11.052009

squeezing blackberries

The following is a guest post by a colleague, Craig Hoffman, former Senior Business Development Officer for NexCen Brands, Inc.  During his tenure, NexCen acquired 9 consumer brands ranging from Bill Blass, The  Athlete’s Foot, and Great American cookie.  He developed a unique brand review that focused on understanding the brand first, then focused on ways to monetize the brand.  Utilizing this approach, he oversaw the research on hundreds of brands as potential acquisitions.

I used to carry a Blackberry… blackberry-logo

…during the golden age of the Blackberry, when it was first nicknamed the “Crackberry.”  I remember fondly images of people squishing their Blackberries between the window and the window shades on airplanes to get better reception for just that last email before takeoff.  It was a revolutionary device for sure, and RIM did a great job in its development.  Legions of corporate IT staff will only support that device, and more individuals carry it quite loyally.

However.

I hadn’t been paying attention to their advertising for a while, until I heard a recent iPhone commercial.  I heard the Beatles “All you need is love” and then I looked up and saw…

Well, I saw that it was an ad for the Blackberry, not the iPhone.  All I need is love?  For an addicting device?  For the workhorse business device?

It got me thinking about whether Blackberry has lost its way.  It’s not that I don’t like the ads – they seem quite well done, and If the Blackberry is going to change its nature and become the “go to” personal device for folks, that’s great.  It just seems to me that it runs counter to the years of real brand development from RIM.  They have a great hold of an idea in people’s minds already, changing it this way seems to me like they will confuse and lose consumers in the short run.  To win the war with the iPhone seems like it will take an enormous investment.  It seems like it will be exceedingly difficult to make a return on their brand investment for this move.  To my view, they should continue to capitalize on the nature of the BlackBerry as the workhorse and emphasize its versatility. Keep us addicted, don’t try to make us love it.

Lots of smartphones are after the iPhone.  The Droid being the latest hopeful entrant in the war against the fastest gun.  But the Blackberry?  It had always been the anti-iPhone.  Business folks would turn their nose up at the iPhone and say “yeah it does nifty things, but I can’t live without my Blackberry.”  Many reasons would be cited “the keyboard is better,” “the push email is SOO fast,”  or “It synchronizes perfectly with my work machine.”  And yes, the iPhone has made inroads into some of these areas.  But not enough to de-seat the Blackberry.

So I did a quick scan of Blackberry advertising and found that in general, they have been trying to attach to the right idea:  “Be connected, and get your work done, but now you’re at least stylish enough not to feel like a complete dweeb.”  Seems like solid positioning for them.  These are just some easy samples:
Bold Print and Curve Print and Everyone’s Doing It and even slightly Cheeky Ones.

But then there are a bunch that are driving towards the new goal:  Why do you love your BB? And in particular, they are positioning it as a fashionable item, and directly attacking the iPhone:
Favorite Accessory or BB or Bullet? Or how about accessorizing with your Boots.

Admittedly, I’m taking some license here in that all these images are from various campaigns in different countries, and at different times, but still, all the while, “All You Need is Love” is crooning in the background of my mind.  To my eye, a church, borrowing the essence of the Blackberry just nailed the point of a Blackberry:  Just once more?

This new shift of winning the love of people – instead of addicting them seems just off to me. It’s like squeezing blackberries – in theory should be as drinkable as apple juice, but I don’t think people will really like the end product.

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