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?

To read more on How to Think Strategically, read the presentation below:

 

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ABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

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Is Blackberry ripe for a Comeback?

Unknown-1Blackberry created the entire smart phone category–and yet in the last 24 months, it has drifted into near obscurity.  Blackberry’s biggest issue was arrogance as it thought it was invincible to attack.  As the brand faced complete collapse, the ousting of its two founders and the dramatic loss in market share, the arrogance is certainly gone.   But, Blackberry has also been a victim of thinking about the device first and the consumer second.  

Blackberry also lacked that attention to the detail of the art of the phone that Apple has made us love.  Yes, there was a camera, but a bad one.   Yes, they had apps, but way fewer and they lacked magic.  And yes, they had a browser and links to your favorite social media sites but it was slow, unpredictable and a complete pain in the ass some days.  Once we figured out that you had to take the battery out and put it back in again, we started to think of the Blackberry as kind of pathetic. 

The Height of Blackberry

If i was writing this in 2008, Blackberry would be one of the most beloved brands in the world.   Those of us who were addicted were dubbed “Crackberry Addicts”.   Even as the iPhone was just launching, many of us Blackberry fans weren’t quite ready to switch.   Yes, the iPhone was great if you were an artist or worked at an Ad Agency, but if you had a corporate job, then Blackberry was the status symbol you wanted.   For many corporations, the Blackberry was a reward of job level or title at work.   Getting that Blackberry meant you had made it.  It was totally a self expressive status symbol of the corporate world.   And recognizing that status, the Stock Price soared upwards to peak in 2008 at $150.   Billionaires were made, articles were being written as though they were….Steve Jobs.
Love Curve Detailed

The Crash

The crash was steady and the crash was fast.   Not only were there better phone choices in the market, Blackberry’s arrogance seemed reluctant to do anything about it.  They stood still and the product became inferior.   The keyboard would stick, the camera was pathetic, the browser would get stuck daily and the speaker phone was weak.  While the world was migrating over to the iPhone or the Android, the worst thing was when those same corporate VP’s in your office started showing up with their new iPhone at work.  “What….we can get one of those now?”.  And all of a sudden, the corporate world wanted to switch over.  Blackberry had lost their base user–the corporate guys.

Unknown-2The last straw was the launch of the Blackberry Playbook, a late response to the iPad that it had mocked only 18 months earlier.   There were many problems with the Playbook–no point of difference being the biggest.   The price point dropped quickly. There were no real Apps.  And it seems that it was a quick opportunistic launch by Blackberry.  No one wanted it.  It was almost dead on arrival.  People were willing to grant Blackberry a Mulligan, but when they started to ask “so what’s next?” the answer Blackberry gave was “we’re not quite sure, let us get back to you”.

The stock price went from a high of $150 down below $20.  There were dramatic lay offs and then further dramatic share losses.  They courted potential buyers, such as Samsung, who came in and looked around and said no thanks.  The stock price continued to fall as the brand was on life support–all the way down to $6.

One of the quickest falls from Beloved Brand down to Indifferent.  The term “crackberry” is gone from our lingo.   Blackberry went from corporate status symbol to a bit of a loser.  People sheepishly bring out the blackberry in public ready with the excuse of “I’m on a 3 year service plan, and then I’m switching”.

We Love a Comeback Story

Here comes Blackberry 10.   The stock price has doubled in the last month.  But for Blackberry to make it back to the status of a to Beloved Brand, they need to focus on the Five connectors of a Beloved Brand:  1) Brand Promise 2) Strategy 3) Brand Story 4) Freshness and 5) Experience.  

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When Blackberry first made it big in the 2001-2003 time frame, they put all their efforts behind the Innovation which was closely connected to the Experience.  It was a “here’s what we do, we hope you like it” communication.  That’s OK when you are as revolutionary as Blackberry was.  Being able to send an email from anyone was such a revolution, that consumers did the rest of the work.  We had never seen anything like it, and it changed our lives forever!!!!  But once Blackberry faced some competitors, we never saw them effectively tell their brand story and their lack of innovation caused the experience to fall short on the experience.  They were basically a ‘one-and-done’ innovation that made it big, but they never really successfully evolved.  

In 2013, the market is crowded with Samsung and Apple battling it out.  For Blackberry to break through they need to effectively tell their story to their target market.  From the looks of the reviews, they are mixed–which is not a bad position.   Many reviewers are locked and loaded on Apple and Android.  It will be a battle for Blackberry to win through critics.  

USP 2.0

Brands need to be either different,better or cheaper.  Or not around for very long.   Does this new Blackberry 10 feel all that different from what you can get with Apple or Samsung?  

I’d love to see Blackberry speak to one audience, and stop talking to the masses.  Get back to that corporate VP who once was in love with the Blackberry brand and show them why they should love you again.  It’s now time to find a niche you can win over and powerfully defend.   You have to matter to those who care.    

Telling the Blackberry Story

For the come back to work, Blackberry must do what they’ve always been bad at:  Telling the brand story.   Culturally, Blackberry has known to not really care about advertising.  They brought in a high powered CMO a few years ago.   He walked out the door after 9 months because no one wanted to listen to him.  

