#BlackBerrybychoice? Really?

Hard to come up with a worst soundbite, argues Peter Nowak


(Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

Way back yonder in journalism school, oh, about two decades ago, there was a funny division of students. In the undergraduate program, you had to choose a specialty stream at the halfway point of your four years. In those halcyon pre-internet days, that meant picking either broadcast, magazine or print. The problem was, the first two accepted very few students, so those who didn’t get in were shunted off to print where the majority of unwashed journalism students resided.

As a result, there were a good number of disgruntled wannabe broadcast and magazine students in print, but a good portion of us were also hard-core newspaper fans for whom the stream was the first and only choice. We jokingly considered broadcast students to be shallow people who only wanted to be on TV, while magazine students and their high-falutin’ big words and surfeit of adjectives were just artsy hipsters. To us, the people who were “print by choice” were the only real journalists.

As funny as those youthful days now seem, it’s doubly humorous to see a large company adopting that same sort of borderline immature stance in its marketing. If you follow the smartphone field, you’ve probably recognized that I’m talking about Research In Motion’s “BlackBerry by choice” campaign.

Earlier this year, RIM insisted that many of its woes stemmed from poor marketing – that it simply wasn’t doing a good job at pointing out all the positives of BlackBerry. To that effect, the company went out and hired a new chief marketing officer, Frank Boulben, to fix the image problem.

Boulben doesn’t appear to be doing a very good job, if the recent New York Times story about how BlackBerry users are ashamed of their outdated devices is anything to go by – not that the company has given him much to work with, what with the continued delays of next-generation devices. The “BlackBerry by choice” slogan, propagated on Twitter as a hashtag, is one of the company’s responses to that story, which posited that the only reason people still use BlackBerrys is because their employer forces them to.

It’s too bad that it’s exactly the wrong kind of sound bite. Marketing 101 dictates that you generally don’t point out your own product’s shortcomings in your own advertising, yet saying that users are there “by choice” does highlight a sort of defiance against something that many are finding more desirable. Whether it’s the broadcast stream of a journalism program or an iPhone, proclaiming that you’ve chosen something that isn’t very popular also highlights the fact that there may be reasons for why it isn’t popular in the first place.

In the case of print journalism, it was perhaps the lack of fame or inability to be creative that made print the less desirable choice. In the case of BlackBerry… well, take your pick. We might have gained some points for being rebels, but in the long run, we knew we were saddled with everyone else’s second choice. That’s the reality RIM’s slogan/hashtags highlights.

Some of RIM’s other messaging efforts, such as BlackBerry4Life (a motto borrowed from pro wrestling, by the way) or ProudToBeTeamBlackberry are positive slogans that don’t also point out the looming negative. If marketing really is at the core of RIM’s problems, efforts such as the “by choice” campaign aren’t going to make things any better.

Filed under:

#BlackBerrybychoice? Really?

  1. ‘Serious device for serious people. When communication matters.

    A tool not a toy. For professionals. Safe, reliable…..’

    What’s wrong with that approach? Specialization isn’t evil. Fashion isn’t serious. Blackberry can leave the gimmicks to iPhones and teenagers, and the low end for poor countries to Nokia and Android.

    The US president uses Blackberry for goodness sakes….!

    • True, but then again the President uses a specially designed, one-of-a-kind Blackberry that CAN’T MAKE PHONE CALLS.

      • No, he had a normal one before and refused to give it up….but security concerns got him upgraded.

        Blackberry could do the same for others.

        McGuinty presented the Queen with one.

        Harper should be handing out Blackberrys by the carton…..but no, we have to watch an American president use one.

        • Sure, RIM could do the same for others, but why on Earth would they? First, they’d have to figure out how to mass produce Bbs to the Secret Service standard, but more importantly, who would they sell them too???

          How would the marketing campaign go?

          Pro: Get a cellphone secure enough for the President of the United States!

          Con: Your new cellphone won’t be able to connect to cellular networks, or make phone calls.

          I just don’t see business leaders lining up to buy their employees mobile devices that aren’t capable of connecting to mobile networks.

          I also don’t see why the PM should be backing RIM per se. Sure, it’s sad that they’re likely dying, but it’s their own damned fault. The PM handing out free blackberries to everyone in the civil service isn’t going to change that fact, and in fact, it might make RIM (not to mention our government) look way WORSE. All that does is create a story wherein the Canadian government is so worried that RIM is about to go under that they’re FORCING Bb on their employees at the same time as most companies are STOPPING forcing their employees to us Bb because of all of the push-back from their employees that they shouldn’t be forced to use an inferior product do to a (largely overblown) sense that Bbs are somehow inherently more secure. To me, all that Harper giving away Bbs like candy does is give the press a “look at the government’s pathetic attempt to try to save RIM from themselves” stories.

          The Presidential and PM stories only make it more clear to me that Bb isn’t even far ahead in security anymore. “The President uses a Blackberry” stopped being a useful story for RIM from a security standpoint when it became clear that the only reason the Secret Service let him still use one is that the Bb he uses as President is totally crippled from a normal usability standpoint.

