Lack of Marketing is killing the Blackberry and more marketing won’t fix it

Pundits are discussing the future of Research in Motion (RIM) and its once ubiquitous Blackberry. In 2009 the Blackberry had 44% market share (including me as a user). Today their market share has dropped to less than 10% including the loss of me as a user. While the Blackberry still has many loyal users, and arguably the best email platform, they are losing market share at a rate that extrapolates to “out of business” in the near future. A lack of Marketing is the root cause of this position.

The mistake: Failing to understand the vast majority of users care more about fast Internet access than a robust email platform. Some suggest that it was a technology failure that is causing the problem. Not possibly true. Both Android and Apple have platforms that solve this problem. Why can’t RIM? Because they did not recognize (or care) that customers today want something beyond email. That is a failure of fundamental Marketing. It is a core responsibility of Marketing to recognize where the customer will be tomorrow so your company can be there just ahead of them.

What is RIM doing to try to repair the damage? They are investing in marketing, which is a mistake. The marketing they are investing in is back-end marketing tactics. They are hoping to make a product which no longer meets the needs of the target market cool. There is not enough money to make that happen; and to try to hype their efforts they note that the new marketing campaign has raised purchase consideration by 5%. If they were getting real purchase increases (which is all that matters) they would not bother to talk about intent.

Failed Marketing (with a capital M) caused RIM to miss the marketplace shift. Could be that the Marketing people responsible were ignored, I don’t know. All I know is that marketing (with a small m, and representing the back-end activities of promotion, advertising, etc) couldn’t save Detroit when their cars sucked and it won’t save the Blackberry either … until it does not suck.


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5 Responses to Lack of Marketing is killing the Blackberry and more marketing won’t fix it

  1. John Sexton says:

    Mitch articles like this leave me in a state of suspended disbelief. 70M users worldwide and still growing. The presumption that only preferences in the US matter. RIM is still #1 by far in Britain and in many high tech developing nations. BBM is by far the best instant messaging platform out there. The “do vs view” paradigm says it all for me. I don’t care if the gal next to me on the stairmaster at the gym wants to watch high speed youtube videos or catch the Perez Hilton update on the web on her iPhone. I want to get business done. With my RIM Playbook and the new 9930 handheld I have the best suite of tools for mobile or in house communication I’ve ever had. I had to sell my iPhone and gave away my iPad to my fiance. They were essentially unusable for anything other than looking at photos and videos. I feel bad for her when she uses the Playbook for a week and then goes back to her clunky iPad and can’t navigate or multitask as well. I just have to wonder. Is it all about fast web browsing or is there a coolness-Jobs infatuation that is really at play. Seriously, I can’t walk into an Apple store any more. I feel like I entering an L. Ron Hubbard or other cult. I lack only fart apps and some degree of we browsing capability on the RIM handheld vs the iPhone. Won’t even bring up the full flash capabilities and multitasking of the playbook or the fact that only RIM has escaped the trolling of personal information abuses that have come to light recently on Android and Apple platforms. I gain BB Travel. BB Traffic, BBM, and SocialScope, and have the full suite of the usual suspects pdf viewing, Docs to Go, Evernote, Dropbox, GetGlue, FB, etc and BY FAR te best keyboard on the planet for DOING WORK. Or am I allowed to say that any more.

    • John, thank you VERY much for your comments, and, in my opinion, for making my point. The Blackberry has great tools that are unique to the Blackberry. Unfortunately, the are insufficient for most of today’s market, as evidenced by Blackberry’s dramatic decline in market share. They may be #1 in some places, so what. This decline was unnecessary. They were the dominant product, the Crackberry, for goodness sake. However, because they did not listen to the market or ignored it, they have lost that dominant position … unnecessarily.

      Why is their web browser so slow? What did me in was when I was out with my son and his wife and we decided to go get something to eat. I went on my Blackberry to find a local restaurant. My daugther-in-law had selected a restaurant for us with her 3G device and my Blackberry had not loaded a web page yet.

