I’ve been pretty hard on BlackBerry in recent months. I’ve criticized their marketing and suggested that it will result in the eventual demise of the company. I’ve said the launch of the company’s make-or-break new operating system, BlackBerry 10, was an unmitigated failure and poured scorn on their Super Bowl advert. So, it’s only fair that now BlackBerry 10 has launched, I share what I would have done differently to try to turn around the ailing company.
Re-brand. While Research In Motion announced it was to become BlackBerry last week at the launch of BlackBerry10, it should have done it when current CEO Thorsten Heins took over at the helm of the company from founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie last January. It would have given the company a full year in which to reposition and rebuild the brand.
Re-message. BlackBerry has been, the company claims, been “redesigned, re-engineered and reinvented”. I quite like the message, but the company should have re-launched its message in Q1 or, at latest, Q2 last year. It would have sent a message to customers and prospects that the company was relevant and encouraged those that were considering Apple’s iPhone 5 or one of the many Android devices a reason to put off their purchase decision.
Focus. The company needed to define who its target audience was – in detail. BlackBerry still describes its target audience as ‘hyper-connected’ individuals. This is everybody… and nobody. It makes developing a product and marketing it incredibly difficult. It also makes it difficult for people to identify with the brand – especially given that fewer people identify themselves as BlackBerry users than in the past.
Become the entrepreneurs friend. Hyper-connected people, and with a real need for a phone that helps them manage their business lives. They have a finely balanced work-life balance and need a smartphone that helps them to put business first, but also serve their personal lifestyle outside of the office. There are also, my design or circumstance, more entrepreneurs than at any time in the smartphone era because of the global economic downturn. The President of The United States of America is a BlackBerry user – and helping Americans and the US economy at a time of need would have been a great PR opportunity.
Find brand ambassadors. One for each customer demographic would be good. The company announced Alicia Keys as the company’s Global Creative Director at the BlackBerry10 launch, but it didn’t go far enough. How about an Enterprise brand ambassador, a sports ambassador, somebody that entrepreneurs can relate to… I don’t know the specific names of the ambassadors, but I’m pretty sure that Alicia Keys won’t help the company sell to retain Enterprise business.
Establish ‘Entrepreneur Bars’. OK, so the name is not right, but why not establish business centres that can be used, much as Apple has Genius bars, by business customers to get advice on technology, as well as finance, legal, patent, sales and operations experts. Make a friend of an entrepreneur by helping them to build a successful business and, I suspect, they’ll remain loyal.
Establish partnerships. Incubators and accelerators would be a great opportunity for BlackBerry. Grants, bursaries, competitions for developers to create apps for the new OS would have been a great way to get the next generation of entrepreneurs on side and talking positively about the new handsets/operating system.
Free upgrades for existing customers. If not free, then subsidized. No matter how long remains on existing contracts I’d suggest all BlackBerry users were given the opportunity to upgrade to a new BlackBerry10 device. It’d get handsets into the market in bulk and make a brand ambassador of every exiting customer.
Stop Thorsten Heins from doing interviews. I don’t mean any disrespect, but he’s not able to connect with the company’s major target demographics. BlackBerry would really shake things up – and set an example for the industry – if it found somebody in their 20s or 30s to do interviews, launches and consumer-focused [I include both B2B and B2C in this] PR. Thorsten is perfect for investor and partner relations activities so I’d focus his energies on these activities.
One launch. The launch was effectively one event, from New York City, streamed to viewing parties around the world. Make it big – think Google I/O skydivers or Apple iPhone the first time around. If this is the OS on which the fortunes of the business rests then it needed to be memorable – the BlackBerry10 launch wasn’t memorable.
This is just a start – there needs to be a tactical BlackBerry10 launch plan, but I believe the company missed significant opportunities to score easy victories in the run up to the January 30 launch. Missed opportunities that, I believe, will cost it dear in the coming weeks and months. Tell me I’m wrong. I’d love to hear your ideas on what BlackBerry should have done to improve its chances of making 10 a success and saving itself from oblivion.