Research In Motion has certainly proven how immobility or the lack of the ability to remain innovative and relevant amongst core and potentially new users can be detrimental to your brand’s on-going success. RIM has no doubt proven that even if your brand has claimed a leadership position at one point in time, retaining this leadership position requires a lot of on-going attention, hard work and dedication to ensuring that your brand is the best it can be.
It was not that long ago, perhaps even just as little as two years ago, that the Blackberry was deemed the apple of everyone’s eye — especially among smart phone users in the business community. My wife, most of our friends, many of my clients and daily train commuter companions had their Blackberries attached to their hips. In fact, I can still hear that familiar and recognizable clicking noise running through my head as those around me were scouring their Blackberries for emails. Mind you, many of these people were “dual techno” users simultaneously plugged into their iPhones, iPods and iPads. It seemed like the smart thing to do.
Blackberry experienced several good years of popularity among retailers, providers, consumers and investors. It was in the spotlight as one of the most coveted technology brands. Not to mention the fact that Blackberry was one of the greatest new product names ever launched. In June 2008, RIM had the leadership position in the market and its shares were trading at an all time high of $142/share. Fast forward to 2012 and RIM is now finding its latest cost per share at $8.10 (as of July 6), it has posted a $518 million loss and 33% drop in revenue, and it has shipped less than half the amount of devices versus YAG. Additionally, it now finds itself competing against devices that use Google’s popular Android OS.
What could RIM have done differently?
So what happened over the course of the last four years? Perhaps Rim underestimated the importance of having key strategies and systems in place that are vital to positioning brands for on-going success. This includes, but certainly is not limited to:
- Developing a long-term strategic plan, especially in growing your brand, building awareness and, most importantly, retaining your leadership position within your category and among your users
- Implementing specific tactics to help understand, monitor, anticipate and thwart competitive activity
- Identifying, understanding and staying ahead of technology and lifestyle trends that have an impact on consumer needs and wants
- Establishing internal and external initiatives and resources to ensure on-going product research, innovation and development for a long term and robust pipeline
- Instituting a steady new product launch cycle to keep new news filtering to your investors, consumers and retailers
- Establishing plans for keeping in touch with your constituents and maintaining customer loyalty
- Maintaining a consistent awareness campaign even you have nothing new to report
In order for any brand to be successful and to achieve or maintain an expected level of success, it must have defined strategies and processes in place. You can never rest your laurels, even if you are the leader. These strategies and plans must be continuous with frequent checks and balances along the way.
Did RIM expect Blackberry’s success to last forever?
RIM’s overt actions or at least those actions visible to the public made it appear as though Blackberry thought it would forever bask in the bastions of success. That is until it was completely blindsided by its competition and, as a result, witnessed its loyal customer base abandon the Blackberry in droves for the latest, greatest and “smartest” in technology.
Did RIM have a plan in place to help it retain the loyalty of the highly coveted business sector and to expand its user base beyond? What on-going strategies were being deployed to prevent their customers’ eyes from roaming or from flirting with other brands that either appeared or actually were smarter? What was their plan for bringing in new users and attracting users from other brands? We now know that convenience is in and consumers even the “dual techno” users are looking everywhere to streamline and simplify their daily activities. But did RIM maintain a pulse on trends and the lifestyle of its customers in order to be forewarned that the strategy of dual phone usage — one for business and one for pleasure — would eventually go by the wayside and be replaced by one phone that does it all?
Has RIM learned from the error of its ways?
It does seem as though RIM has learned its lesson about the importance of keeping your brand relevant, especially when your brand is in a leadership position. There are many indications that RIM is going through some major internal restructuring in order to put plans in place to save the Blackberry and turn business around. But is this too much too late? Unfortunately, I don’t think the story or case study about RIM and the Blackberry brand will have a happy ending. RIM recently announced that its next smartphone aka the device it is betting its future survival on will not be ready until 2013. The speculation that the latest iPhone upgrade is scheduled to launch in Q4 2012 and the lack of any new RIM product innovation ready in time for this coming Christmas will have a devastating impact on RIM’s ability to build or even retain consumer interest in the Blackberry.