blackberry

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sears

“All Spanish all the time” is the business strategy I have recommended to Sears in this blog a number of times. Once again, quarterly earnings are out for the Sears Holding Company (owner of Kmart) showing it is hemorrhaging money. You can’t continue to lose a billion plus a year and stay a viable business (listening Blackberry?).

Think about the country. Think about the state of retailing…with more and more sales conducted online and delivered via the mail and package carriers. Where does this leave Sears? And all retailers, for that matter.  In need of bold moves. All Spanish speaking today, is a first-mover strategy. And frankly a no-brainer. If it doesn’t happen in 2014 it will happen at some point. If not Sears or Kmart, someone. The purchasing power of Spanish speaking Americans is too great. The growth rate of this segment of the pop. too great. 

Sure stores will have to close. But the idea is solid. The market is solid and the move will have unexpected positive impact not only on the expense side of the ledge, but also the growth side…with new opportunities for other services hitting this massive part of the economy.

Edward S. Lampert, CEO, pull that Band Aid off right now. I smell a Fortune (cover) in it for you. Peace.   

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Wage an Idea.

Blackberry is really taking a pasting. They waited and waited for the launch of the new Z10 and when it finally hit the street, initial reviews were pretty good — pundits liked the new email software, for instance. But while buying my new Lumia 928 recently I asked my Verizon dealer (R&K Trading Inc.) if the Z10 was moving and, sadly, he said they sold a bunch at first but half were returned.

Not what Blackberry needed.

Today in my paper paper is a Blackberry ad with side-by-side pics of a Z10 and a Q10, the latter being an updated BB with the keyboard taking up half the body. Wage Business is the headline. No copy, not humanity, no proof.

Blackberry, while putting energy and business protein behind losing the RIM name, should have waged some business of its own and gotten behind a brand plan. Wage Business is a great brand strategy and tagline. “Keep Moving” not so much. One could easily find 3 discrete planks to support Wage Business.

BB corporate would say that focusing on business would limit their consumer appeal. They would be right. But whither be the brand after despoiling it with a watered down, non-endemic idea.  Remember “love?”

Business isn’t just conducted by people in suits. Business is the money-end of life. It appeals to all. Wage Business with a brand plan. It will focus the product, the company, and stabilized the stock.  But do it today. Peace.

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Google and Facebook are beginning to get a little stink on them due to all this privacy talk in the press and social web.   It’s like a drum beat.  The latest chatter is about the ability for geo-tagged personal photos be crawled and shared on the web without permission, thanks a to some hacks, apps and data scavenging.  It is also happening on Apple iPhones (according to today’s NYT) but Apple’s privacy rep is too strong, and they will do something about quickly.

As Facebook and Google stay reactive to this type of thing, rather than be proactive or preemptive, their images stain.  Blackberry, on the other hand, focuses on privacy; its geo-tagging photo app is a bit more transparent (Do I smell an ad?).

Priv-acy (love the Brits) is topical because it is a very human value.  The social web is helping us realize privacy is over-rated and that’s pretty that’s cool but it’s still something we need to control and protect.  If the target of this privay news was Microsoft the market would go ballistic. Because it’s Google, not so much.  But they (and Facebook) had better clean the smelly stuff off their sneakers quickly. Peace!

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Research in Motion (RIM) headquartered in Ottawa, Canadia (as my son calls it), is playing catch-up. I don’t want to say it is floundering because it had good sales last quarter overseas, but if I were to ask you to close your eyes and said the word “Blackberry,” the picture that would come to mind behind those eyelids would be a black, short qwerty keyboard below a screen filled with email headers.

The Blackberry is a great device that does one thing well but it’s awful for web surfing.  Slow, slow, slower, slow. And who can read .025 size type…so you know where to zoom. The Playbook is a me-too tablet and the company just seems rudderless.  If I read articles about RIM’s business strategy that sounded focused I’d feel better, but I don’t.  Today there was an article saying the company is relying on carriers and IT depts. to keep growth alive.

I don’t want to go all RIP RIM, but there needs to be some leadership and focus on the future here. Motorola did it. HP is doing it. Nokia is juggling, cutting, partnering with Microsoft and may have a neat bottom-feeding strategy.  RIM, even with its strong user base, seems to be playing the harvest rather than the growth game. It is spending too much time looking in the rear and side view mirrors and forgetting to look beyond the dashboard.  The last 18 months have been a bitch.  The next 18 months will tell the complete story. Peace.

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A good brand planner has to love his or her brands. With that love in hand the planner can spend enough time and mental capital to really get close.  Past the label. Past the brand manager’s bias.   That means seeing a brands warts. Knowing the warts and working around them are the goal.  Consumers at their very core love patterns and predictability, but they also like new and optimism.  Have you ever tasted lettuce grown in your own garden?  It tastes better, no?  That because you want it to taste better. Optimism.

In the advertising business there are a lot of people who live on snark.  Creatives don’t like clients who don’t buy their work.  Managers don’t like people who can’t make decisions or won’t follow directions. No one likes those who are focused on the broken not the fix.  Have you ever read the comments following an Adweek story?  There is so much envy and loathing it’s scary.  

But brand planners have a nice job. A Zen job. To do it well  they need to like consumers  — to watch and listen. To find the love.  But don’t advertising it.  Are you listening Blackberry and Subaru.  Peace!

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Research In Motion needs a name change.  Don’t fight the people.  Change the name to Blackberry.  

