I have a confession to make. I’ve never been a BlackBerry user and have only watched the brand’s rise and fall from a nonchalant distance. In fact, as a creative professional weaned on mother’s Mac, I’m kind of an Apple fanboy. Yet, as I watched the BlackBerry 10 launch Wednesday, I was emotionally engaged with the BlackBerry brand for the first time ever.
Initially, those feelings were stomach-knotting frustration as I watched the familiar choreography of Apple product launches played out before my eyes but without the finesse—like a fine musical instrument just slightly out of tune. Thorsten Heins is no Steve Jobs, and several times he had to coax awkward applause out of the audience. Still, the event placed solidly (for me) in the middle ground between alluring Apple and geeky Google.
The hardware felt like a big “me too” in terms of, well, just about everything except the physical keyboard, which was more of a “hi, it’s me again.”
But then came the software segment and my marketing-nerd neurons glowed brightly with each swipe of the interface and its corresponding message. I was elated to find that RIM didn’t throw away its identity as a connectivity tool—one so beloved by its passionate users it earned the monicker “CrackBerry.” What I saw was not a desperate attempt to be like the new cool kids. Instead, RIM has not only embraced its core identity but poured more into it. Heins has stepped out in front, owning up to the mistakes, and leading an evolution of the brand into a modern connectivity center for people on the move. Dropping the RIM monicker for BlackBerry drives home this point. There’s no denying that BlackBerry understands its place in the mobile cosmos and is on a mission to reclaim it’s role as an addictive connectivity device.
Beyond mere posturing, the commitment shows up in the interface design, with instant access to email, messages, social and more built right into the core OS functionality. All your personal communication channels are a thumb-slide away from any screen or app you’re immersed in (That is, if my impressions are correct. Admittedly, this non-credentialed blogger hasn’t had the privilege of handling it.) The ability to navigate between active apps is nothing new, but BlackBerry seems to have refined the experience so that it feels seamless, adeptly calling it “Flow.” I admit to having “grass-is-greener” feelings when I now use my iPhone’s clunky app transition approach, which hasn’t changed in several generations of iOS.
But this is not a technical review, so to sum up, it seems BlackBerry’s leaders have finally taken a long look back at the brand’s heritage and a wide look around our hyper-connected world and decided to rebuild the sweet spot of BlackBerry business. Let’s hope it’s not too late. For now, Heins is wisely hedging by focussing on reinvigorating the current customer base. But it’s clear by the total product redesign and brand rejuvenation that BlackBerry is on a mission own again the business connectivity space.
Whether consumers buy it only time will tell. But I applaud BlackBerry so far and thank them for inspiring this marketer. Here’s a few insights I took away from the launch:
1. Own your mistakes.
“Fake it till you make it” is not a marketing panacea. When we fail our customers, taking responsibility goes a long way toward rebuilding trust. In today’s world of consumers playing product hopscotch, it’s important to give fans a reason to “Don’t stop believin’!”
2. Rediscover your soul.
If you’re brand has been watered down by unfettered growth or has suffered from a failure to evolve, it’s always good to do some corporate soul searching and get back to the core business areas and ideals that brought your original success.
3. Never forget it’s not about you.
Marketing pros often pontificate that your brand is how customers think of you, not how you think of yourself. For a while, BlackBerry leaders lost their way in aligning products with the needs of customers. The new messaging is a hyper-correction of that course, and that alignment is now the North Star for the brand.
4. Say something bold but believable. (Deliver hope.)
As Nancy Duarte excellently in her book Resonate, great influencers share the ability to shift our vision from current challenges to a better tomorrow. Always give customers something to look forward to, to be genuinely excited about, to hope for.
Nancy Duarte’s talk at TEDx East from Duarte on Vimeo.
RIM set the “we’re rebuilding for a better tomorrow” tone early in the launch by announcing the name change to BlackBerry up front. Updating the ticker symbol (“BBRY” on the Nasdaq and “BB” in Toronto) was the exclamation point on that statement, proverbially putting the money where their mouth is.
The press may be finished talking about the launch (it’s already dropped from the top spots on the tech blogs I’ve checked), but I believe there’s more to be heard out of BlackBerry. I look forward to listening and learning from their successes or mistakes.
If you took some lesson away from the BlackBerry 10 launch, please share it below.