By Dean Crutchfield
Most of us know “what” BlackBerry is, but do not know “who” BlackBerry is. The name has huge franchise, but the four foundation stones of the brand have retrenched: The brand lacks a core idea that you can connect with beyond Qwerty and the adhesion of CIOs who prefer the security, ease and efficiency of BlackBerrys on their enterprise servers–not very sexy.
Then there’s the issue of leadership. At present there seems to be plenty of enigmatic wisdom couched in stoic silence. Leadership is about holding people’s fears and being able to turn the hard into the possible–not walking off a set disgruntled about an obvious question from an interviewer about the deteriorating shape of the business.
For a great brand to stay great it also needs the talent (staff and agencies) that support leadership across the enterprise. Given the detritus of its brand value, BlackBerry’s leadership has been found wanting. And finally, word of mouth is the number one influencer of purchase, but many current users are enslaved to their BlackBerry, “because we have to,” and consequently other brands have even greater allure. What are we “Crackberry” customers doing (apart from considering buying an iPhone)? I sense we’re doing little, for we have no reason to believe there will be a benefit; there’s a dwindling sense of a “BlackBerry connection” among the culture of target consumers.
Can BlackBerry inspire that authentic community and cheaply mobilize a colossal resurgence of its fan base? For a decade I’ve used
BlackBerry, it’s a great tool, but in my statement lies the heart of one of BlackBerry’s key problems–there’s little emotion in it.
Consumers want their brands of choice to be winners, not losers. BlackBerry must douse themselves in the labyrinthine reality of who they are. A decade ago, BlackBerry capitalized on the “moment” of evangelizing the lives of business people on the go, but has hitherto failed to tap into main streets “lifestream.”
I recall meeting with RIM executives in 2000 in which it was recommended RIM adopt BlackBerry as the masterbrand and enable it to become a bigger brand platform: an employee brand, a community brand, an environment brand, an investor brand and a trade brand. It was met with static.
Revitalizing BlackBerry means igniting a dynamic idea, rallying greater leadership, supporting empathetic talent, and encouraging core customers to rally and recommend. It requires a giant brand leap of form over function for a famous keyboard, as their dismal PlayBook sales reveal.
Apple is one of the greatest brands ever. It has achieved such status by creating a desirable product ecosystem that has reinvented six business categories; that’s evidence a brand in this space needs to be defined beyond product features and design aesthetics.
Jim Balsillie’s displays of reluctance belie a widening sense of despair that is metastasizing. BlackBerry has the reach, the people, the technology and the infrastructure. It’s time to stare adversity in the eye and not try to avoid defeat–seek victory, by adopting with great dereliction a defiant “John Wayne” strategy that demonstrates victory, activates transmedia debate and engages people sharing stories in a simple, surprising way that make us smile. And remember, investors and fans don’t mind you firing bullets, as long as you bring back some bodies.