That’s the best you’ve got?  The reasons for buying a PassPort over a competitor handset is a square screen, an innovative touch keyboard and a day-long battery life?!

BlackBerry Passport, Marketing,  BlackBerry Passport Launch
BlackBerry Passport Web Form

Let’s look at the launch invite.  Save The Date. See the Bigger Picture. OK.  What about references, either explicitly, to a Passport?  I didn’t receive an invite, so perhaps they sent invites that were passport-like?  The biggest issue for me here is that there is no US launch which, many, have interpreted as meaning the handset will not be available there at launch.  We know about T-Mobile [the obvious partner for BlackBerry] and the delays in persuading US carriers to carry BB10 devices 18 months ago, but if true this is a major blow to the launch.

BlackBerry Passport, Passport Launch,
BlackBerry Passport launch invitation

The map on the invoice is slightly strange.  Most recipients will likely know where London, Dubai and Toronto are.  The plane’s route on invite is also bizarre.  Is it recognition that the company’s journey has been less than direct?

Now on to the real problem.  The price.  Many have rumoured it to be around $ 800 and GBP 500 [I can’t find a Dirham price].  If this is accurate, the company will be pricing it alongside some very popular and established devices.  This could prove to be the biggest sticking point for the company whose handsets are, let’s say, less than fashionable right now.  That may not – and, I’d argue, should not matter – but it will.  Perhaps not to BlackBerry’s core market – the loyal ones that have kept faith with the company and are not worried about the stigma that has been attached to being a BlackBerry user in recent years.  But, it matters if the company is to attract some of the defectors back; they are the people who the company needs to be targeting if it is to turn around its long-term fortunes.

BlackBerry needs to show that it is taking care of business.  It needs to show that, in addition to operational and cost-savings it can sell devices.  That requires it to rebuild relationships with customers that chose competitor devices; it requires the communication of a clear value proposition; it requires the company to inspire potential customers; it needs clear and effective marketing. Come to think of it the recent Globe and Mail advert should simply have said, “BlackBerry Passport: Taking Care of Business” or “BlackBerry Passport: Business Class”.

To date, I’ve seen none of this.  BlackBerry has just seven days to turn things around or its turnaround could be taking on water within the week.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: experiment using small test groups of customers, prospects and those that buy from your competition until you find a value proposition and message that works.

Tomorrow, I’ll explain how I would launch the BlackBerry Passport.  Until then, read my plan for the BlackBerry 10 launch

BlackBerry Turnaround: the hard part is still ahead