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Dual_PRIV

The BlackBerry Priv was released in the US last month; and as I write this article, still no one definitively knows what exactly BlackBerry’s strategy is beyond simply trying to sell as many devices as possible. Unfortunately, the Priv seems to have raised more questions and uncertainty about BlackBerry’s direction than anything else. What happens now to BB10 OS? Is this collaboration with Google a one time deal or the beginning of a new venture? Is it a comeback move? Did BlackBerry (finally) see a need in the market that they’re now trying to take advantage of? The BlackBerry Priv should have been the device that made the major media turn their heads—in a good way. This would have been the perfect opportunity to have an official launch, host a campaign, or invite the media to witness this rather different and possibly revolutionary move, but instead, well, nothing happened.

When I mean nothing, I mean it might as well have been nothing. To be fair, both BlackBerry and the media share blame for their mysterious disconnection, but in this article, I’m going to pinpoint five reasons why BlackBerry fails at using the media to further their standing in the public’s eye.

Media Priv

  1. BlackBerry is hopelessly bad at doing its own marketing and advertising.

Most recently, BlackBerry released a series of images for the BlackBerry Priv device, seen below:

You can write 10 articles about how bad these images are, you can even read Brandon’s take on PRIV marketing here, but I digress. To the BlackBerry fans that think these images are great, let me clear something up for you, they aren’t. These pictures do nothing to help the viewers that don’t know anything about  BlackBerry devices or the Priv’s benefits and features (let alone the fact that the Priv is powered by Android). For those who make the argument: at least BlackBerry is doing something, you’re also mistaken. A bad campaign can very well ruin the hype or anticipation for a product and turn people off. There is nothing (positive) the media can do with these images.

(At this point I would even go as far to say that we at BerryFlow—a ragtag team of youths running a non-profit blog site—can create better marketing content than BlackBerry—a multi-billion dollar international company—and we’d welcome that challenge.)

  1. Everyone got fired.

In November 2013, BlackBerry’s CEO, COO and CMO were all cut within a month, and John Chen took over. At that time, the company was burning through a lot of cash, budget cuts and layoffs were on the way and time was not on their side, among other things. If any marketing director in the midst of this were to say, “Hey I need millions of dollars to execute an effective marketing campaign,” they would probably either have been fired or would have received a “Yea…no.”

What did that mean for the media? It means they were having a field day. Because BlackBerry couldn’t put together anything cohesive fast enough to fight off the negative impressions of the company, it made creating a positive image nearly impossible for the media to distribute. BlackBerry still suffers till this day from BB10’s stumbling release further shadowed by their failed Playbook launch and let’s not mention their attempt at a Super Bowl commercial either.

  1. John Chen does not know how to tell a good story.

My impression of John Chen is mixed in some respects, but overall I hold him in high regards. He is a leader, but not necessarily a visionary in the classic sense. Chen was brought into what most would refer to “an impossible situation.” Not only has he established a foundation, in which BlackBerry can stand upon and grow, he has made the company profitable consistently for a few quarters now. It’s well known that BlackBerry is far from where they need to be, but it’s nothing short of impressive to see the turn around since John Chen assumed the helm as CEO. Even media giant CNN declared John Chen as the second best CEO of 2014, after Tim Cook (which remains undeserved by popular opinion).

That being said, with all the brilliant moves BlackBerry has made under Chen, promoting the brand’s image to the public was not one of them. Bill Gates once stated, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” Steve Jobs said, “A brand is not so much about rational arguments, but the way the company resonates with people emotionally. Marketing is about values.” The questions BlackBerry needs to ask are: Who are we? Why do we exist? What do we value? and where are we going? But having these answers are not enough, BlackBerry will also have to create a compelling story that encompasses these answers to effectively communicate its vision to the world. As Seth Godin says, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” Personally, I do not think Chen has taken the time to answer these questions for himself or the company he is running.

