Is BBM 2.0 a really smart move or really stupid move by Blackberry?

bbmIf you missed it, the big news in the world of teens is the resurgence of the BBM brand.

And to me as a marketer, it has me baffled.  Back in the day, Yogi Berra was famous for saying things that at first glance were very stupid, but after you thought about them a little longer you started to wonder if they were genius.  (“No one goes there anymore because it’s too crowded” or “The future aint what it used to be” or “never answer anonymous letter”)  So I’ve spent 48 hours wracking my brain on this one and I’m still remain highly confused by it.  Mind you, I was confused by BBM the first time.

What is BBM?

BBM stands for BlackBerry Messenger.  Back in 2006-2010, Blackberry was the phone of choice for business people.  Remember the term “crackberry”? One of the small services was BlackBerry Messenger that allowed you to send a direct message to another BlackBerry owner, faster than texting and you wouldn’t be charged by your carrier.   All you need was the other person’s PIN (Personal Identification Number).

It didn’t take long for teenagers to figure this out, and all of a sudden Blackberry quickly became the phone of choice for teenagers.  All of a sudden Blackberry shifted their target from “corporate VPs” to cool teenagers.  I think BBM 1.0 was a mistake for Blackberry as it took their eye off their true focus:  advanced phone and email technology for business leaders.  They lost their B2B stranglehold, they stopped innovating and then all of a sudden they were leapfrogged by both Apple and Android. Maybe in hindsight, it would have been smarter for Blackberry to sell the BBM technology and it’s membership to a brand more focused on the teen market.

Today, arguably, Blackberry is near death.  The people who have Blackberry Phones are those at the end of their 3-year plan or working for a company that doesn’t believe in trading up.  Blackberry, which once traded at $130 share price is now down at $8.  They’ve spent years trying to get back in the technology game and their latest launch would best be described as OK.   They are trying to sell the company–whether the brand has equity or just the sum of the Blackberry parts.  In fact, this past month Blackberry had to take out this ad:

bb ad

As the BlackBerry phones died, so did BBM, replaced by iChat, Kik, Snap Chat and any other tool the kids can find.  That is, until this week, when BBM for iPhone and BBM for Android launched, gaining 10 Million immediate customers as well at a pace of 500,000 per hour.  All over social media sites, such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, kids are listing their PIN so they can connect with each other.

BBM is a loved Brand

There’s a lot of pent-up love and Nostalgia for the BBM brand.  When you are 17, trust me, 2010 is the “good ole days”.  They all have such fondness for BBM as where they first became addicted to their phone.  

In reality, kids are turning to any new social media site where they can hide from their parents.  Once they found all their parents on Facebook, they ditched it for Twitter.  Maybe, they have figured out that Mom is now reading all your tweets and figuring out where you were at 3 in the morning.  The good news about BBM is that unless you have my PIN, you won’t be able to see what I’m doing.  As of this week, BBM is the new hang out for kids.

Why BBM makes sense:  BBM is clearly a BlackBerry Asset

Blackberry only really exists for one purpose:  to be sold at a higher asking price than today’s stock market price.  They are so boxed-in, there is really no way out.  So, they either need cash now, or at the least, an added source of revenue streams in the future.  Since they can’t find more cash by selling phones, maybe BBM represents an added source of revenue in the future.

BBM is free to consumers, but will turn a profit through a combination of marketing and advertising through some yet-to-be-launched features, such as BBM Channels which will allow users to amass followers and share content as well as allow BlackBerry to tailor and target ads towards individual users.  (sounds like Facebook)  Video and voice chatting services for BBM, which are currently available to BlackBerry users only, is also coming soon to the Apple and Android platforms “within months”

So now for Blackberry, BBM could quickly become an asset that might attract a new buyer to the company.   You would be buying the latest chat technology rage plus access to a concentrated list of millions of passionate consumers.

Why BBM DOESN’T make sense:  What Business is Blackberry in?

Every great brand understands what business they are in–matching up what they do really well with the consumer demand in the marketplace.  There are so many reasons that would make BBM out of scope.

    • BlackBerry doesn’t really understand teens.  Whether they understand corporate consumers still, is another question.  But that’s where they should be focused.  This fickle teen market will just drive you insane.  
    • BlackBerry is not a software or app company.  They are a device company, and they can’t take their eye off what’s next in the device business.  Even if they don’t get the next big thing to market, at least they can convince a new prospective owner they can.  
    • BlackBerry doesn’t know how to sell advertising space.  Selling advertising is a complete pain in the ass.  Does Blackberry really want to get into that?  Not only have social media sites struggled to sell advertising, mobile apps have struggled even more.  
    • Focus your efforts on finding a new owner. All that seems to be left is find a new owner.  Maybe BBM opens up the door to being bought by big social media players (Google or Facebook) but then they’d be stuck with everything else.  

So what’s next then?   Maybe just wait a few more weeks or months and package up the BBM assets and sell them off.

What is your take on BBM 2.0?  Crazy or Brilliant?

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5 thoughts on “Is BBM 2.0 a really smart move or really stupid move by Blackberry?

  1. BBM was always an under-leveraged asset in the RIM stable. To your point, it was secure (literally and figuratively), instantaneous, mimicked a real conversation and the charges hit your data bill from the carrier, not your text portion. The problem was the company never actively or consistently promoted it. But then RIM has a litany of bizarre marketing decisions to account for. I see this as an attempt to fatten a balance sheet while looking for a potential equity partner. A way of quickly increasing a perceived subscriber base which will be spun as part of the company’s asset base. Unfortunately, like many efforts by Blackberry its a day late and a dollar short IMHO.

  2. this is just a way for them to increase a perceived user base and get a higher valuation on the company. BBM is a great platform for all the reasons described in the article. blackberry devices aren’t being bought any more and those who still buy them are ready to throw them away in a few weeks – the company is going to be sold off in parts soon enough. perhaps facebook will buy BBM and re-brand it as facebook messenger

  3. I was at an event recently where the grand prize winner had the opportunity to win a new Blackberry Phone. For the first time ever, I was hoping my name would not be called. Thank Goodness it wasn’t!
    I think Blackberry is trying whatever they can to find a buyer and sell the company at a decent price.

  4. Blackberry still has alot of brand equity outside of the United States. It needs to get back to its core competencies and build out from there. Why don’t they just hire you Graham?! They may not even need to sell after all.

  5. BBM has always reminded me of a politician who becomes popular by giving away things for free. Once you “buy” popularity through an economically unsound model the economy has a way of biting you back.

    Reminds me of dotcom boom and bust. One would think that by now people would wise up to the fact that empty eyeballs doesn’t have economic value.

    BMM is in the business of “quick, secure private messages”. In my view they should have stayed with the ‘crackberry’ heads and started charging companies for keeping their business messages confidential.

    And just like PayTV satisfies the needs of people who want things that they want to watch without ads, a revenue model around the security of private message would be the best way for Blackberry to not be another dotcom.

    Those who are prepared to give up their privacy will opt to Tweet, Facebook or What’sApp.

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