BlackBerry launch - inspired by Steve Jobs?

Posted by Rob Enderle

I’ve often wondered why more companies don't follow the Steve Jobs script when announcing a product.

Given Apple’s success, it would seem a natural path to have yet, more often, you see companies like Samsung copy Apple’s products but not their process and then wonder why they don’t generate as much excitement.

Over the last 12 months I’ve seen Microsoft kick off two Apple-like launches - one for Windows 8 and a better executed one for Windows Phone 8. And today I watched RIM execute its BB10 launch in a similar excellent fashion.

The folks that are building the BlackBerry are very similar in structure to Applesince they code their own OS and don’t license it from others. Let’s talk about what the BlackBerry folks did and why it is important they did it.

RIM to BlackBerry

One of the more subtle things RIM did was change its name to BlackBerry. Not only does that make it the other company named after a fruit but it aligns the name with the corporation's most successful brand. As you may recall, Apple took a similar step to accomplish the same goal when Cupertino dropped the word “computer” from its brand and became just "Apple."

Essentially, this does two things. First, it means all of their brand money is focused on Blackberry removing the need to remind folks what RIM means. Secondly, it focuses the company more tightly on the line of products and makes it less likely to do crazy things like go into completely unrelated markets or think about investing in sports teams. This should both make the company more interesting to investors who more easily recognize the brand and help assure the company executives keep their head in the game.

While BlackBerry’s fan base is loyal, it has declined in recent months.This means BlackBerry needed to ensure the fan base stayed happy while other product form factors were explored. This is why the company launched two phones, one that looks very similar to the iPhone in size proportions, and the other equipped with a keyboard to address the loyal BB fans. 

This gives Blackberry fans who were likely looking at the iPhone a better choice, from Blackberry’s perspective, they can stay with the keyboard they like, or if they want an iPhone device they can make the move but take their Blackberry experience with them. I imagine this last point or option was driven by users who expressed the need for a more up to date form factor but didn’t want to learn an entirely new experience or separate from the platform they trusted.

Apple, with Steve Jobs, had one of the strongest advocate/celebrities on the planet. Without him the Apple products just don’t seem as cool (granted a lot of this is also coming from their being sold in Walmart at a discount). Emulating that has been difficult and the Blackberry folks had a number of high profile advocates. Alicia Keys who was both on stage and holds the honorary title of Creative Director, and Neal Gaiman (one of my favorite authors) was highlighted as a huge fan. 

We generally see things as cool when they are used and advocated by people we respect or admire. Apple has an ad campaign of folks doing silly things with Siri that is intended to replace Jobs advocacy but, I think, tends to make their celebrities look kind of stupid. Yes it is funny, but the point of advocacy is it works when we admire the advocates, and making them look stupid kind of wrecks the "admire" part.

With Blackberry’s effort, the industry heavyweight showcased its advocates as creative professionals, while not as funny, they didn’t damage the image of their celebrities either. Alicia Keys even took the stage and provide her reasons for going into partnership with BlackBerry, she was a fan and she wanted to company to focus more on women. She came across as professional and motivated both of which improved her standing and BlackBerry’s.

While they still have a substantial app gap between themselves iOS and Android, BlackBerry hits the market as a viable alternative for those who need a phone to be their business partner first and their plaything later. They executed an Apple style launch very well and supplemented the roll of advocate made famous by Steve Jobs better than Apple did, and did a nice job of embracing their remaining advocates.

There is no doubt the company has a long way to go, but this was certainly a very impressive start.