          • To be the only mobile especially for world leaders?? You can’t see a benefit in that??

            Jeez LKO…..it’s a damn good thing you’re not in business!

            The PM shouldn’t be handing out phones to everyone in the civil service! He meets ministers, ambassadors, PMs, presidents, kings etc all the time.

            Do stop being silly with this….not everyone needs to be cut off phone lines, that’s just an American political phobia….and yours apparently, since you have no source for this claim

            Gosh, no….we don’t need to promote anything LKO….Avro Arrow, RadarSat, Stem cells, Snow on Mars, Nortel patents, robotics, RIM…..let it all go…….there is always wood to hew, and water to draw after all.

          • Your notion that Bb can become the “only phone for world leaders” is cute, but silly.

            What you propose wouldn’t help RIM imho, but merely lead to world leaders, ambassadors, kings and queens mocking the Canadian government for giving out paperweights, and stories about kings and Prime Ministers being unable to pawn their “gifts” away on eBay, no matter how low the price is set. Giving away Blackberries to visiting dignitaries will have about as much effect on RIM’s bottom line as giving out Arrows will on Avro’s. Worse, I think it would actually hurt, as people would openly mock the practice, and some cheeky world leader would no doubt ask at some point why they didn’t get a 1990s era laptop to go with their new 1990s era phone.

            Finally, I’ll find you a clip, but the best and most recent source for the “claim” that Obama’s Blackberry can’t access cellular networks/make phone calls is President Obama explaining this fact to Jay Leno on national T.V. just last week.

            All that said, I’m a nationalist, so I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem if the government figured out a way to promote Blackberries as being awesome. I just think that RIM ought to figure out how to do that first. There’s no sense in the government of Canada trying to convince the world that RIM hasn’t fallen horribly and irreversibly behind their competitors if RIM themselves can’t make a convincing argument around that yet. To be ahead of RIM on this only serves to make our government seem out of touch and incompetent imho. Of course, they’ve got lots of time to think about it all. Nobody with more then two brain cells is going to buy a new Bb until 2013 anyway.

          • Like I said its a good thing you arent in business or you would be broke within weeks!

            The WH never lets out its security arrangements no matter what Obama says on Leno. I know it looks like casual conversation, but all those shows are carefully scripted.

            Now listen closely….the time to have promoted and given out Blackberries was before there was a media shark attack against it….its a little late now.

            And it might do you a world of good if you stopped forming your tech opinions from media hype and bs.

  2. Apple started off by presenting itself as being different and cool and when coupled with easy to use (and frustratingly limited) products made them the top dog.
    Blackberry needs to find it’s identity and it may just as well use one that’s already there: Blackberry is the strange choice, and with hipsters ruling the market (and ruining their credit) it makes sense to go after them: brainless and trend seeking.

  3. this is a stupid article. the most bonehead i have ever read. I do choose to use a blackberry and this slogan is right for people like me who can switch mobiles at anytime. I could use a brick phone like the Nexus or a long phone like iPhone5…..but I choose BB7 and BlackBerry.

  4. The NYT article that you reference as ‘proof’ of this shame offers no proof, and shows your article to be just another blogger wanting to get on the blackberry-bashing pig pile so they can appear hip. Look at the comments under that article and you will see Blackberry users refute it soundly. The point that ‘choice’ highlights a negative doesn’t make sense either. You say it shows ‘defiance.’ Ok, based on what? Perhaps it shows a particular kind of user who prefers the BB experience. Maybe, Maybe not. But you’re writing the article, so make a real case.

  5. Seems to me you’ve spent too much time attending “in print” courses. Your journalism is like an iPhone – flashy, colorfull, but substenceless and repetetive.

  6. If the BB10 performs like the PlayBook with the latest operating system (as it is supposed to ) it will be dynamite. And interoperable and SECURE! Can’t wait.

  7. A really
    informative post. Have given me a better insite and realized I have a lot to
    learn. Really appreciate your post THANKS

  8. The Blackberry Tour was the worst phone I ever owned. It had that ridiculous trackball that barely ever worked, and was always getting jammed, very poor battery life, it was slow and regularly froze up. In addition, it didn’t even have wi-fi,and I got in 2009! After I (mercifully) lost it, I spent a couple of months in phone limbo with a cheap replacement, until I was due for an upgrade. I promptly went out and got the (then) new iPhone 4S, which continues to be the best phone I’ve ever owned. Work has since issued me a new touchscreen (BB) Bold, which is SO MUCH better than my first Blackberry, but that experience left a very bad taste in my mouth. That said, I do really enjoy the physical keyboard.

    RIM was a great company, and I would be happy to see them get back on their feet, but the market they used to dominate has changed beyond recognition. They’ll never be top of the heap again, but I do hope that they’re able to once again become a significant player.

Sign in to comment.