Q&A: Frank Boulben, chief marketing officer, BlackBerry

Frank Boulben responds to criticism about BlackBerry and what he thinks are the brand’s strengths.

Also in this story:

  • Profile: Frank Boulben, chief marketing officer, BlackBerry 
  • The analyst’s view: BlackBerry needs the success of a daring gamble


Marketing Week (MW): How do you respond to criticism that BlackBerry was slow off the mark at launching a smartphone, which resulted in customers going elsewhere?

Frank Boulben (FB): First, let’s remind everyone that we created the category. We launched the very first smartphone 14 years ago and even the late Steve Jobs paid tribute to BlackBerry when he launched the iPhone.

But in technology things evolve in cycles. We launched the first smartphone platform in 1999, but by 2010 it was reaching the end of its life. We had to make a decision about whether we develop a new platform or partner with Android or Windows Mobile.

We decided to take the hard road and build a new platform from scratch, but a platform in which we could innovate and be differentiated.

MW: How do you feel about the brand’s strength?

FB: It’s never too late to innovate. Being slow is not the critical point, so long as we’re bringing relevant innovation to the market. Our brand is strong. The company is financially healthy. We have no debt. We turned a profit last quarter and have just under $3bn in the bank, so we are in a good position.

For us it was the right choice to focus on developing something that is innovative and come to market when we were ready in terms of quality.

Frank Boulben

MW: How will you differentiate BBM Channels from other social channels like Tumblr or Twitter?

FB: The uniqueness of BBM Channels is the intimacy and the fact it is by invitation only. That is the fundamental difference; it is an opt-in service so it is not intrusive. The mix of having two-way communication, broadcasting information and ecommerce capabilities will stand it apart.

BBM is fully integrated in the BB10 experience – you could have your BBM Channels in your BB Hub, so you won’t have to open the application to get news.



BlackBerry: Hoping to bear fruit

Lucy Handley

Once the leader of the mobile market, BlackBerry’s failure to change with consumer demand saw it lose its dominance. Now it is back with a new strategic plan and a leadership team that believes the company can return to the top.