An examination of BlackBerry's BB10 product launch
BlackBerry 10 (BB10) is not only the new operating system for a struggling brand, but a completely new direction for the company. Research In Motion has rebranded itself under its BlackBerry smart phone name in an effort to breathe life into the once dominant tech firm. This is a make or break product for BlackBerry, as they have seen market share erode to such companies as Apple and Samsung. As a dedicated BlackBerry user, the success of this product also has personal implications for me as a consumer. A key to the success of this new product is the launch, and it is for this reason that I have chosen it as my real world marketing campaign. Furthermore, this campaign coincides nicely with the timing of this class to provide a unique lens to evaluate BlackBerry’s execution.
The target audience for this campaign is the general public in the United States. The US smartphone market is second only to China, and it is an area that BlackBerry once dominated. All facets of the promotional mix are geared towards this segment’s regional launch on March 22, and this is easily demonstrated in their communication tactics.
BlackBerry launched BB10 on January 30th at a glitzy party in New York City. This fit with the product’s brand position of an elite, professional offering in the smart phone market. The goal of the launch party was to both reaffirm this brand image and stimulate awareness in the consumer buying process. Besides showcasing the product to the world they also announced a partnership with Alicia Keys, making her their new Global Creative Director. Although this title is mostly symbolic, it provides a celebrity endorsement and ties the brand to the singer. One important factor to note is the public appearances Alicia Keys made in the weeks after the launch:
· National Athem, Super Bowl 47, February 3rd
· Award Show Performance, Grammy’s, February 10th
· Halftime Show, NBA All-Star Game, February 17th
Although she didn’t directly market the product during these events, it does demonstrate a well-executed strategy to have BB10’s celebrity endorsement performing in the US national spotlight three weeks in a row.
Another large component of BB10s launch was its proximity and involvement in Super Bowl 47. Consumers were forced to take notice of the large launch party on January 30th and were reminded of the product again four days later. Not only did Alicia Keys perform the national anthem as previously mentioned, but BlackBerry also purchased air time for a commercial to be shown during the game. The commercial was both witty and eye catching, and showcased the product in a way that built hype and drove consumers to research the product. Also, the commercial subtly displayed Alicia Keys, further cementing ties between her and the product.
These large events were designed to build hype around the product. The heart of their marketing strategy began after the Super Bowl and focused on the US launch on March 22nd.When talking about BB10, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins repeatedly mentioned the terms “flow, gesture control, and hub”. These are the three differentiating benefits about BB10 that the company is driving into consumer’s minds. It is these features that BlackBerry hopes will rescue the brand from the inept set of smartphones to the inert set, becoming a product of consideration for consumers when evaluating alternatives.
When the company released its new television and internet advertisement they focused on these features of the product. The commercial showcases the phone’s gesture control, with every shot demonstrating that the user can control major features with the swipe of a thumb. The messaging hub is also featured prominently, with a specific segment of the ad displaying its ease of use. Lastly, flow is shown not only by the demo of the phone, but in the undertone of the entire advertisement. The ad shows a montage of actors flowing effortlessly from scene to scene in a very interesting way.
BlackBerry has been very successful in making these attributes stick in the mind of the consumer. Bloggers and vloggers find themselves exalting BB10’s hub, gesture control, and overall flow of the system. This helps BlackBerry further cement these benefits into the mind of the consumer, as they hear it from individuals who claim to be offering unbiased comparisons. Furthermore, I believe BlackBerry wisely chose to launch BB10 in the US a month after the initial launch. This product is different than a new iPhone or Galaxy S3, as these products have large, established user groups who are waiting eagerly for the next device. Although BlackBerry was once one of these products, this is no longer the case. BlackBerry is working to steal market share back from Apple and Samsung, and using this time frame to educate the US consumer will help convince users to switch devices.
For the second phase of this campaign I would reduce, but not eliminate, the emphasis on the individual consumer and shift the attention to corporate sales. BlackBerry once dominated the corporate handheld market, building a position on being business friendly and highly secure. The equity that this brand has built in this segment still exists, and BB10 can capitalize on this. The new operating system is still positioned as professional and secure, and has added features to make it even more corporate friendly.
As a communication strategy, I think the firm should use less advertising and focus more on a direct sales approach by partnering with cell phone service providers. By using trade promotions, BlackBerry can create incentives for corporate sales forces at providers such as AT&T and Verizon to push BB10 to their corporate clients. This direct marketing by professional sales associates can be extremely influential in convincing clients to switch, and can better communicate BB10’s technical benefits.
Overall, BlackBerry has executed a well thought out campaign for the BB10 launch, but only time will tell if consumers respond by purchasing the device and making BlackBerry an industry leader once again.