John Chen is good at explaining things, but falls short at delighting, exciting, or inspiring the media about the why and how he plans to envision BlackBerry’s future. Because Chen is so careful about what he says and doesn’t say, the press is left with a feeling of hopelessness and confusion. This reaction makes it easy for them to turn on BlackBerry–which they do– whenever the company introduces a new product or service.

  1. Brand new CMO Mark Wilson. Brand same BlackBerry.

New BlackBerry CMO hire, Mark Wilson, hasn’t impressed in the least because he’s a traditional tech marketer, and tech marketers don’t specialize in brand awareness, which is exactly what BlackBerry needs. Wilson’s objective is to make BlackBerry synonymous with work, enterprise etc. but he’s not a storyteller or a visionary; he’s a textbook suit with only business experience, so don’t expect any market influence, brand experience or new marketing culture from him. Wilson may be effective with the BES 12 and QNX division, but certainly not with BBM or the hardware division–BlackBerry’s two weak legs. So, in conclusion, it seems BlackBerry, unfortunately, may have hired the wrong guy if they wanted the public’s perception of their brand to change.

  1. BlackBerry doesn’t understand how the media works.

It takes little to be a blogger or score a gig writing for a tech site. The reality is most bloggers frequently push out content designed to generate views above all else through the art of “click baiting” because this is how they earn money. Brad Reed, a blogger for BGR is a prime example. He’s an inconsequential “me too” blogger whose objective is to pump out blog posts that can accumulate as many views as possible for a paycheck. For bloggers like him, there is no substance, integrity or originality in their work; it’s all just regurgitated news spewed from other websites. It becomes quantity over quality, so by pushing out multiple posts a day, Reed increases his potential volume of views hence more money–rinse and repeat.

The Internet is loaded to the brim with these cookie cutter types of bloggers. There’s no level too low they cannot stoop to in order to achieve their objective either. I know this personally because in October of 2014, Reed blogged about a written piece I had here on BerryFlow’s website. The nature of his blog was mockery; it was entitled, “BlackBerry fanboy rips into everyone for being too stupid to understand the Passport’s greatness.” Reed mustered hundreds of likes and comments from the post. The only ironic part was that nearly all the comments agreed with my original editorial on BerryFlow, and scorned Reed for his cowardly blog post. The best comment still today was posted by a person named Denton, who stated, “Wow…more click bait, your middle name is snide…how many more posts will be deleted today after exposing the ‘truths’?” Denton received 88 likes and dozens of responses, but bloggers like Reed don’t care about any of this because not only do they cash in on posts like this one, (that has nothing to do with the company or the device) but they also know that they can get away with it due to the fact that there is no policy that enforces accountability. Reed represents the quintessential cesspool of hack writers online, scraping by to make a buck even if it means cyber bullying in a desperate attempt to appear significant. All the while, BlackBerry suffers bad press reviews of their devices, leading to poor perception of the company and sales.

If Reed represents the kind of media BlackBerry has to deal with, then this poses a big problem for the company. BlackBerry doesn’t have proper launch events, so by default, they subject themselves to lending out new devices for a limited time to these bloggers whose only objective is to get views on their reviews posts, nothing more (I don’t even think BlackBerry gives appropriate tutorials on their devices and software to the media either). The reviews are biased, nonfactual write-ups designed to generate views and comments through “flame-bait.” And guess what? Writing a stellar review of the BlackBerry Priv isn’t going to accumulate as much attention as writing a negative one because bashing BlackBerry and their phones are not only easy, but also more profitable.

Solutions

It’s downright shameful how a person can generate millions of dollars selling a rock as a pet on late night television while BlackBerry struggles with expanding arguably the best messaging platform in the world (BBM) and “convincing” people to buy their award winning devices.

