> Priv: Marketing On
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The Priv has been at the centre of a lot of discussions revolving around security, privacy, pricing, what it means for BlackBerry as well as what it means for the mobile segment in general.  And while all those discussions are valid and have some great points on either side I’m more interested in another discussion that is simultaneously occurring, one that could define BlackBerry going forward.  With a wink, a mysterious device in my hand, and a sexy pose as I look into the camera, I’m talking about marketing.

I, along with a number of others have been fairly harsh on BlackBerry recently when it comes to how it’s marketing the Priv.  From the first images on the BlackBerry website to the recent YouTube videos it quickly starts to feel like a hodgepodge of marketing attempts and tactics are being used.  I recently lost my cool when an image was posted on BlackBerry’s Instagram account with a woman, dressed in casual clothing, laughing and covering her face with the Priv, all set in a black and white filter.  I say I lost my cool because I just couldn’t believe the lack of a coherent message or identity that the numerous ads revolving around the Priv fail to achieve.  People were defending the ads saying they were creative but I didn’t feel they were.  And while I don’t want to revisit that aspect (creativity) I will say that creativity is as much about the canvas upon which a thought and/or emotion is conveyed as it is the context in which it is delivered.

The Privilege of #PRIVacy #PRIV

A photo posted by BlackBerry (@blackberry) on


But I’m not here to argue my opinion over another’s, especially when it comes to a topic as subjective as creativity (it’s what makes art beautiful!).  I want to talk about the entire marketing campaign for the device thus far.  The Priv is being defined by a mixture of web ads, along with portraits of people (emphasis on the people) holding the device, and a few YouTube commercials.  I will call it like I see it and I think the web ads look like they were created using Microsoft Paint but are simple and to the point, the portraits look like they have sex appeal but are cheap and don’t quite get the message across and the YouTube commercials touch on emotions…actually no complaints here.  But one thing that stands out above all of this is that there IS some form of marketing coming from the company.

I thought “here we go another me-too device…one that people won’t even think is a me-too device because they’ll just think it’s BB10.”

While the device doesn’t seem to be garnering any specific identity like Passport’s Work Wide, or the Z10/Q10’s Keep Moving it’s hard to argue with the fact that at least there is some marketing being put out onto the web so that people are aware about the device.  Anyone who has been following BlackBerry since the launch of BB10 can attest to the heartbreaking realization that nobody outside of our tiny little community knew about the devices.  At first it was the droves of people who assumed BB10 was the same as BBOS, then came all the people who assumed BB10 had no apps (they didn’t realize we could install Android apps from Amazon and Google Play).  You can understand my skepticism when I first heard about BlackBerry releasing an Android device.  I thought “here we go another me-too device…one that people won’t even think is a me-too device because they’ll just think it’s BB10.”.   I was wrong.

Photo: Comic Strip of BB10 confusion

The confusion around what BB10 was

The device seems to have garnered a bunch of positive attention.  People aren’t confusing it for a BB10 device (well other than a few of us BB10 hopefuls!).  I’d almost even say people on all stretches of the mobile spectrum are excited about it.  If you had asked me a few months ago whether I thought the device had a chance I would have said “not likely”.

Photo: Passport's Work Wide campaign

Passport’s Work Wide Campaign

That sentiment revolved around a realistic look at past efforts.  BlackBerry’s foray into the app-crazy mobile space has been largely defined in the media by two things: a lack of apps and a lack of marketing.  And while I certainly have my own thoughts on the quantity vs quality approach that I think we’re seeing, I certainly can’t complain about the effort they are putting in.  It’s a refreshing sight to see actual non-BlackBerry fans talking about the Priv, talking about it with a reasonable sense of what the device is.

It’s something that as a BlackBerry fan have been wanting and asking for…I didn’t quite imagine it like this but I’m OK with that.  It’s a sign of things to come.  Who knows we may even see TV ads or other types of viral marketing that we’ve seen competitors do over the years (but please let’s not revisit the SuperBowl).  Hopefully we can put past efforts behind us and see this device through a successful launch one Priv at a time.


Brandon Orr

Author Brandon Orr

Professional Transportation Planner & Blackberry 10 Developer part of the open source BB team.

More posts by Brandon Orr
  • Jon raymonds

    It looks great

  • Ija Ali

    Here’s our launch event! Some really nice additions. I’m excited. http://demos.blackberry.com/priv-by-blackberry/na/ca/gen/

  • Marc

    The messaging is chaotic. The security chief says they will issue monthly updates and emergent hot fixes but can’t tell us which carriers will opt in. Why should I buy a device from a carrier if they don’t provide timely updates. Makes no sense and BlackBerry should be crystal-clear on this. Also, we need to know if there will be CDMA variants of this device. Will it be on Verizon’s network or not?? Seriously, this company has no clue as to what they are doing.

    • joe

      Marc, Blackberry made it CLEAR…their security updates will bypass the carriers. CDMA is old, and service providers are in the process of retiring their CDMA networks.

      If you’re finding it difficult to justify avoiding the purchase of a Blackberry Priv, then don’t ask us to wait up.

  • Merritt Cluff

    Nice honest article. While I think marketing of the Priv has improved, marketing of the company itself is in shambles. It would have been good to have a nice launch event to set a lot of Chen mistakes right. Right now I see a company with very little drive, very little credibility in commitment to consumers, including its best supporters and fanclub. There are still bbos phones out there, three bb10 phones in the last year which are now dead from a software perspective and a new Android one coming out with the tune that this could be the last. Given this, why would someone buy BlackBerry? Where is the passion for research in motion? Commitment? The reality is that someone inside already knows that they are moving completely to full software cross platform and out of devices unless there is a strong reason to stay. This is not good enough.

  • sky

    I like the adds. They are both different and weird. Just the kind of mix that will appeal to individuals wanting to be individuals, or remain individuals . In a sea of individuals where privacy is often if not always being questioned.

  • Ija Ali

    In a market of a sea of androids, can someone explain why there isn’t a launch event to differentiate itself from all of the other androids? This phone has the potential to pose the best of both worlds in both software with its productivity mixed with wide open eco system and hardware with full touch and touch capacity keyboard.

  • Jon raymonds

    I want this phone

  • Marcus Jeffrey

    IMO, the Priv was a perfect opportunity for BlackBerry to use (what a ‘consumer’ market would consider to be) a cold, minimalist, and industrial marketing strategy. This isn’t a time for gimmicks, or quirky one-shot nameplates. This is a time for brutal enterprise security. Give the phone a number instead of a name, and advertise by showing it in the hands of power-users. These are the strategies that failed BB10, but would differentiate BlackBerry in the Android sphere.

  • xBURK

    Brandon, I always appreciate your honesty on Upstream. It doesn’t matter if it’s criticism, it’s real. BlackBerry fans are just on edge right now and want the very best for the company. Sometimes their vision is lost in la la land. Troll Patrol comes to mind.

    I’m trying to keep an open mind in regards to the ‘Priv’ marketing thus far. I’m hoping it will all make sense once it launches. A build up to the real message sort of speak. Although, we may see these ads completely different from people not paying attention to BlackBerry? I guess one positive is that it’s far from predictable. There has to be an explanation? Is this a skilled marketing crew? I can’t tell yet. Hopefully they’re laughing at the BlackBerry skeptics right now.

    I don’t know, as long as I don’t get murdered in the shower, I’ll keep an open mind :)

  • Kevin Ware

    Great article. I’m sold.