So let’s look at what we are seeing so far.  Let me be critical of what we’re seeing so far because so far it’s not very good.  

Whoever made this launch video isn’t getting it.  It’s two boring guys who look like they should be in suits that have decided to leave the suit off so they can look cool and casual.  I’m not a wardrobe consultant, but heck why not put on a $2000 suit and look like a damn boss.  Let Apple own the casual.   Secondly, the demo is bad.  The whole communication is about how easy the “flow” of movements are, except in the on-stage demo, it’s not working.  That can’t happen.  It sends the signal of one of Blackberry’s weakness–lack of attention to detail.  While Apple might screw up the maps or other things, they would never mess up an on-stage demo.  

 

This cute little launch video is awful.  It might have worked in 2005 when Blackberry had a monopoly.   But it does nothing to separate the Blackberry brand from the crowded market.   the lack of voice-over type ad only works for iconic brands that need very little to say.   But for a small brand going after a niche, it needs to separate itself with a balance of logic and emotion.  

 

I’m a former Blackberry lover who wants to love Blackberry again.   I hope that Blackberry can find a way to make the most of the Blackberry 10 and even if they make a mini-comeback, it would be good for the market.   But, as a consumer, I’m not seeing enough for me to trade in my iPhone.  

What’s Your Vote?  Will Blackberry have a successful comeback?  

 

 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

 

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About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/   or visit my Slideshare site at http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations where you can find numerous presentations on How to be a Great Brand Leader.  Feel free to add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1 or join us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BrandLeadership

How Beloved Brands Fall From Grace

Very few Beloved Brands stay on top for long. 

Beloved Brands like Disney, McDonald’s and Coke have stayed at the top across many generations of consumers helping to deepen their connectivity and solidifying their power as a brand.  But these brands are rare.  Instead, most of the brands that reach beloved status stay at the top for one generation at best.  These brands get to the top and think they are invincible. They fail to recognize the decline before it’s too late because as they are in denial of the underlying problems which could be a result of fear, arrogance, not listening or making the wrong choices.  They fail to attack themselves which opens the door to an attack from others.

