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Brand Warfare: Lessons from BlackBerry vs. iPhone

July 13, 2010

BlackBerry is scared of Apple.  I know this sounds like bullying in the produce aisle but this is worse, it’s brand warfare. Understanding BlackBerry’s tactical errors can save your marketing.

BlackBerry is acting desperate and here’s why: Apple’s Q1 financials report that iPhone sales have doubled in the past quarter compared to last year. (In fact, Apple generated more profit than ever  – $3.38 billion.)

What does a frightened BlackBerry do? They try to out Apple Apple.  They don’t just use cool people in their ads they use TOTALLY COOL people. But like the geek at the party who buttons their hip shirt right to the Adam’s apple,  BlackBerry Messenger commercials don’t fit because it’s not who they are – it’s who they want.

BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) ads are full of funky, ethnically diverse, urban entrepreneurs.  I love the look and I get what BBM’s doing. Micro-entrepreneurs are hot especially compared to traditional business people who are now associated with oil spills, banking ills and corporate bail outs. Using BlackBerry’s traditional market as spokespeople is a tough sell because people no longer trust big business.

BBM escapes the office and goes street. A cool barber shares snaps of snips. A retro car guy has a social media group called ‘Death Sleds’,  a Hollywood artist clicks a pic and sells his blue skull art lamp while his BOYfriend nods and texts beside him 😉

A surfer, who looks remarkably like a young Guy Kawasaki (former Apple marketing genius now venture capitalist) tells us, with an Ivy league lilt to his voice, that he uses his BBM to message “Meet up at the 2nd cove. It’s where we are. Killer…let’s go.”  It might be where he is but the ‘suits’ are checking their crackberries under the board (bored) room table.

No one lines up to buy a BlackBerry. They are not and have never been cool.  Their first plastic model looked like something a faded Smurf sat upon. Business didn’t care. They became speed and functionality addicts. Business made RIM rich and VIPs  – Barak Obama, Richard Branson and Oprah – made them famous.  (Now there’s a name for a phone – The VIP).

BlackBerry’s Applephobia has made them forget who loves them and why. By copying iPhone’s demographic, ignoring their own and trying to be cool – something it has never been – they look afraid, ungrateful and unauthentic.

What must Blackberry do? Profile some ‘corporates’  worthy of admiration.  Heck, profile themselves. It’s time for fierce brand integrity. Ironically, the best demonstration of this principle is Apple’s serenely vicious ad campaign “I’m a Mac. I’m a PC.”  The smartphone battle is on and Team Canada needs to take another shot.

Why does this fruit fight matter to you? For those of you who market yourself or your organization, cherish and mirror the customers who love you. Know them better than anyone else then serve them better than anyone else. And never get so scared you let the competition dictate who your ideal customer should be or who you should be.

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Louise B. Karch