Is BBM 2.0 a really smart move or really stupid move by Blackberry?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

bbmIf you missed it, the big news in the world of teens is the resurgence of the BBM brand.

And to me as a marketer, it has me baffled.  Back in the day, Yogi Berra was famous for saying things that at first glance were very stupid, but after you thought about them a little longer you started to wonder if they were genius.  (“No one goes there anymore because it’s too crowded” or “The future aint what it used to be” or “never answer anonymous letter”)  So I’ve spent 48 hours wracking my brain on this one and I’m still remain highly confused by it.  Mind you, I was confused by BBM the first time.

What is BBM?

BBM stands for BlackBerry Messenger.  Back in 2006-2010, Blackberry was the phone of choice for business people.  Remember the term “crackberry”? One of the small services was BlackBerry Messenger that allowed you to send a direct message to another BlackBerry owner, faster than texting and you wouldn’t be charged by your carrier.   All you need was the other person’s PIN (Personal Identification Number).

It didn’t take long for teenagers to figure this out, and all of a sudden Blackberry quickly became the phone of choice for teenagers.  All of a sudden Blackberry shifted their target from “corporate VPs” to cool teenagers.  I think BBM 1.0 was a mistake for Blackberry as it took their eye off their true focus:  advanced phone and email technology for business leaders.  They lost their B2B stranglehold, they stopped innovating and then all of a sudden they were leapfrogged by both Apple and Android. Maybe in hindsight, it would have been smarter for Blackberry to sell the BBM technology and it’s membership to a brand more focused on the teen market.

Today, arguably, Blackberry is near death.  The people who have Blackberry Phones are those at the end of their 3-year plan or working for a company that doesn’t believe in trading up.  Blackberry, which once traded at $130 share price is now down at $8.  They’ve spent years trying to get back in the technology game and their latest launch would best be described as OK.   They are trying to sell the company–whether the brand has equity or just the sum of the Blackberry parts.  In fact, this past month Blackberry had to take out this ad:

bb ad

As the BlackBerry phones died, so did BBM, replaced by iChat, Kik, Snap Chat and any other tool the kids can find.  That is, until this week, when BBM for iPhone and BBM for Android launched, gaining 10 Million immediate customers as well at a pace of 500,000 per hour.  All over social media sites, such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, kids are listing their PIN so they can connect with each other.

BBM is a loved Brand

There’s a lot of pent-up love and Nostalgia for the BBM brand.  When you are 17, trust me, 2010 is the “good ole days”.  They all have such fondness for BBM as where they first became addicted to their phone.  

In reality, kids are turning to any new social media site where they can hide from their parents.  Once they found all their parents on Facebook, they ditched it for Twitter.  Maybe, they have figured out that Mom is now reading all your tweets and figuring out where you were at 3 in the morning.  The good news about BBM is that unless you have my PIN, you won’t be able to see what I’m doing.  As of this week, BBM is the new hang out for kids.

Why BBM makes sense:  BBM is clearly a BlackBerry Asset

Blackberry only really exists for one purpose:  to be sold at a higher asking price than today’s stock market price.  They are so boxed-in, there is really no way out.  So, they either need cash now, or at the least, an added source of revenue streams in the future.  Since they can’t find more cash by selling phones, maybe BBM represents an added source of revenue in the future.

BBM is free to consumers, but will turn a profit through a combination of marketing and advertising through some yet-to-be-launched features, such as BBM Channels which will allow users to amass followers and share content as well as allow BlackBerry to tailor and target ads towards individual users.  (sounds like Facebook)  Video and voice chatting services for BBM, which are currently available to BlackBerry users only, is also coming soon to the Apple and Android platforms “within months”

So now for Blackberry, BBM could quickly become an asset that might attract a new buyer to the company.   You would be buying the latest chat technology rage plus access to a concentrated list of millions of passionate consumers.

Why BBM DOESN’T make sense:  What Business is Blackberry in?

Every great brand understands what business they are in–matching up what they do really well with the consumer demand in the marketplace.  There are so many reasons that would make BBM out of scope.

    • BlackBerry doesn’t really understand teens.  Whether they understand corporate consumers still, is another question.  But that’s where they should be focused.  This fickle teen market will just drive you insane.  
    • BlackBerry is not a software or app company.  They are a device company, and they can’t take their eye off what’s next in the device business.  Even if they don’t get the next big thing to market, at least they can convince a new prospective owner they can.  
    • BlackBerry doesn’t know how to sell advertising space.  Selling advertising is a complete pain in the ass.  Does Blackberry really want to get into that?  Not only have social media sites struggled to sell advertising, mobile apps have struggled even more.  
    • Focus your efforts on finding a new owner. All that seems to be left is find a new owner.  Maybe BBM opens up the door to being bought by big social media players (Google or Facebook) but then they’d be stuck with everything else.  

So what’s next then?   Maybe just wait a few more weeks or months and package up the BBM assets and sell them off.

What is your take on BBM 2.0?  Crazy or Brilliant?

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As the founder of Beloved Brands, Graham has been an advisor to the NFL Players Association, Shell, Reebok, Acura, Jack Links, Miller beer, Earls restaurants and Pfizer. He’s helped train some of the best marketing teams on strategy, brand positioning, brand plans, and advertising.Graham Robertson

In his marketing career, Graham led some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, Coke, General Mills, and Pfizer, rising up to VP Marketing. He has won numerous awards including Marketing Magazine’s “Marketer of the Year”, Businessweek’s best new product award and four Effie advertising awards. His book, Beloved Brands, is the playbook for how to build a brand consumers will love.

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