The 5 ways that Beloved Brands fall from grace
  1. Beloved Brands forget who they are and what it was that made them famous.  Benetton is great example of a brand who forgot what made them famous.   In 1990, Benetton could do no wrong.  Business schools wrote case studies of their success and Ad Agencies held them up as the brand of envy for all clients to learn from.  They had shock-value advertising campaigns that people talked about at the lunch table and there was a Benetton store in every mall.  Their colorful and stylish fashion was the desire of the core teenage crowd.  Benetton’s brand promise was providing European fashions at an affordable price.  But the arrogance of the “can do no wrong” brand quickly faded.  While they were so busy creating shock-value advertising and arrogantly talking of their brand as it were art itself they forgot about the fashion part of the business.  Benetton started to look like a hollow promise of cool ads with not-so-cool clothing.  Also, Benetton expanded so broadly and so fast, they opted for franchises instead of maintaining ownership over the distribution.  The managing of the large franchise network became a drain on the company and there’s a belief that not being close to the consumers in the stores hurt their ability to listen to what teenagers were saying and wearing.  With a fickle teenage target, Benetton quickly went from a must-have to a has-been brand.
  2. Struggle to keep up with the times.   The Beloved Brands of General Motors–Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Corvette–not only peaked in the 1970’s, but found themselves stuck their as well.  The 70’s were one of those decades with such a distinct look with Disco, perms, gold chains and the 3-piece suit, that most things connected to the 70’s were completely rejected in the 1980’s.  A brand like Cadillac was the ultimate luxury brand, so revered that people would describe the best brand of any category as “it’s the Cadillac of….” but that has since been replaced by “it’s the Mercedes of…..”   Cadillac’s unit sales peaked in 1973 just as gas prices began to rise and the look of those huge gas-guzzlers. It no longer fit the desires of the Yuppies of the 1980’s who were now opting for sleeker luxury with Mercedes and BMW.  The Corvette brand had done a nice job transitioning from the 50’s of James Dean through the 60’s and 70’s, always remaining as an icon of sophisticated American cool.   But Corvette failed to update their 1970’s brand look until 1984, which was too late to escape the stigma and giggles of those who looked at the drivers as having a “mid-life crisis”.  Consumers of the 80’s were now driving smaller and sleeker sports cars like the RX7, 280Z and later on the Miata.  And finally, the Oldsmobile was a classic American family car who sales soared through the 1970’s.  By the mid-80’s, in an effort to try to capture a new generation, they used the infamous tagline of “Not your father’s Oldsmobile”  which only re-enforced that it WAS your father’s Oldsmobile.  I believe that the near-bankruptcy of General Motors can be traced back to the 1970’s when the brands peaked and yet felt stuck in a time-warp forever.  GM failed to keep up in design, and failed to change as gas prices rose dramatically.  They found themselves attacked on the lower end from the Japanese cars like Toyota and Honda and at the higher end from German brands like Mercedes, Porsche, Audi and BMW.
  3. They make the wrong strategic choices because they think of themselves before the consumer.   Gap Clothing got greedy and forgot what made them great: trendy American fashion for a stylish generation at a reasonable price. And who is the spokesperson for fashion:  the coolest people on earth:  TEENAGERS of course.   Every generation of Teens believes they are the most important people on earth and they want products that speak for their generation.  It’s all about them.   They influence Music, Movies, TV Shows and Clothing and believe each has to speak directly to them and for them.   Imagine being 15 in the late 90’s, you’re walking in your favorite mall, trying to be as cool as can be, heading for your favorite clothing store.  All of a sudden, you look up and your favorite clothing brand is now flanked by BABY GAP on one side and GAP MATERNITY on the other side.   How could this brand speak for the teen generation, when your 2-year-old nephews are wearing a mini-version of what you’re wearing or your pregnant Aunt is wearing the stretchy version?  GAP made the mistake of putting their name on all their line extensions, which most fans of Master Brands thinks strengthens the brand but it actually runs the risk of actually weakening the brand.  GAP also forgot about feeding that desire for leading edge, trendy clothing–the whole reason for that “8 seasons” rotation of inventory.  Go into a GAP store this year, and you’ll realize how boring and drab the products have become.  No teenager today loves GAP or even thinks much about GAP.  They are totally indifferent.   Fast forward to 2011, GAP Clothing sales are down 19% this year and down over 25% since the peak of 2005.  And they have just announced the closing of 200 stores–which will continue the downward spiral.
  4. If you are Afraid to attack yourself, expect an attack from someone else.   Kodak was such a revered brand for so long, but their refusal to attack themselves opened up so many windows of attack from others.  The first attack came in the traditional film business from low-priced Fuji film.   Kodak did nothing to stop Fuji for fear of eroding their margin, letting Fuji gain a 17% share of the film market.   The second attack came from new entrants into the digital camera market before Kodak was ready to enter.    Even though Kodak had the first digital camera as early as 1975,  the product was dropped internally for fear it would threaten Kodak’s photographic film business.   In 1990 Kodak finally laid out a plan to enter the digital camera market but took another decade to enter the market.  The world was changing, yet Kodak executives still could not fathom a world without traditional film which gave them little incentive to deviate into the digital camera space.  The third attack came once Kodak entered the digital camera space.  Kodak entered at the high-end of the market and for a brief moment was the #1 digital camera.  But Kodak failed to recognize how quickly the digital camera market would become commoditized.   They did cut their prices, but couldn’t lower their cost of goods fast enough to keep up with the Japanese manufacturers.  Kodak was losing $60 for every camera sold at the same time as their traditional film business was dying. The result: Bankruptcy.  Interestingly enough, at the time of their bankruptcy, Kodak released 1000’s of patents for sale.  It’s not a question of innovation that killed Kodak, it’s a refusal to act on the right innovation in a timely fashion. They failed to attack themselves only to let others attack and ultimately destroy them.
  5. Lose focus and let the experience slide.   A recent case study in a brand experience not living up to expectations is the Blackberry.  It’s a classic case where they grabbed early share as the category innovator and then forgot to keep making improvements to the overall experience.  The list of problems for blackberry is long: major service outages, keyboard that sticks, small screen size, bad cameras, poor quality speaker-phone, slow internet browser and when the screen freezes you have to take the battery out and re-boot.  In my last few months as an angry blackberry user, I was taking the battery out 5x a day.  The leaders at RIM believed they were invincible almost laughing when Apple launched the iPhone.  These guys would next launch a tablet without any Apps on it.  Oh man!  What I think Blackberry’s biggest failure is not mapping out the customer experience and attacking every possible weakness.   It’s a classic case of technology first and then thrust it into the marketplace and hope it sells.  The blackberry experience has just not kept pace with Android and Apple.  As a result, the RIM share price is down 95% since its peak of 2008.
Maintaining Beloved Brand Status
  1. Keep the brand’s promise front and center on who you are.  You need to be either better, different or cheaper.   Challenge yourself to stay relevant, simple and compelling.
  2. Keep challenging the status quo to maintain an experience that over-delivers the promise.  Create a culture that attacks the brand’s weaknesses and fixes them before the competition can attack.  With a Beloved Brand, the culture and brand become one.
  3. Make focused strategic choices that starts with being honest with yourself.  Find a way to listen to your consumers and stay ahead of the trends.  Watch for dramatic shifts because they can really open a door for a competitor.  It’s easier said than done, but don’t be afraid to attack yourself even if it means cannibalizing your current business.  A good defense starts with a good offense.
  4. The most beloved brands have a freshness of innovation, staying one-step ahead of the consumers.  The idea of the brand helps acting as an internal beacon to help frame the R&D.  Every new product has to back that idea. .
  5. Keep the brand story clear and simple through great advertising in paid media, but also through earned media either in the mainstream press or through social media.

 

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  gr bbi picWe believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  Our President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a workshop to find your brand positioning or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.