BlackBerry needs to hire people who understand how to make an impact outside of the mind of tech users. The anemic Priv launch is a great example of why BlackBerry needs to stop thinking they know what people want (privacy on?) and begin listening. They need to implement a powerful message and launch an effective campaign that defines their identity, vision and intention proudly and boldly. The public and media should be left with absolutely no questions when it comes to BlackBerry and their products and services. There needs to be an intimate relationship between BlackBerry and the world. If you give no reason for anyone to care about your products, they’re not going to care. The media wants to care—they show up to the events—but if you don’t captivate them, they’re not going to be on your side. Steve Jobs, for all his faults, revolutionized launch events. Before, they were announcements, and he turned them into an experience. BlackBerry’s PR needs to evolve and learn how to romance the media and public.

BlackBerry’s image is not the media’s problem. There is no money in it for them unless people want to click to read their work, so it is up to BlackBerry themselves to make their audience care in order for the media to take more interest in them. The new culture, surrounding BlackBerry, needs to evolve and be expressed loud and clear on every platform possible.

Another thing is that BlackBerry does not take care of its community, and their social awkwardness with their fans is hurting them. In a digital space where every company has a “personal,” side, where is BlackBerry’s? They don’t even take care of the few who are rooting for them, whether that be the fan sites, bloggers or agencies that want to promote for them—mostly for free. Nurturing the culture you already have is marketing 101.

Conclusion

The solution for BlackBerry is clear. They need to stop relying on the functionality of their products, and begin focusing on the hearts of their markets. They need to find their reason as to why the world cannot live without them–this goes beyond their offerings. They’ve always had excellent products and services. Personally speaking, I believe BlackBerry should double down on BB10 OS over Android. The Priv has raised uncertainty and division among BlackBerry’s own culture and it comes across that the company has lost confidence in their own product, hoping Android will be a sort of lifeline. Are they following a, “Let’s throw a bunch of ideas at the wall and see what sticks” strategy? I pray not because at this point only BlackBerry can save themselves. Hopefully they realize that analyzing spreadsheets and data, investing in R&D and studying the market can only get you so far. Like Steve Jobs said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

It’s your move now, BlackBerry. Get it done.

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Jubei Raziel

Author Jubei Raziel

Jubei Raziel is an author, photographer and film director. He has written editorials for CrackBerry, N4BB, the Examiner and BerryFlow. He's dedicated in bringing you all the analysis, in-depth topics and engaging discussions you want about BlackBerry. You may follow his BBM Channel C00076AFA

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  • su san

    the problem for BlackBerry is they are canadian foremost. americans dont care the fall of blackberry simply because it not america product. it is only canda headache to make blackberry come back. os 10 was every body thought was comeback of blackbeery. vivek bhartwaj and his team worked day and night as their own new born baby for many years to bring out the product called z10 and q10 . blackberry maim mistake was not to sustain this success team for few more years. if they had done that surely by now one would have seen the os 10 blackberry in competitive market of otjer android

  • Fahim

    We want to full android on BlackBerry passport

  • Chris

    Good Read and spot on. I like you still onboard with the OS10 still and have not gave up like all the other pundits. That’s true BlackBerry in heart. Is that why your not on podcast anymore. Hahaha. J/K

    • I still parade BB10 OS because it’s simply the best mobile OS out there. If iOS or Android were truly better, I wouldn’t be parading BB10 OS still. Secretly those who own the Priv wish it ran on BB10 OS but hey, they have their apps!

  • Kevin

    Actually, Jubei, I was thinking of the infomercial idea independent of BlackBerry. My thinking is to counter all the bad press and perceptions of non-users, with the end goal of increasing consumer interest and hardware purchases and maybe saving BB10. Of course, a main challenge would be to get the target audience to care enough to be an audience to the effort. I really don’t know the process of crowd funding, however my thinking is that the funding would include paying for the contributed labour. Naive? I’ll leave that assessment to all of you more informed than I am.

    • Off the top, such a project would cost a few thousand. People complain about paying two dollars for an app now… I can’t imagine people shoveling out money for a infomercial concept that will technically be showing up BlackBerry’s marketing and yielding no return for their investment.

