Down but not out: BlackBerry's turnaround strategy

With the launch of its clutter-breaking smartphone Passport and a redefined roadmap, BlackBerry attempts to rewrite its story

e4m by Aditi Raval
Updated: Nov 11, 2014 8:00 AM
Down but not out: BlackBerry's turnaround strategy

BlackBerry recently launched Passport, a high-end smartphone, the target audience being the ‘mobile professional’. The company undertook an extensive marketing campaign that exclusively focuses on its target audience.

Passport to success?

Amar Thomas, Country Marketing Manager, BlackBerry India elaborates, “The campaign revolves around BlackBerry’s new launch Passport which is radically different from usual shape phones come in. Passport is breaking that clutter. Hence the focus on establishing why this smartphone is different from others and what does the change in shape means in terms of user experience. The fact that why is the phone square in shape vis a vis every other phone which is rectangular in shape and the benefits for the customer. The two-month campaign started in mid-September.”

The OOH leg of the campaign involves ambient and OOH media at Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore airports.

Thomas explains the rationale behind choosing OOH. “Out of home as a medium depends on what we are trying to communicate. For the Passport, it is certainly an impact medium. And it focuses on the target segment which is really the mobile professional who is out and about and an average mobile professional travels about 6 to 8 flights a month. When you have your communication in and around the airport, you are able to reinforce that communication time and again (as opposed to print which is a one-time look in a newspaper). It also allows you instant action.”

He further adds, “The BlackBerry Passport campaign involved not only ambient and OOH media at the airports but also experiential kiosk at the airports in Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai where the customer can after seeing the visual can get a demo at the site and can buy it exclusively online on Amazon with other benefits. The campaign was not made in a silo, but was a 360 degree campaign, that from digital campaign, social media (a contest on Twitter) to OOH, experiential kiosk.”

Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore airports together roughly see about 80 million domestic passengers every month. That’s the indirect reach. “To quantify, we are doing about 300 demos a day, which is around 30,000 demos a month. We are able to overcome any challenges the customer might have in receiving a product which is not conventionally shaped and gives us time since passengers are waiting for their boarding call and they are willing to explore the phone,” explains Thomas.

The company started with a teaser contest on Twitter and continued it with print (editorial wrap in the Economic Times), followed by experiential/OOH marketing. “We have created very strong word of mouth publicity for the phone and on Amazon it is still rated 4.5 in reviews. In the first few weeks, we had sold out and had to replenish our stock,” he said.

As far as capturing market share after a catastrophic fall in shipment in the recent past, Thomas said BlackBerry plays in a very different field. “If you are looking for entertainment and games, we do provide it. But we don’t want to position ourselves as this company which is everything to everybody. We are clearly categorising ourselves as a phone for getting work done, a phone that helps you be more productive, a phone that enables you to be the true mobile professional that you want to be, whether it’s battery life, ways of screen consumption, or a tactile keyboard.

“We are clearly carving a niche for ourselves with customers who all they want to do on their phone is get work done first. We should be the No.1 choice for these customers. It would do other things also with a great camera, screen and processor. If getting more work done and done easily is your primary requirement than BlackBerry is the phone for you. If otherwise, then let the others fight in that space. We are okay not to claim that space. That’s the way we are approaching our devices strategy,” emphasises Thomas.

Is this the dawn of BlackBerry’s revival?

In a highly cluttered and competitive smartphone segment, BlackBerry has reinvented and revised its marketing strategy to stay relevant.

It is no secret that BlackBerry has struggled to maintain the stronghold that it had in the past in the smartphone segment.

According to latest results from IDC’s market research, BlackBerry OS has not been able to compete with Android and others and, “The question of whether BlackBerry can survive continues to surface, and with expectations that share will fall below 1% in 2014, the only way the company will be viable is likely through a niche approach based on its security assets.”

In the last one year, BlackBerry has redefined its turnaround strategy with a strong focus on 4 pillars a) devices b) messaging c)QNX and d) Enterprise. With this newly defined roadmap, transformation is underway and BlackBerry is perhaps best positioned now to harness the next phase of growth that technology will enable with innovations evolving around ‘internet of things’. With mobility being core to this and security a key imperative.

It’s really hard to separate one pillar from another. “I urge you to look at it as one,” says Thomas. These pillars lead to the overall strategy of BlackBerry. “You have the smartphone business, you have the BlackBerry Enterprise Service that allows organizations to take care of all their mobility needs, not only managing BlackBerry devices but Android and iPhone as well. Then we have the BBM story which is not only for customers but also enterprises and eventually QNX. The two businesses we will continue to drive is BBM and QNX which is new and upcoming technology which allows you the Internet of Things. Each pillar is on its own journey at BlackBerry,” he explains.

BBM has two avatars, one is for consumers where they have introduced time-bound messaging and message retraction feature apart from stickers and wallpapers. They will be shortly announcing for BBM for enterprise with regards to making messaging more secure, how to have your meetings when you are out without high broadband network.

For the existing product, TV is not in the media mix but Thomas is not ruling out the possibility of TV in the future for products that have more mass appeal. “We don’t have to go out and introduce ourselves as far as BlackBerry products are concerned, which is what TV is good for. There is no cookie-cutter model for our media mix, which is what a lot of other companies do. Since we bring in lesser products and don’t have a factory system where a new product is brought every month, our media mix changes from product to product and offerings,” concludes Thomas.

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