The Challenge of Changing Minds: Can Blackberry Be Cool Again?


In the days pre-iPhone and pre-Android, it was cool to have a Blackberry.

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 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.

Nintendo definitely looked pretty uncool compared to Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s Playstation. And then they created the Wii and changed all that instantly.

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.

If you don’t already follow Brand Like a Rock Star on Twitter, please do! You can also take part in the conversation on our Facebook page.

Apple, Blackberry playbook, Blackberry Storm, Johnny Cash, Nintendo, Old Spice, Uncategorized 169 Comments

Weekend Brand Brief: May 14, 2011 – Putting Your Marketing In Context

Last night before the 9:45 showing of “Bridesmaids“, my wife and I sat through the endless string of advertising that precedes the endless stream of trailers. After one of the commercials played, I saw marketing magic at work. I watched people instantly react to advertising.

It was an ad for a mobile phone company that promoted their new line of Blackberry devices and ended with a display of a cool feature that could be immediately put to use… the silent function. Around me people reached for their phones and put them on “vibrate”.

It was incredible to see the immediacy at work. People responded to the ad, and in doing so they were forced to evaluate their own mobile phone. Was it as cool as the one they had just seen advertised? Did it have all of those valuable features?  Shouldn’t they think about upgrading?

Context is absolutely vital when planning your marketing.

Four Questions To Help Contextualize Your Marketing Message

1. What will your customer be doing when they see/hear/absorb your ad? Are you creating a billboard designed to reach a commuter on the freeway or a Facebook ad for someone looking up high school friends? Very different ads.

2. Who will your customer be with when they see/hear it? Are they alone to comtemplate the message or surrounded by friends to discuss it?

3. How far away from taking action will they be? Is it an immediate click or a long drive to your store?

4. What do you want them to do? Are you looking for a click-through or are you looking to be top-of-mind in six months when they need a new big-ticket item?

PS - ”Context” is why you don’t include your phone number in your radio ads, unless your have a mnemonic phone number like 555-FAST. After all, most of your listeners are either driving or doing other things while listening to the radio. They’ll never remember your phone number. In context of a radio commercial, phone numbers are almost always a waste of time.

PPS – Great movie, by the way.

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

Blackberry playbook, bridesmaids, context 1,672 Comments