To avoid brand dilution, RIM’s corporate brand name is disappearing today and is being replaced by BlackBerry for shareholders and employees in an attempt to instill brand values internally.
While the (too) long-awaited new Blackberry OS is innovative and will help reduce churn among BlackBerry’s 79 million existing subscribers to competing devices from Apple and Android in 2013, the longer-term challenge for the BlackBerry brand is still huge.
Don’t get me wrong: The great strides that BlackBerry’s made in the device and OS deserve credit.
The two new devices announced today — in a price range above $500 — also look great and on par with, if not better than, the best high-end smartphones on the market today; they have eventually put an end to the poor browsing, app, and multimedia experiences delivered on BlackBerry devices until now. The new OS brings some very interesting and innovative features. The smart contextual prediction keyboard, the BlackBerry Hub, the BlackBerry Balance, as well as the new video chat and screen-sharing functionalities available to BBM users will also offer a seamless and innovative experience to the “business execs,” “working moms,” and “hyperactive teens” that BlackBerry is targeting. Telecom carriers will also significantly support the new devices, with about 200 operators worldwide launching them by June 2013. Why? BlackBerry devices have always delivered more profitable customers to carriers because of their network efficiency. Due to the limited uptake (for now) of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8, telecom operators will no doubt give the new products a chance to succeed in order to avoid being dependent on Apple or Google.
However, there is little rationale today for most product strategists and marketers to invest in customized BlackBerry experiences.
Most marketers and product strategists are still struggling to figure out how to bridge the mobile monetization gap and make the most of a complex and fragmented smartphone OS ecosystem. Building reach to engage with a large enough installed base of BB10 active users will take time and requires Blackberry to overcome its branding challenge in the US and Europe. In emerging markets, the story will be different due to BlackBerry’s brand leadership in countries like South Africa, Indonesia, and parts of South America — but although BlackBerry devices have become a middle-class status symbol in these regions, competition is increasing from low-cost Android devices. In countries where BlackBerry maintains a strong share, marketers who have already invested some effort in BlackBerry apps and support should evaluate the opportunity.
My colleague Charles Golvin offers a viewpoint and Forrester’s take on what it means for CIOs: “BB10 only provides slim hope for BlackBerry”.