RIM’s Marketing Mess

Image of RIM Blackberries

If I had a chance to give beleaguered RIM one piece of advice, it would be this: Stop! Stop the scattergun of conflicting messages you’re sending, step away from the mic, cancel all the ads and the ill-conceived publicity stunts and think for a minute. Figure out what it is you’re trying to do. Because RIM, you’re confusing the hell out of us.

An ad that RIM has been running frequently here in Canada features a young music producer, I think meant to impress us as being hip, professional, very busy and social media savvy. The central claim of the ad is that she responds to 1000 emails a day — “try doing that on a touchscreen”. The idea of somebody actually attempting to meaningfully respond to 1000 emails a day on any device is ridiculous. That’s reading and writing one email every 40 seconds for 12 hours straight. It sounds more like one of the seven circles of Hell than a career. OK, so the premise is a bit flawed as something to aspire to, but the takeaway — you need a physical keyboard, that’s good for RIM, right?

Enter Thorsten Heins, RIM CEO, introducing Blackberry 10 at Blackberry World 2012. And what is Thorsten holding proudly for all to see? An alpha version of the new touchscreen BB10. Wait, what?!

Eventually it was clarified that there would also be new BB10 devices with physical keyboards, but the seeds of confusion had been sown.

Next came the news that RIM would ensure that any developer of an approved app would recoup at least $10,000, guaranteed. RIM will pay your development costs (at least $10K of them) if you would please consider developing for their new OS. That doesn’t sound desperate, does it?

Later in the week, the revelation that the lame publicity stunt featuring a hired flash-mob dressed in black outside an Australian Apple Store holding signs reading “wake up”, was in fact organized by RIM. Facepalm. I think they’d have been better off letting people keep believing it was Samsung that came up with that clunker. Wake up to what, exactly?

The messages being sent by RIM to potential customers are contradictory, confusing and ultimately very damaging. They’ve got to get a handle on their communications, and soon. It gives the impression of a company that is not sure what its core business is – a rudderless ship aimlessly exploring a sea of possibilities. In reality, their situation is probably considerably more urgent than that. I thought John Gruber got it right on The Talk Show with his analogy of RIM being like an airplane in a dive heading straight for the ground. His question was, is there still enough space between them and the ground to pull up in time? I wonder that too.


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Comments (5)

  • A better add would put a touch screen in the hands of the musician, then focus onto the “powers in charge” using BBs. They had the business market and should capitalize on that.

      Yes it would have been a good idea to segment their markets more clearly. Trouble is, they’ve delayed acting on touch for so long they aren’t going to have anything shipping for a while. They’re in a bit of a corner here, the long-time customers love the physical keyboard, but the rest of the market has moved to touch. It appears they’re trying to have it both ways, which just creates confusion. I don’t know if the tech is yet 100% reliable and affordable, but it seems to me that a haptic (touch feedback) screen would have been an innovative way to serve both segments and distinguish themselves as leading edge at the same time.

        The fact of the matter is, Smartphones are ianlensicgry growing in popularity, and Blackberry still manages to sell plenty of phones, not as many as Apple or Android, but most analysts peg Windows Phone 7 to replace it at #3, and the best selling WP7 phone so far, the Nokia Lumia 800, sold about 2 million phones so far. Dunno the number of Bold 9900/9930 devices, but its been a lot more. And most of those Nokia sales are taking away from Symbian, not Android/IOS/RIM.

      Glad to have you here, next thing to do is to get better aresdtiving. Show BBM connected games, App integration, Camera, Multimedia, etc. I would love to see something like facetime for BBM, maybe blackberry video chat or something like that. Also, you know you need an advertisement showing how you are better than competition, such as the T-mobile commercial when the Galaxy S II vs the iPhone. Spark some interest. You already know about the apps and are working on it .make this work Mr.Heins

  • Hmmm I though by that we knew that blackberry was going to be replaced as the third ecosystem for a few months now. I think its extremelly unlikely that bb10 will be able to save them. I mean if people only real complaint about WP is the lack of apps, how in the world is bb10 going to compete with wp8? Not to mention the fact that blackberry has already lost its crown as the safes ecosystem for enterprise, so what do they have left? I hardly think that a physical keyboard is good enough reason as anyone who actually tries to type for a couple of days on a touchscreen soon realises that is works great.

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