Earlier this year I was talking to a source who has followed RIM closely for years.
We were talking about RIM’s decision to fire its Chief Marketing Officer. (It was reported as a resignation, but my source says he was forced out.) To be sure, RIM’s advertising was (and still is) awful, and the CMO deserved to be let go.
But my source pointed out, when your products suck, it’s a pretty weak move to fire the marketing guy first.
I couldn’t help but think of that last night as I listened to RIM’s top brass talk about fixing the company on its earnings call.
Why? Because, when faced with a tanking U.S. market, and declining revenue, this is their solution: “We’re planning to undertake a comprehensive advertising and promotional program in 2012.”
That’s right: More, and better ads are the answer to RIM’s woes, according to its CEOs.
Uh, no. The solution to your problems is better products. Not better marketing of products.
How many great HTC ads do you remember seeing? Not that many. And yet, it was the biggest smartphone vendor in the U.S. for Q3. How about Samsung? You remember any of their ads (until three weeks ago)? Probably not, and yet it’s the biggest smartphone vendor in the world.
The problem with RIM is that it has its head in the sand about product problems.
On the call, CEO Mike Lazaridis said:
The BB7 devices are really rejuvenating the BlackBerry experience around the world. I hear stories every day where people are commenting about how the BlackBerry Bold is the best communication smartphone in the world today, and that’s something we’re just building on and we’re going to support that through marketing, advertising and promotion.
Please. Other than the occasional odd ball, the market has told RIM in no uncertain terms that it doesn’t like the BlackBerry operating system all that much. (Yes, subscribers continue to grow, but its share is getting clobbered.)
In his defence, what else is going to say? “Boy, I tell ya, BB7 is a really boring operating system. Just the same ol same ol from us.”
Yes, RIM is working on better products, but it’s taking way too long. It was supposed to be close to launching the next generation BlackBerry platform — BlackBerry 10. But, that’s not coming until the end of 2012, the company revealed on the call last night.
It wants to wait to release BB10 because it needs more powerful chips. That’s all well and good, but the company had been leading people to believe the phones were going to be ready in the first half of 2012. Instead they’ll be out to end the year.
And this is a big problem. Not just because Apple and Google and Nokia/Microsoft will be taking share from RIM. But, because it will totally undermine all of the marketing RIM plans on doing.
RIM will have to talk out both sides of its mouth next year. On the one hand, it has to advertise, BB7, saying, “It’s amazing, go buy it!” Then on the other hand it has to tell investors, and the press, “wait until you see BB10, it’s going to blow you away!”So, if you were a loyal BlackBerry user, would jump on BB7 in the next year knowing that it’s about to be an obsolete platform? Or would you wait a little longer?
To answer that question, just look at Apple. Right before the iPhone 4S was released consumers tapped the brakes on buying a new iPhone. There’s no reason to think that’s not going to happen with RIM.
At least with Apple, though, the consumers came back for the new phone. That’s probably not going to happen with RIM.
No matter how much it pours into advertising next year.