Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not”, and that is what happened with BlackBerry, the erstwhile undisputed leader in the smartphone market. It became a victim of delayed practices when the world was catching fast on touch with Apple and Samsung. The brand was a symbol for corporate power but the emergence of rival messaging app, WhatsApp, dethroned the king. Even the new line of smartphones that run on the BlackBerry 10 operating system failed to impress. BlackBerry had to issue an open letter to customers and partners that it was financially stable even though it announced massive layoffs.
But it’s better late than never. The brand finally rolled out its BBM messaging on iOS and Android, which can be a game-changer. In an exclusive conversation with exchange4media, Ashish Gupta, Director – Marketing, BlackBerry India talks about plans to strengthen BlackBerry in India, reason for launching BBM across various platforms and other marketing plans…
How do you plan to strengthen your foothold in the Indian market?
We will continue to demonstrate that we have a portfolio of products, services and solutions, so it’s not just the device. While consumers always see BlackBerry as a device, it is successful only because of what it provided. There was a time when BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) became big and it provided enterprise with secure communication. The first focus area for us will be increasing adoption of enterprise mobility management across enterprises within the Indian market. The second focus area will be spreading BBM across platforms in a successful manner. Thus, bringing alive the ‘BBM for all’ positioning.
We are driving activations across 40 colleges in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. There are two interesting concepts that we are rolling out. The first one is the Pin Mania machines. It’s a Las Vegas style machine where one comes closer to the chaos and downloads BBM on the phone. You have a pin number generated; you can enter the pin in the machine and win some great rewards.
Another interesting activity is the Pin 2 Win, wherein one can download BBM on the phone, text the pin to a short code and the submission of the BBM pin number will be credited as talk time added to your phone.
We have also tied up with 550 outlets of Café Coffee Day across 11 cities and are carrying out ‘Free BBM, Free Cappuccino’ campaign where consumers can download BBM and text the pin number to get a free cappuccino voucher code and walk up to get a free coffee.
In the first phase, we are only targeting the urban youth who are the opinion leaders themselves. They have a far more influencing scope and they can get their parents and friends on BBM. Once we influence the youth, then we will continue to do activities that are for the other segments. We are also doing activations in retail to establish a stronger foothold in the Indian market.
How do you define the target audience for BlackBerry as earlier the focus was on executives and now it has shifted to youth? Don’t you think it leaves the users confused?
I don’t think so, because we are very clear on the segments that we want to play in. We continue to define our audience in a manner that I would call ‘extreme productivity’ and this doesn’t span into any age group. It could be youth, young working professionals and senior executives. And for each of the segment, we have a differentiated offering, leaving no chance of any confusion.
Do you plan to target Tier II and III cities with your pricing strategy?
Our pricing strategy remains consistent across the country. We continue to focus more on experience than expansion. We have created 20 zones wherein one can go and experience the new Z30. We will focus on high quality experience to consumers when they walk into retail. Hence, when it comes to expansion versus experience, then experience will always lead.
We have not seen BlackBerry active on the advertising front. What is the reason behind this?
BlackBerry is all about understated luxury. We continue to focus on a much focused market and our communication is built around the best possible ways of reaching out to that customer. For example, if we are targeting young professionals, then the best possible way is enterprise activation, whether it is corporate road shows, EDMs, telecalling, leveraging the carrier partners, etc. Since we have clearly defined the segment, we have started utilising media vehicles that are more relevant than just adopting the machine gun approach of spreading bullets all around. Over the last two or three quarters, we have increased our spends on the experience part of the business, rather than ATL. Investing in experiences and interactions is far better for us. We have spent the last couple of quarters in revamping our promoters in retail sales and up scaling their technical skills.
Digital also plays an important role for us but we strongly believe in retail activations and educating our customers about our new products through experience.
BBM was the USP of BlackBerry, so what made you launch BBM across platforms?
The market has changed and instant messaging is here to stay. BlackBerry introduced BBM and I think it’s time for everyone to experience the power of this private social network that is immediate and reliable.
Do you think you can eat into the shares of Apple and Samsung through your pricing?
The market is big enough for many players to be able to survive. I think nobody is in a position to influence the shares of the other brand in a big way. Our focus is to have enterprise mobility management, the target of making BBM available to all and offer devices at attractive prices. We will continue to see traction across these segments.
Is the slowdown affecting your marketing spends?
I don’t think it is impacting our marketing spends. We are spending on the segments that we want to reach and we are reprioritising our media vehicles accordingly.
What are the marketing plans for this festive season?
We will do a lot of retail activations with our brand ambassador Ranbir Kapoor for Diwali. We have done a big campaign in East around Durga Puja and we have done campaigns in Kerala around Onam. Hence, we will continue doing campaigns in retail. However, there are no ATL campaigns for this festive season.