Just when you thought Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) couldn't embarrass itself any further, the BlackBerry maker has surpassed even my wildest expectations of its ability to attract derision.
Handing the reins over to former co-COO Thorsten Heins was a bit of a PR flop, with his initial comments about how "I don't think that there is some drastic change needed" -- which just so happens to be exactly what shareholders think is needed. He has since partially reneged on those words, saying they were referring to organizational continuity rather than RIM's overall strategic direction.
Heins told Reuters that he has "significant" plans for the company, acknowledging the need to address its market-share losses at the hands of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) . He also mentioned that only a fifth of current U.S. BlackBerry users are using RIM's newest BlackBerry 7 operating system.
The newly minted CEO even talked about the events leading up to his new position. Heins said the succession plans had been set for a while and that he even had a hunch that former co-CEOs and co-Chairmen Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie were grooming him to eventually take their place when they made him one of two COOs just last August.
"The moment they tell you, it's still a surprise," Heins said, before giddily adding that he immediately said yes. His recollection sparks imagery of a marriage proposal, complete with Lazaridis and Balsillie each on one knee, one presenting a PlayBook (there's no shortage of inventory), and the other presenting a BlackBerry 10 prototype (so he can actually email).
Have no fear
He also said the company is planning to aggressively promote its current BlackBerry 7 platform to spur adoption, buying it time until BlackBerry 10's launch late this year.
And that leads us to Research In Motion's newest ad campaign ...
The Bold Team to the rescue! This culturally diverse team of superheroes is being tasked with saving Research In Motion from imploding, so let's meet the gang.
The pink flyer up top is Gogo Girl, The Achiever. She's clever and resourceful, with just a touch of randomness. Moving down to the Caucasian fellow in blue: He goes by Max Stone, The Adventurer, whom you can count on to face any challenge. You can call the purple gal standing next to him Trudy Foreal, The Authentic. While unabashedly charming and inquisitive, she's not afraid to call it as she sees it. Rounding out the bunch is the purple-clad Justin Steele, The Advocate, whose penchant for using social feeds and saving cats fits his kind and outgoing nature.
How will you Be Bold?
Which one of these character archetypes will you be in the coming year? I'll go first. I plan on embodying Trudy Foreal. Not only do I also enjoy long walks on the beach and old-school ninja movies like she does, but as many times as I've tried to jump out of a plane and land on a moving speedboat like Max Stone can, I've always come up short and typically hurt myself in the process.
So I'm going to call it as I see it, just the way Trudy would.
This is a horrendous marketing campaign, and one that is inevitably doomed. At a time when RIM should be regrouping and leveraging its legitimate few strengths as a jumping-off point to address its weaknesses in the consumer market, it's pursuing an advertising campaign that will be laughed off stage by its core enterprise and business users.
A new target market
The enterprise is one of RIM's remaining strongholds, and it should be using that fortress to reformulate its strategic direction. Instead, this campaign shows that RIM's marketing is more concerned with Twitter and hashtags as a way to address the exploding population of 8-year-olds who are in the market for a new BlackBerry.
Shouldn't the company be spending more time with IT departments, showing them how BlackBerry Enterprise Server's security features stack up against the iPhone, which is making headway on that front? Or pursuing Android OEMs with potential licensing deals?
Even as an attempt to bandage its losses in the consumer segment, this hardly sends a message to smartphone buyers that RIM is regaining its "cool" factor, unless you happen to be a member of the aforementioned burgeoning demographic whose age is in single-digit turf.
Research In Motion definitely needs to be bold to regain its footing, but this is not the way.
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