Blackberry created the entire smart phone category–and yet in the last 24 months, it has drifted into near obscurity. Blackberry’s biggest issue was arrogance as it thought it was invincible to attack. As the brand faced complete collapse, the ousting of its two founders and the dramatic loss in market share, the arrogance is certainly gone. But, Blackberry has also been a victim of thinking about the device first and the consumer second.
Blackberry also lacked that attention to the detail of the art of the phone that Apple has made us love. Yes, there was a camera, but a bad one. Yes, they had apps, but way fewer and they lacked magic. And yes, they had a browser and links to your favorite social media sites but it was slow, unpredictable and a complete pain in the ass some days. Once we figured out that you had to take the battery out and put it back in again, we started to think of the Blackberry as kind of pathetic.
The height of Blackberry
If i was writing this in 2008, Blackberry would be one of the most beloved brands in the world. Those of us who were addicted were dubbed “Crackberry Addicts”. Even as the iPhone was just launching, many of us Blackberry fans weren’t quite ready to switch. Yes, the iPhone was great if you were an artist or worked at an Ad Agency, but if you had a corporate job, then Blackberry was the status symbol you wanted. For many corporations, the Blackberry was a reward of job level or title at work. Getting that Blackberry meant you had made it. It was totally a self expressive status symbol of the corporate world. And recognizing that status, the Stock Price soared upwards to peak in 2008 at $150. Billionaires were made, articles were being written as though they were….Steve Jobs.
The crash was steady and the crash was fast. Not only were there better phone choices in the market, Blackberry’s arrogance seemed reluctant to do anything about it. They stood still and the product became inferior. The keyboard would stick, the camera was pathetic, the browser would get stuck daily and the speaker phone was weak. While the world was migrating over to the iPhone or the Android, the worst thing was when those same corporate VP’s in your office started showing up with their new iPhone at work. “What….we can get one of those now?”. And all of a sudden, the corporate world wanted to switch over. Blackberry had lost their base user–the corporate guys.
The last straw was the launch of the Blackberry Playbook, a late response to the iPad that it had mocked only 18 months earlier. There were many problems with the Playbook–no point of difference being the biggest. The price point dropped quickly. There were no real Apps. And it seems that it was a quick opportunistic launch by Blackberry. No one wanted it. It was almost dead on arrival. People were willing to grant Blackberry a Mulligan, but when they started to ask “so what’s next?” the answer Blackberry gave was “we’re not quite sure, let us get back to you”.
The stock price went from a high of $150 down below $20. There were dramatic lay offs and then further dramatic share losses. They courted potential buyers, such as Samsung, who came in and looked around and said no thanks. The stock price continued to fall as the brand was on life support–all the way down to $6.
One of the quickest falls from Beloved Brand down to Indifferent. The term “crackberry” is gone from our lingo. Blackberry went from corporate status symbol to a bit of a loser. People sheepishly bring out the blackberry in public ready with the excuse of “I’m on a 3 year service plan, and then I’m switching”.
We Love a Comeback Story
Here comes Blackberry 10. The stock price has doubled in the last month. But for Blackberry to make it back to the status of a to Beloved Brand, they need to focus on the Five connectors of a Beloved Brand: 1) Brand Promise 2) Strategy 3) Brand Story 4) Freshness and 5) Experience.
When Blackberry first made it big in the 2001-2003 time frame, they put all their efforts behind the Innovation which was closely connected to the Experience. It was a “here’s what we do, we hope you like it” communication. That’s OK when you are as revolutionary as Blackberry was. Being able to send an email from anyone was such a revolution, that consumers did the rest of the work. We had never seen anything like it, and it changed our lives forever!!!! But once Blackberry faced some competitors, we never saw them effectively tell their brand story and their lack of innovation caused the experience to fall short on the experience. They were basically a ‘one-and-done’ innovation that made it big, but they never really successfully evolved.
In 2013, the market is crowded with Samsung and Apple battling it out. For Blackberry to break through they need to effectively tell their story to their target market. From the looks of the reviews, they are mixed–which is not a bad position. Many reviewers are locked and loaded on Apple and Android. It will be a battle for Blackberry to win through critics.
Brands need to be either different,better or cheaper. Or not around for very long. Does this new Blackberry 10 feel all that different from what you can get with Apple or Samsung?
I’d love to see Blackberry speak to one audience, and stop talking to the masses. Get back to that corporate VP who once was in love with the Blackberry brand and show them why they should love you again. It’s now time to find a niche you can win over and powerfully defend. You have to matter to those who care.
Telling the Blackberry Story
For the come back to work, Blackberry must do what they’ve always been bad at: Telling the brand story. Culturally, Blackberry has known to not really care about advertising. They brought in a high powered CMO a few years ago. He walked out the door after 9 months because no one wanted to listen to him.
So let’s look at what we are seeing so far. Let me be critical of what we’re seeing so far because so far it’s not very good.
Whoever made this launch video isn’t getting it. It’s two boring guys who look like they should be in suits that have decided to leave the suit off so they can look cool and casual. I’m not a wardrobe consultant, but heck why not put on a $2000 suit and look like a damn boss. Let Apple own the casual. Secondly, the demo is bad. The whole communication is about how easy the “flow” of movements are, except in the on-stage demo, it’s not working. That can’t happen. It sends the signal of one of Blackberry’s weakness–lack of attention to detail. While Apple might screw up the maps or other things, they would never mess up an on-stage demo.
This cute little launch video is awful. It might have worked in 2005 when Blackberry had a monopoly. But it does nothing to separate the Blackberry brand from the crowded market. The lack of voice-over type ad only works for iconic brands that need very little to say. But for a small brand going after a niche, it needs to separate itself with a balance of logic and emotion.
I’m a former Blackberry lover who wants to love Blackberry again. I hope that Blackberry can find a way to make the most of the Blackberry 10 and even if they make a mini-comeback, it would be good for the market. But, as a consumer, I’m not seeing enough for me to trade in my iPhone.
What’s Your Vote? Will Blackberry have a successful comeback?
To read other stories on Brand Leadership, click on any of the topics below:
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