RIM targets ‘low hanging fruit’ to drive turnaround

BlackBerry maker RIM launches its make or break operating system BB10 this week, which it hopes it will help it recover from several loss-making quarters. Industry experts, however, are divided on whether the brand should target its loyal professional and teen users or look to turn new heads in its marketing in order to drive the company’s turnaround.

BlackBerry 10

The Canadian company will unveil two new devices – one touch screen and another touch screen with the famous BlackBerry Qwerty keyboard – at an event in New York on 30 January.

Once the darling of the business market due to its strong security and email features and also the teen demographic thanks to its BBM instant messaging service and low-end prices, RIM’s devices failed to keep up with the slew of popular smartphones from rivals iPhone and Samsung – both of which have made headway in converting BlackBerry’s key target audiences towards their brands.

RIM’s share of the global smartphone market fell from a peak of 20 per cent in 2009 to 6 per cent in 2012, according to IDC data (see UK smartphone market share data in box below).

The company is planning its biggest global marketing assault to date, including its first ever Super Bowl ad, which was estimated to cost within in the region of £2.3m.

Although BlackBerry has not yet revealed the creative for that and further activity, much of the early below the line communications around the devices with partners is understood to have focused on security, the keyboard and email.

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, says targeting the “low hanging fruit” business users is a good place to start to prevent BlackBerry losing existing users.

“It’s not [sexy], but needs must,” he adds.

Ovum’s chief telecoms analyst Jan Dawson, disagrees focusing marketing communications on productivity and efficiency is a wise move for the brand to take if it wants to position its new devices as compelling rather than just “the best BlackBerry for BlackBerry users”.

He says: “For the ordinary user watching an American Football game, it will be a bit ‘so what’.”

BlackBerry will also need to convince marketers and developers to build on its ecosystem if its app market is to be competitive versus rivals.

BlackBerry has courted some brands such as Facebook and LinkedIn to create some of the estimated 70,000 launch apps for BB10 – but by comparison, Apple’s app store has about 775,000 apps and Google Play hit 675,000 last year.

BlackBerry has tried to communicate the ease of porting their existing Android apps over to the new operating system, the ability to stand out by virtue of their being fewer apps and the potential to make more money than on rival app stores but brand interest in the platform appears to be low.

A senior mobile consultant told Marketing Week it was unlikely many brands would experience a first mover advantage for building apps on the platform just for the sake of it and that his company would be “very much a wait and see what happened kind of business” with regards to BB10.


Lara O'Reilly

The challenge for BlackBerry is not only communicating a new OS to users who have left to other platforms or current customers frustrated with the successive launch delays.

It must also try to build BB10 excitement while its competitors are also spending big in the next few months advertising their new devices and operating systems.

Just look at Nokia, which launched a strategic partnership with Windows Phone in 2011 and is only just beginning to see signs of the success of its actions – although there is clearly still a long way to go.

BlackBerry must ensure after the big firework launch that it maintains momentum with its marketing, both above and below the line, if it is to truly infiltrate consumer consciousness.

Handset makers’ UK smartphone market share

Source: comScore (3 month averages)

Brand Nov 2010 Nov 2011 Nov 2012
Apple 27.2% 26.2% 27.6%
Samsung 5.5% 12.1% 25%
HTC N/A 18.5% 14.8%
RIM 17.4% 17.4% 14.6%
Nokia 29% 15.1% 8.1%


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