Next issue, the company needs to go on offense; it’s been playing Dee too long. Readers will know how I felt about “Love” as the branding idea for its bazillion dollar ad campaign.  Not good.

RIM will announce quarterly results today and they are not expected to be pretty.  The worldwide smart phone market share leader, RIM is in the sights of Google’s fast growing Android operating system. And design-wise Apple iPhones have captured the imagination of the masses. So where does that leave RIM?  In a storm? Getting torched? Kind of where AOL was 8 years ago.  Or Yahoo was 3 years ago.  A leader treading water in a pool that is leaking. Leaking into a much bigger surrounding pool. RIM needs to see the future and go there. Right now it leads in business email. It leads in qwerty interface. It leads in web access, but these three things have diluted (another water metaphor) its brand idea. Hence love. 

Come on Blackberry. Fight back. Peace!

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The Magazine Shakeout.

In 2009, according to David Carr in The New York Times, magazine ad revenue was down 25%.  Lots of business revenue was down 25% in 2009 so this statistic may not seem that startling.  Not unless you look at the performance of magazines over the last 7 years.  25% down in a business that’s been down by single and double digits for years and years in not good.  Reminds me of the car business. Magazines need to do something. And fast.

The user interface of a magazine is superior to that of a Blackberry or iPhone — paper recycling aside.  Magazines are not going away. Cars aren’t going away. 

What’s the difference between a publisher and a curator?  About a hundred grand.  Publishers are overpaid magazine dude(ttes) in a hemorrhaging business while Curators are underpaid Web content presenters in a growth business. If people with these two titles switched jobs for 6 months they might actually improve their respective lots.

I often simplify marketing down to two factors: Claim and Proof.  For magazines (on and offline) I simplify the business down to Reporting and Presentation. Magazines, to thrive, need to find out what their Claim is, mine the Proof, have that proof Reported by experts and Present it in new and exciting ways. Peace!

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Slide 4 in Mary Meekers’s Morgan Stanley presentation entitled “Internet Trends 2010” shows the pace of mobile internet adoption.  It compares iPhone/iTouch to that of  AOL’s desktop, Netscape desktop and NTT docomo iMode; laying out growth by users, by quarter from launch.

iPhone’s Internet access tipped 86 million users in its 11th quarter – less than 3 years.  Let’s just say the others never came close to coming close. (Check out the chart on slide 4.) Smartphone growth is hockey sticking. Motorola is starting to get it. HP bought Palm and should buy some corporate share.  Blackberry is too big and too rich to fail, even though they’re getting a little paunchy around the middle. And we haven’t even started to talk about the software guys Google (after its trivestiture), Microsoft (drawing a blank) and carrier switch provider Alcatel-Lucent.

Ladies and germs, smartphones are the future of computing, commerce and community. They will dock next to monitors and keyboards, but they are the device.  Think about the iPhone4’s new videoconference app. Wait for fingerprint apps, and galvanic skin response apps, sobriety apps….   Cool times, these.  Marketers, put on your thinking apps (I mean caps), innovation awaits! Peace!

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Blackberry’s current TV campaign built around the Beatles song “All you need is love” is goofy. Pretty to watch, great editing, hum it and smile – but it really has no inherent brand building value.  And in a slipping market for Research In Motion, manufacturer of the Blackberry, this is not good thing. Enter a print ad today on battery life.  The headline reads “Imagine falling in love with a battery?” Does anyone hear the “beep, beep, beep” of a truck backing up here?

The Blackberry is a stud phone.  My son in college has one.  My friend’s high school daughter has one. As does his wife, for work.  Now we don’t live in “the valley” and I know that the kids might like an iPhone as an accessory, but they are sold on the Blackberry’s ability to get them on the net and text with grace and ease.  Why? Because it works. It delivers. Blackberry owns the word “work” — in its two dimensions. Get on mass transit and see who is using Blackberrys. Fill up a gym with kids – put the Blackberrys on one side, the iPhones on the other. What do you see?

Research will tell you love is strong, but it’s not reason to buy a Blackberry. This is a difficult, difficult category for brand planners. I don’t have the inside track, but I will tell you this:  “Love” isn’t it.  Beep, beep, beep.  Peace!

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Love is not a branding idea. Sorry Blackberry. You may be on to something with the notion that “like is mediocre” or “like is watered down love” as a campaign idea, but you’re never going to build up the brand tying it to the word love. So be smart(phone) and shut it down; get out while you can. Beatles song or not.

The strongest brand in the world today, Coke, would never have made it this far had Wieden and Kennedy been at the helm early on making ads about “happiness.”  Coke is a mature brand with some unique issues, I understand, and people know it Is a cola and Does refresh (Is-Does), yet as nice as the “happiness” ads are, and they’re good ad-craft, happiness is a second generation benefit. As is “love” for Blackberry. Fah, fah, fah fail.

The smart phone category is getting to be a real mess. Though I applaud Blackberry for its attempt at brand discipline and some good may, indeed, come of it — love ain’t it.

The Motorola “Cliq” has an idea. Or, it is the MotoBlur? Either way their idea is tied to the Does benefit of being “social.” The phone was built to social network (verb). The campaign line “smart gets social” works. If the Moto Cliq can continue to open a gap between itself and competitors in offering the ability to integrate all social networking apps with grace and ease, it will win some serious share. It will have an idea I can love.

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