  • Kevin

    Great article, Jubei! And great readers’ comments as well! Why oh why has BlackBerry so miserably and consistently been failing with an absence of meaningful and compelling marketing?! I think that their seemingly apathetic approach to marketing fails both consumers and those of us who are shareholders. Depending on the “marketing” instance, my most likely response draws from feelings of anger, sadness or (mirroring the ad itself) apathy.

    As both a BlackBerry fan (for objective and subjective reasons) and a proud Canadian, I find myself drawing from the same emotional responses (anger, sadness, apathy) when it comes to the routine dismissal of BlackBerry by so very many other Canadian companies. This is part of the “app gap”. Particularly irksome to me has been CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) abandonment of their BB10 news app and the complete absence of a BB10 app for Maclean’s Magazine (a national magazine like Time), both other Canadian icons. This, despite the significant use of BlackBerry in these same companies.

    As I was reading your article, Jubei, an idea occurred to me. I wonder about the potential for crowd-funding something like infomercials (internet and print?) that, for example, highlight the features, advantages, and benefits of the BB10 OS, the BB10 apps unique to BlackBerry, the BB10 apps that emulate popular iOS and Android apps, and the ease of access to the Amazon Store and the Play Store. As the infomercials would be from fan perspectives and would be free advertising for BlackBerry, I wouldn’t foresee and legal problems. (I’m not a lawyer nor a marketing professional… or amateur.). I’ve not seen this idea pitched before; so, if it hasn’t been, there it is.

    Thanks for your thoughts and writings, Jubei and the rest of the BerryFlow Team and your readers.

    • Thank you for taking the time to leave a thought out reply. I share the same sentiments with you Kevin. BerryFlow can very well orchestrate media materials for BlackBerry but two things must be considered: First, does BlackBerry even care if we did or not? Personally, BlackBerry hasn’t given me a reason to care. They don’t reach out, there’s no line of communication, they don’t think BerryFlow or myself is worth anything just like the millions of BB10 users that exist. If you look at all their marketing now, it’s Priv centered and aimed at new customers…nothing for the loyalists. So why should we bother if they can’t be bothered?
      Secondly, money. I’m a professional and I’m not doing anything for free. This is how I earn a living and I’m not putting my heart and soul into something that will yield nothing.
      BlackBerry doesn’t owe me anything and I them. They seem fixed on their course of action currently. I really don’t want them to fail and I desire very much to work with them but there’s nothing I can do about it realistically. Even if it means watching them fail…again.

  • Anon-HU

    Marketing certainly has been a sore point with me. At the release of the Z10, I saw the Super Bowl ad and a handful of ads from the carriers. Beyond that, there was nothing. So this time they wrap a few buses in some city other than one I live near (don’t know where they are, but not here). And those picture ads are just head scratchers. That said, the above analysis seems spot on. The CMO, along with Chen, appears completely clueless about making a good pitch for their product. I have friends that express outward revulsion towards BB who have never had a chance to become properly educated about what BB10 is capable of. They seem to signify what is wrong with marketing at BlackBerry.

    And I agree, they did no favors to those of us who have a strong preference for BB10. It would me operating system of choice over any of the others out there (we all know the reasons). It leaves those of us on BB10 feeling no love from the company we have shown nothing but to. Will it continue, will we get a handset in some future iteration? The questions of our future with BB10 are piling up.

    • What questions do you have specifically about the future of BB10?

  • Michael Kaiman

    STELLAR article, providing me with information I really need. Kudos. I am fearful. My ENTIRE SMALL BUSINESS runs on BlackBerry 10, and all my employees as well as myself use BlackBerry exclusively. I am just in dread, investing so much of my heart, passion, and life in BlackBerry that to see and hear for the most part we are drowning in confusion as a whole with BlackBerry now to personify more mediocrity than ever before. We need change now, and I believe BlackBerry can do it, but we need to get the consumer and prosumer involved more. What will I do? I panic even over BlackBerry Remember and losing 700,000 notes and so much more. There’s just nothing like BlackBerry, but something has to be done, radically. Kudos to EVERYONE at BerryFlow! At least I have a daily roadmap, terrified…

    • I would love to send this response to BlackBerry…it needs to be heard.

