Remember RIM? Research In Motion? The company that used to be a juggernaut of smartphones? They just introduced their long-delayed BlackBerry 10. In days gone by, we probably would have written their “long-awaited BlackBerry 10,” but given the numerous development problems and introduction postponements, there are fewer and fewer consumers out there “awaiting” this launch.
Oh, and they changed their name. To BlackBerry. A move reminiscent of General Motors 8 years ago when, after reporting a $1.1 billion loss, their remedy was to put the GM Mark of Excellence logo on all models in an effort to link the corporation to its divisions. At that time it was, presumably, deemed a good idea because, as the company pointed out with its usual mid-20th century bravado, “everyone was familiar with the GM brand!” Well RIM’s, we mean, BlackBerry’s President & CEO, Thorstein Heins, echoed this strategy, saying, “One brand, one promise.” Whatever that means.
The long delayed release is critical to BlackBerry’s attempt to re-enter the marketplace. Once the darling of company-issued smartphones, owning nearly a quarter of the marketplace in the U.S., they currently have about a 4% share. Yes, they claim to have a new operating system and things like one-swipe email access from any app, but time and technology wait for no man. Or corporation. Companies aren’t as sure as they used to be about supporting the BlackBerry, with many having moved to a BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) philosophy for employees, and employees, preferring different smartphones, having moved to the now-category juggernauts, Samsung and Apple.
Now there is an interesting strategic twist to all this. No, not the name change! BlackBerry is looking to position the company as the smartphone that allows you to shift from work mode to personal play with something they call “BlackBerry Balance.” That let’s users keep business and personal information entirely separate, although that doesn’t show up as a high contributor to brand engagement and purchase in our current Customer Loyalty Engagement Index assessments.
Last year BlackBerry was ranked last by consumers, and we’re currently aggregating the 2013 assessments. But we don’t think their position is likely to change very much. The new models aren’t due to show up in the United States till March, and if past performance is anything to go by, consumers are not likely to hold their breadths for, or purchases of, new smartphones.
The reality is that this could be the company’s last chance to remain a real player in the category. If you are among the shrinking number of consumers who can’t wait till March, the company announced that the new model will appear in its first-ever Super Bowl commercial next Sunday. You know what they say? If you can’t engage them, at least entertain them!