Is the Time Ripe for BlackBerry?
Research In Motion finally took the wraps off of its new mobile operating system and two new handsets during a global launch event this week. What stole the show, however, was the company's decision to rebrand itself, ditching its damaged "Research In Motion" name and going with "BlackBerry" in the hope of leveraging the pioneering brand's strength.
Feb 1, 2013 5:00 AM PT
BlackBerry 10 may have had its thunder stolen by "BlackBerry" -- that is, the announcement that "Research In Motion" has been deep-sixed, and the company name is now the same as its iconic brand.
The rebranding is an effort to put more juice behind the launch of the highly anticipated new BB10 operating system and compatible handsets, propelling a potential turnaround.
Following this week's press conference, Twitter was abuzz. A good portion of tweets focused on the rebranding, and many agreed that the news overshadowed the launch of BlackBerry 10.
"So out of the million #BB10 tweets, the rebranding is the biggest hit. Hmm Anyone else think that's just plain freakin weird?" tweeted @radhikas.
"+1 for rebranding as @BlackBerry & @aliciakeys" preceded a retweet by @michaelwithana.
Here's a tweet posted by @xBLASPHEMICx: "What I liked most about the BB10 event this morning: The rebranding of RIM as simply BlackBerry. It's their only product so it makes sense."
Not all tweets favored the rebranding. "RIM should be investing its time, effort & money in generating Q1 #BB10 sales not global rebranding!" tweeted @GeoffCasely.
At the Wednesday press conference, company executives announced their stock will trade under the symbol BBRY on Nasdaq and BB on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
"Our shareholders are investing in BlackBerry," CEO Thorstein Heins told the audience in New York.
"It signifies a rebirth of the organization," said Umar Ruhi, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. The name change to BlackBerry "signifies reinventing themselves," he told the E-Commerce Times.
"I think there's a great reason to do it now," Scott Piergrossi, VP of creative development at Brand Institute, told the E-Commerce Times. "It further underscores the company's laser focus on the BlackBerry brand."
Many consumers identify more closely with BlackBerry, not RIM, so the rebranding could be successful.
"From a marketing standpoint, if you think about the consumer's level of attachment to the brand, BlackBerry is still cherished," Ruhi told the E-Commerce Times. "The name RIM by itself invokes mostly negative feelings about the company."
Too Little, Too Late?
The name change is the right decision, but the timing is another story, said Chris Silva, industry analyst with Altimeter Group.
"I feel like this is probably something that maybe should have taken place five years ago," he told the E-Commerce Times.
"I don't think it's too late, but I do think they should have refreshed their brand years ago," industry analyst Jeff Kagan told the E-Commerce Times. "Better late than never -- and the timing is good. BlackBerry 10 will redefine the entire company."
BlackBerry's Next Move
The name change may help BlackBerry streamline branding and marketing communications and convey to stakeholders -- including employees -- that the company is changing and reinventing itself, observed Manish Kacker, Ph.D., an associate professor of marketing at McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business.
"However, the change does not communicate anything radically new; therefore, it is more likely to yield incremental benefits than substantial gains," Kacker told the E-Commerce Times. "For this message of reinvention to have a meaningful impact, the company must back it up with action."
- Mount an effective marketing communication strategy for BB10 that showcases the technological superiority of BB10 compared to Android, iOS and Windows Phone, as well as BlackBerry devices' advantages over competing handsets likd Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy Android line, Nokia's Lumia, etc.). The company isn't just trying to attract new customers; it also wants to motivate existing BlackBerry users to switch to BB10.
- Develop pricing, corporate marketing and vendor strategies that ensure sufficient initial sales of BB10 handsets to remove any doubts about the viability of the system and attract app developers to contribute to the relatively sparse BB10 app library.
- Deliver the new handsets on time, putting a period on the company's recent history of poor execution and product delays.