  • wayne bennett

    I agree. More than 28 people need to be reading the article.

  • Very well written article. I hope that BlackBerry management takes notice!

    • Thank you, I hope so too.

    • shaunak basu

      You have nailed it on the head, to be blunt. The biggest problem with BlackBerry is marketing and we’ll to an extent pricing. I mean, come on $700 for Priv is too much IMHO.
      So, I believe they also need to work on their pricing.
      But the biggest glitch in BlackBerry wardrobe is honestly marketing. It’s a shame that they could not highlight BlackBerry Hub properly. I believe it is the most amazing software innovation in a really really long time…

    • I agree the pricing of the priv was outrageous and doesn’t warrant the cost.

  • This article really spells out BlackBerry’s lack of understanding of their end customer. As the author says, they put good products out there and expect the market to come running after them. Wrong! You do have to emotionally connect and form lasting impressions. I am a huge supporter but often feel like the lone wolf. Where are the national t v and print ads for the customer to identify with? The ads that say, “We are back” in a big way for these reasons. The clever Bold campaign of “night bikes” mentioned above is indeed a memorable one. I referred that ad to the company months ago. No response. The Priv is now the perfect window to get their needed message across. It is a first class device. Unfortunately it may be gettting too late in the game. BlackBerry is taking the same approach as it did with the Passport…and we all know that effort came too short.

  • mister2d

    Who killed JR?
    Nah, JR killed it. Nice article sir.

  • Lance

    It’s too late, the Priv damage is done. After buying Playbooks and convincing other to get them telling them it would get BB10 only to be burnt. After supporting them since the BB10 launch only to have them at first abandon the all touch devices (which they converted me to with BB10 and where BB10 excels). The Priv was simply the final slap in the face. The day the video launched with the device running Android I knew BB10 was just killed by Chen, and that the company was just throwing out lawn darts still trying to figure out what to do. That day I moved to iPhone, which is the second most trusted platform behind BB10. BlackBerry does not care about its customers that stayed with them. Chen talked of need long to be loyal to the customer then threw out the Android grenade. Why migrate platforms with these clowns again. They have no dedication to the customers or market. You can’t market yourself out of that!

  • Daniel Small

    Thanks for your insights. I think that John Chen has made it clear that Android was his only realistic chance to save the hardware division. But the Priv is flawed and the negativity is growing from the reviewers, the financial analysts and the faithful. The author has laid down a challenge to BlackBerry but I think he knows the well is dry. It might as well be the epitaph. BB10 is EOL. It’s very sad. Just one month into the switch to Android. It was too late. It is too late.

  • john Jones

    FINALLY!!! Someone talking sense! The biggest downfall for BlackBerry is the idiots who claim to be real BlackBerry Fans who protect the failings of BlackBerry! It’s Evident the biggest issue is lack of marketing, public relations, the personal touch!

    BlackBerry thinkg there previous success will be enough but they’re all deluded! The same people in charge are choking BlackBerry and stunting it’s growth! No doubt BlackBerry can make a comeback but not when the people in charge can’t do the BASICS!!

    Great article Mr Razzle n Dazzle!

    • I wish BlackBerry razzled and dazzled me:(

    • john Jones

      Hey how about we get a campaign going to get you recruited as the BlackBerry spokes person and Head of Marketing and Public Relations? I think you need take Prem Watsa out and become buddies lol.

    • Haha, BlackBerry doesn’t care nor know about me. Imagine though?

