Q&A: Blackberry’s CMO on Alicia Keys’ role as the brand’s global creative director

Frank Boulben, BlackBerry’s CMO, explains the difference between sponsored endorements and ‘in-house’ roles.

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Marketing Week (MW): You recently appointed Alicia Keys as global creative director for BlackBerry. How is this in-house role different from a traditional endorsement?

Frank Boulben (FB): I am not a fan of sponsored endorsement – we look for opportunities that provide both our and our partners’ fans with content and those that are interesting and engaging. Endorsements need to be more than a celebrity just lending their face to a brand. Whoever we work with, whether it be a collaboration with a singer like Alicia Keys, a writer like Neil Gaiman or a Formula 1 team – we recently announced our partnership with the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team – there needs to be a natural fit in terms of values.

MW: How does Keys fit with existing creative teams within the business?

FB: Alicia is an official member of the BlackBerry team and she will provide creative input to various areas of the business, including apps and content through to our marketing initiatives. As far as fitting in, it’s not unlike any other new employee who has to learn the culture and nuances of a job – with Alicia we are off to a great start and our teams are already working together with the launch of her Keep Moving project.

MW: What are the positives and negatives of celebrity input in brand communications?

FB: When it is the right fit, a celebrity can have several benefits. It enables the brand to talk to a new audience, driving engagement and positive perception. However, it is imperative that this is an authentic partnership and that the person not only has a true understanding of the brand but also shares the brand’s values. Consumers are clever and can see through something that is not authentic.

MW: What kinds of projects are you working on with Keys?

FB: Having been in her role for just one month, we recently announced her Keep Moving project. Alicia is asking fans to submit their own photos through the BlackBerry Keep Moving Hub that will then be used to create a music video to accompany her performances of the track ‘Hallelujah’ while on her Set The World On Fire tour. This is the first initiative we are working on with Alicia, and we look forward to sharing more about her involvement with us.

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