      In today’s world, for a majority of people, getting work done also means fast access to the web. Until Blackberry gets that, they are toast. And you may tell me they have it now, I don’t know, but they are continuing to lose market share and I know where that leads…


  2. John Sexton says:

    It’s always fun and you are a fascinating and classy guy Mitch. My last post like this on a CNET Blog came back w/ an immediate response that I was either an idiot or a liar! In all seriousness the RIM browser on OS 7 runs just a tad slower – not worth mentioning – than the iPhone/Android. There was another very interesting BLOG piece along these lines by another fellow who is also (like you) my inellectual superior. His point on and insightful observation was that RIM has an esoteric OS/inerface and Apple has an intuitive one. Heck it grew out of a teeny boper/runners iPod media device. I submit (again respectfully !!) that those of us Geeky dinosaur RIM Power Users on the new OS and BES who know the shortcuts (again lacking to the same degree on any other platform) can run multitasking obsessive fanatical communication operations like nobody;s business. I think that makes me an esoteric snob……
    (oh can you click on an email or web page on your iPhone and have it instantaneously open on you IPad if you want a larger view.. nope – but RIM is there w/ the Playbook and OS10 is coming).
    Seriously (and I mean it) RIM will have w/in a few months a state of the art handheld on OS10 that will leave no room for complaints on speed, intuitiveness and a dang snazzy appearance. There is no question that the 2 founders slept through a rapidly changing market and every point you make is totally valid.
    My question to you is: When RIM comes out w/ the new device, and it will have everything on the OS, hardware level one could want, and it will include the Blackberry features we addicts love, and it multiplies fish and loaves of bread, will it matter to anyone except the odd ducks like me and the shrinking market of Government etc agencies who won’t compromise security for nobodies web browser speed.
    I’m talking specifically about your comments on #1 and #2
    1. “coolness factor”. RIM has become an unjustified punching bag (why didn’t they put email on the Playbook out of the box – to listen to the biased and immature sounding Bloggers it’s because RIM is inept. Not because they have such integrity they wouldn’t sell out their security systems for their corporate clients no matter what the cost and grief it cost them from one sided commentators. It took 9 more months to figure out how to keep that integrity and integrate it into the Playbook. I don’t see this level of integrity at Apple and CERTAINLY not from Google/Android. The upshot. RIM gets trashed and Apple is deified.
    2. Tipping Point. Has the RIM name become inextricably associated w/ “loser” and “dinosaur”.such that any advances (above) they make are of relatively no consequence and the ship can’t be turned.

    I apologize for the passion and absurd length of this response. RIM is one of the few shining stars I’m proud to have in my MIS/PDA arsenal and for a small guy I run an ridiculous amount of software. They continue to innovate and show integrity. I know you are simply commenting as a Marketing expert and astute observer. Somewhere along my path I developed a fierce fondness for standing up for little guys being picked on and I feel that way about RIM Think they’d hire me? 🙂

    • RIM users are PASSIONATE and that is the one thing that may save them. I look at a staggering decline in market share and their failure to respond in a timely fashion to a glaring lack of functionality. If you are right and the next version rocks, they may be back. Nokia lost it and has never come back. Ditto to Palm. I would love for the Blackberry to be the exception and would also love to return as their customer. My contract with my current phone is up in a year, so the timing may be just right.

      Thanks for being involved John.


  3. Eric M. says:

    I work for a company that provides core technology that secures federal government and large corporate networks, including an increasingly mobile workforce. I recently attended a Mobile Summit where about 10 federal government CIOs spoke about their mobile plans. It is clear to me that, at this point in time, Blackberry is on no one’s future plans. It is a legacy device and one of the CIO’s even joked about it being uncool.

    The problem is that they have totally lost mind-share in the US, as far as I can tell. I don’t even know any individual consumers who are planning to get a Blackberry, including the ones who still have them. Everyone I know that has a Blackberry is simply waiting for their contract to permit them to upgrade to an iPhone or Android.

    Unless Blackberry raises the stakes and offers something extraordinarily superior to iOS and Android (and even Windows 8), I, at best, see them holding on to a small core of diehard legacy customers. At worse, in 2 years, they become like Palm and get sold for its small but entrenched customer base.

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