  • Ananda Balani

    Absolutely spot on. Brutally honest and that’s the best way possible – call a spade, a spade. I’m a huge fan of BlackBerry’s offerings (Both hardware and software) but am hugely disappointed by their marketing and their printing strategy. They have the best products and the worst marketing possible in the whole wide tech world. Really sad to see this situation. Everyday I discuss tech with people and try to clear their misconceptions about BlackBerry products but the brand has taken such a beating people are unwilling to even discuss about the company’s hardware and software offerings. A huge 90% of the people I interact with still associate BlackBerry with its legacy devices and badmouth the company based on the failings of its previous generation devices comparing them to so-called “modern” & “smart” devices such as the iPhone (which in my opinion is the most mediocre and overrated device on the planet) as well as Android (again, great, but not the best thing available in the tech world).

    Hope this article of yours reaches the right people. The ones who really need to clear up this mess. And what would make it easier is to support their fans and give them a platform rather than abandoning them to fend for themselves. They have the most loyal fan base who against all odds to clear misconceptions about the company and its product and blackberry just ends up making it worse for them rather than capitalising on their fan-base.

    I absolutely agree with every word in this article. Glad it exists and hope it reaches the right ears (eyes?). More power to you! Cheers!

    • Thank you sir for your read and response. Be sure to send this article out to people as well!

  • Kelvin Peña Raymond

    Great article Jubei,
    Please send it to BlackBerry.

    Keep up the good writing and down to market perspective!
    Regards.

    KPR

    • We will;) Feel free to -re-post this as well! Get the word out.

  • Daniel

    You article is spot on. Furthermore, Blackberry chooses people who already have a bias towards Apple and Android to market their products, resulting in the “meh” reviews even though neither Apple nor Android have these features. BB10 is the best and most efull ffecient OS on the market, but Blackberry has failed to properly market it or to continue to develop many apps to exploit it’s potential, rather they have now relied on Google’s faulty apps to fill their gap. I would rather have seen a continued push for more BB10 apps, rather than relying on another OS.

    • You’re absolutely correct with the people they choose for their advertising. Thanks for the comment:)

  • Tino Chakadonha

    Really interesting perspective and a needed message! I said much of the same here; https://techcrazey.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/dear-blackberry-please-stop-hurting-your-most-loyal-customers/

    Would be great to get your perspective on it Jubei, I suggested a few different things they should be doing

    I really really hope they’re listening

    • Thanks for the link, we all hope they are really listening.

  • Chris St

    Great read. I hope they do challenge you and Berry Flow

  • David Tyler

    Having read some of Mr Raziel’s stuff when he could be found on CrackBerry, I feel HE has a much better handle on branding than anyone currently at BlackBerry. Silly as it may be, one’s choice of mobile device is seen these days as having as much to do with one’s identity as their political party, wardrobe, car, etc. Had there been a vigorous, competent marketing effort for BlackBerry 10, the company would have only had to bring back some of the faithful. Now, BlackBerry needs to re-convert many who left and almost a “tech-generation” of users who’ve either never heard of the company or who have only heard the name in derisive terms.

    It’s not hopeless: I recently had a wonderful conversation with a 14-year-old who wanted to check out my Passport. “I just like phones.” Well, alrighty then… His eyes popped, and he got a big grin and giggled when I showed him the Peek and Pinch gestures. He marveled at the way the keys were sculpted. He was even fascinated by my Bold 9900 (one of those re-released when Chen first came on), which I also use almost every day. BlackBerry has to make itself cool again. “Cool” is a little like porno: I’m not sure how it’s defined, but I know it when I see it (and the current batch of Priv images used as an excuse for marketing are NOT “cool”). It starts by cultivating an air of exclusivity, and you don’t get that by begging for people to buy your stuff.

    • David! Great to see that you can still find my write-ups:) I agree with you, BlackBerry need not worry about what they have, they need to focus on the last key element… advertising and marketing on a brilliant scale. The products and services will handle the rest.