BlackBerry must disrupt to gain share

The challenge for BlackBerry in its forthcoming marketing campaign for its make or break software BB10 is communicating a message to a public that are either frustrated or apathetic towards the brand.

Lara O'Reilly

BB10 wields several standout features from rival ecosystems including what has been touted as the best on-screen keyboard in the market, innovative gesture control and deep integration with productivity tools.

The features are decent enough, but pressure is mounting on its marketing department to really make the operating system and BlackBerry’s new phones really stand out from the crowd in a market dominated by Apple and Samsung.

Ahead of the launch this week, analysts differed in their opinions as to whether BlackBerry should look to target the “low hanging fruit” of existing users in its communications, or if it should look to turn new heads in order to be successful.

One analyst suggested BlackBerry was simply looking to create “the best BlackBerry for BlackBerry users”, which would have been a sensible enough move 18 months ago when the BB10 launch was originally planned.

Now, however, perhaps frustrated by lack of updates or simply seducted by rival’s shinier offers BlackBerry’s share of the global smartphone market has dwindled from about 20 per cent at its peak to around 6 per cent currently. Targeting just BlackBerry users alone hardly seems an ambitious target to set.

Yet this seems exactly what BlackBerry is aiming for. Frank Boulben, BlackBerry CMO, told Marketing Week the company is splitting its audience into three segments: executives, working mums and teen students. You know, the only people you see on the bus still tapping away at a BlackBerry keyboard.

BlackBerry has enlisted the help of Alicia Keys to help set the brand “On Fire” and showcase how BB10 is the OS for cool people too. An odd choice of brand ambassador, not least because she was continuing to tweet from her iPhone even when announcing her new gig as BlackBerry’s “global creative director”. These pop stars are so fickle – and annoyingly for BlackBerry, so is the youth market it is questionably trying to reach with the 32-year-old artist.

If the Nokia and Windows Phone partnership forged in 2011 is anything to go by, BlackBerry isn’t going to set the world alight in the first quarter of BB10’s launch. It’s taken Nokia more than 18 months to return to profit, in spite of its considerable marketing investment and campaigns from Microsoft and other handset makers who create devices for the operating system in boosting sales of the Windows Phone platform.

In order for BlackBerry to keep up momentum beyond the big firework launch it must be disruptive. Boulben already hinted at tactics it is to embark on in the coming weeks – such as presenting iOS users with browser video takeovers showing the capabilities of its operating system and creating a Chrome ad that mimics the BlackBerry hub to allow them to trial its features.

It also mustn’t just rely on big marketing dollars, but real marketing creativity. Boulben has touted a “real time marketing” strategy that will help the brand leverage its products around current trends, news and conversations.

In every element of its communications – from the way it speaks to retail staff, to the way it looks to attract rivals’ customers – BlackBerry must prove after a sleepy few months it has woken up with a start in the 21st Century and is prepared to innovate and offer world firsts. This isn’t just about the products itself, it’s about selling the BlackBerry experience in elements beyond mobile – such as once in a lifetime events or viral social content – and making the brand relevant to individuals, rather than just procurement managers and skint teenagers.

If BlackBerry appears to be resting on its laurels again, even for a fraction of time, it won’t be long until BB10 is consigned to the smartphone graveyard.

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