Friday, January 30, 2009

Crackberries Unite!

It would seem that everyone knows what a blackberry is. For those of you who have never seen another homosapien before, I don't mean this:

I mean the epitome of the cell phone:

I can already hear the bellows of the cell phone geeks out there: "thas not da newest bberry n00bzor!".
Yes, there is a "new" Blackberry 8900 "Curve" phone that has just released. They all then clutch on to their vintage blackberry (or if you're an apple fan; your Newton) and text all their friends on how un-educated I am. Just to prove how crazy the fandom over the device truly is, a search of "blackberry" in google images leads to 6,190,000 of images; most not fruit related.


What has created such a social revolution of the device? When the blackberry was still a business-focused device, the rest of us were still aw-ing at colour screens and camera phones. Does anyone else remember when camera phones with 0.3 megapixel or even worse VGA cameras were released? Now camera phones are hitting 8 mega-pixels and look more like cameras with a phone built i

Is anyone else tired of the constant integration of these devices? I purposely went with a regular LG phone and an iPod Touch rather than converging the two. Why? I like to keep my eggs in different baskets. Plus, data plans are a pain in the arse.

There are three main contributors to the Blackberry's previous and continuing success:

1. A rock-solid platform

Providing technology for large businesses is challenging. They have strict security, quality and software requirements that make them easy to roll out to employees, easy to fix, and easy to manage. Building up the software behind these blackberries has provided the integrated system that was so easy to roll out to a mass populous. Many phones, such as the newly toted Google Android phone operating system and the Windows Mobile iteration had their fair share of headaches when it came to development; allowing the experienced blackberry platform to take over. Blackberry kept this same formula constant, while slowly rolling out the latest in technology into the previous rock-solid interface and ergonomic c
ontrol. This was actually the first RIM (Research in Motion; the company behind the Blackberry product) device:

It looks similar to the current Blackberry models; no? Qwerty keyboard. Scrolling dial. Icon display, etc. All we have different know are bandwidths like 3G, Wi-Fi, Colour Screens, etc.

See what I mean?

RIM got a harsh lesson of its own medicine when it tried to leave its successful phone model.
Its Blackberry Storm, or "Touch Screen" phone was deemed one of the provider's worst products ever released. The touch screen blackberry was supposed to be a competitor to the huge success of the iPhone from Apple; another giant who knows how to focus on what they do well and leverage it to produce competitive products. In comparison, it failed miserably. It tried to be too much of what the iPhone was, and was almost destined to fail against the integration expertise of Apple, with hundreds of touch screen patents, a successful music interface, and an understanding on the operating experience needed for a successful multimedia phone.

Even with big PR "suspense" dollars behind it; it still failed:

But if the iPhone is so great; what makes the Blackberry so desirable?

2. Endorsements

Apple has never really needed to bring on endorsements. Their fan community and Apple die-hards have been all they needed to get a product from launch to multi-million dollar success.

Blackberry has also taken a hands-off approach; but being the producer of business' most trusted device
is bound to come attached with a few "crackberries" (people who are addicted, like the drug, to Blackberries) willing to swear by the device for promotional purposes.

This (albeit older) "research" "done in collaboration" for RIM; seems like a 7 minute long commercial for the device:

More recently in print ads, the likes of Premal Shah (President of, NFP organization), Rob Vandermark, and Nina Garcia (Fashion Magazine Editor, Elle, Marie Claire) divulge of how they can't live without their Blackberry:

And another:

And every good commercial/product needs a good spoof thanks to Rick Mercer. This clip is dedicated to Max for its NSFW (not-safe-for-work) content and periods of brief male nudity. (Anyone who attended the SEO session knows what I mean.) If you don't watch or read anything else; check this out:

Does anyone else get the impression that Blackberry is (rightly) pompous enough to claim that your business cannot flourish without their services? Awesome. More brand integrity than free swag at a showing of Oprah.

There are also un-paid endorsements from just the media in general, who go gadget crazy whenever someone uncovers their iPod or phone:

From Obama who would not dare give it up:

To Oprah who gives them away on her favorite lists:

To the Editor of Forbes Magazine who was brought to tears when removed from technology for 7 days (he lasted 40 hours before the water works
<-- another must watch):

Off topic: all this on the syndrome called "Blackberry Addiction":

And lastly:

3. Savy Horizontal Customer Expansion

This is arguably the strongest, and smartest move RIM has made to gain market attention. Watch this commercial to get the jist of the concept. It is by far one of my favorite commercials ever made:

"Connect to everything you love in life, with Blackberry"

If that's not a powerful slogan; I don't know what is.

The device since its "pearl" iteration started to be marketed to a younger, more media and internet-centric crowd. The blackberry quickly transformed from your grandfather's antique:

To the modern-day social tool idolized by pre-teens all around the world:

All it needed was a slimmer size, Facebook integration, a camera, and the best texting interface ever seen and boom - pop culture sensation. What's truly incredible is that the device isn't very glamorous, an important factor in most pop culture icons (such as an iPod). The preference of function over fashion has truly cut out other suppliers of "cutesy" phones from the market. This is just another iteration of taking the bullet-proof blackberry model and tweaking it slightly to gain instant and continuous success; a model that would be coveted by ANY electronics manufacturer.

The key here is that the same mantra that applies for brands applies for devices. "Fresh" not "New". The most successful and well-known companies attain this status for exactly that: spending the time to create a rock-solid foundation; then tweaking offerings slightly to meet new customer needs. This applies for Google, RIM, Apple, HP, etc. If you don't believe me, here's a very similar commercial concept for HP that has added incredible brand equity:

As long as RIM learns from the Storm it just unleashed (haha, pun, get it?), I don't see it falling out of place anytime soon.

/Rant Mode On: Walking down the halls of Schulich, it's astonishing to see how many people are touting blackberries; some usefully, others just to check facebook and feel important. My favorite are those (primarily first and second year, but upper years too) students that whip out their blackberry every two seconds to see if their Japanese merger deal went through without a hitch at above market value. Or to see if they got tagged in the pictures of themselves at the "So You Think You Can Dance?" marathon session everyone was gathered around last night. But if it makes you feel so important; then go for it. At least it'll help the RIM stock go up. /Rant Mode Off.

Until then; be a crackberry, or don't. But then you risk facing the hordes of fans who will rub their device in your face with great pride and wide smiles drawn across their faces. Jerks.

1 comment:

katie (: said...

The Blackberry is an amazing product, hands down. But it takes more than just a well-developed smartphone to carry it to its current cult status.

Think high school. You weren't cool unless wore (insert generation-relevant stereotype here). How is the Blackberry any different? As an executive at ______ Inc., would your peers think of you any less for not being up to the second in your email? Maybe. Would you give them that opportunity? Hell no!

Personally, I'd rather an iPhone since it's so much more flexible, asthetically appealing and much more befitting of someone who loves Jelly Car and thinks conformity is boring. (: I'm almost positive the word "fun" scares the white-collar worker.

The Blackberry is boring. Its targetd market is boring. Society has resorted so much of its communication in the form of 3 letter acronyms sent to our phones. And thus, society is boring. RIM, by some act of god or from very astute observations and research, know this. So yes, much of RIM's success is attributed to the actual product. But it's that sad, sad, impersonal progression of western culture that keeps this berry bush growing.