BlackBerry bids to boost ‘relevancy’ after ‘tough’ year

BlackBerry is rolling out a multimillion pound marketing offensive in the hope of restoring its “relevancy” in the face of fierce competition from rivals such as Apple and Samsung and move on from what it has admitted as being a “tough” 12 months that has seen the brand suffer a series of marketing mishaps.


A global campaign started last week with a television spot that is designed to appeal to “people of action” – early adopters of new technology and well connected people – that brand managers have identified as the “people of action” that use BlackBerry devices. The Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO created ad uses the endline “There are people who don’t. And there are people who do……Do you?”

It will be followed by activity detailing the benefits of its BB7.1 operating system and product functions such as NFC. A section has been added to its consumer website highlighting the product and service specifics available, such as NFC functionality and its music platform.

BlackBerry’s parent company, Research in Motion will be hoping the campaign will help claw back some of the sales it has lost to newer entrants to the smartphone market such as Apple and Samsung. Shipments of its smartphones fell 21% quarter-on-quarter in its latest quarter, while revenue slumped 19%.

Sarah Probert, senior director of brand marketing and communication at BlackBerry parent RIM, told Marketing Week: “It is a highly competitive market with some very large players in market investing a huge amount of money on a frequent basis. Just ensuring cut through is a challenge for anybody. Blackberry was the leader in this space for so long and arguably created the market in 2001.

“It has a been out there for a long time. Staying current and relevant is of the utmost when you have been a leader in the industry.”

Roberta Cozza, principle mobile analyst with Gartner, doubts that the campaign carries a “strong” enough message to “excite” users that have switched to Apple and phones using the Android platform. 

BlackBerry will also be hoping that the campaign will boost perception of the BlackBerry brand, which has been hit by a series of negative headlines over the past 12 months. Sales of its first tablet, the PlayBook, launched last year as a rival to Apple’s iPad, are said to have been disappointing, while a global service outage in October last year hit perception of the brand. It also attracted an unwelcome association with last year’s riots in the UK after it was said rioters used its messenger service, BBM Messenger, to organise.

Probert admits it has been a “tough” year. “We had our work cut out in reacting to situations, some in our control, some not. It is important in the aftermath to focus on users, those that are still passionate about BlackBerry……There is still passion out there about BlackBerry brand but we can’t negate the fact that there has been a lot of negative sentiment in particular areas. It is a job for this campaign and other activity.”

RIM recently announced the appointment of former Vodafone and Orange marketer Frank Boulben to fill the chief marketing officer role, vacant for more than a year after the departure of Keith Pardy in March last year.

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