Now, all that has changed.
I had a great back-and-forth with Dean Heuman on Twitter (@dheuman). Dean is a marketing and communications pro with www.focuscom.ca and he is a die-hard Blackberry fan. But even Dean admits that “even if Blackberry comes out with something awesome, they are tainted with being uncool. It seems once you are tainted, you can’t be cool again.”
Can cool be recaptured?
There are some examples that suggest it is possible.
Only a decade ago, Old Spice was a washed-up brand that only your Dad would wear. Today it is the top selling men’s bath brand.
For a long time Johnny Cash was uncool, even in country music. He very quickly recovered that cool, and died a rock ‘n roll and country music icon.
The Lacoste crocodile is suddenly cool to wear again, despite being a powerful symbol of 80s preppiness.
What can Blackberry take away from the lessons learned by these comeback brands?
1. Find new friends. Johnny Cash found uber-hip producer Rick Rubin. Old Spice found creative energy in Wieden+Kennedy and spokesperson Isaiah Mustafa. When you associate with cool, you too can become cool.
2. Take serious risks. Nintendo went after an entirely new audience for video games with Wii. Johnny Cash recorded sparse acoustic versions of alternative rock songs. If you want to move the needle, you need to do remarkable things that are inherently risky.
3. Touch pop culture. Isaiah Mustafa, as the Old Spice guy, has become a pop culture celebrity. The Wii became a pop culture phenomenon. When the world is talking about you, good things usually happen. Unless you’re BP, Anthony Weiner, or Tiger Woods.
4. Be patient. Lacoste waited nearly 20 years through the age of grunge, until the prep look came back in style. Johnny Cash waded through two decades of musical fads before his raw sound found an audience again.
5. Create scarcity. A shortage of something creates value. The lack of available Wii consoles when they were first released created a massive push for them. The death of Johnny Cash, at the peak of his comeback, left us wanting more of the Man in Black. Demand + Scarcity = Value.
I don’t know for sure if any – or all – of those lessons will apply to the fortunes of Blackberry, but I hope the brand recovers and emerges strong. It is good for competition and for the people of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, whose economic base has grown along with Blackberry’s parent company Research in Motion.
There is an entire chapter in the book Brand Like a Rock Star that examines how brands can recover their “cool”. You can pre-order the book right now.
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