Tuesday, February 14, 2012

7 Marketing Lessons From RIM’s Failures

7 Marketing Lessons From RIM's Failures

 Alex Goldfayn

Alex Goldfayn's new book is called Evangelist Marketing: What Apple Amazon
and Netflix Understand About Their Customers (That Your Company Probably Doesn't).
He is CEO of the Evangelist Marketing Institute,
a marketing consultancy with clients that include T-Mobile, TiVo and

You remember, don't you? The emails magically appeared while you weren't
looking. That blinking light turned us into addicts. And that keyboard —
copied often, but never matched.

It was the BlackBerry, the glorious, beloved, and life-changing BlackBerry. It made us feel good, and
it never let us down.

Long before the iPhone  that took the world by storm, and before Google even
dreamed about getting into the phone business, Research in Motion was
on top of the consumer electronics mountain.

Today, sadly, it is buried under it, and industry insiders everywhere
wonder whether RIM will survive.

What happened? Harmful strategy. Unforced errors. And, mostly, really bad
marketing. On this, RIM is in good company in the consumer electronics
industry, where so many manufacturers market poorly. But few have made so
many marketing mistakes so quickly.

Here are seven marketing lessons from RIM's dark and difficult journey.
 1. Make Great Products

Consumer electronics success begins with excellent products. The BlackBerry
was once perceived as the very best smartphone — or, at least, "emailing
phone" — available. It was exciting, emotional and it made people feel
good. RIM sold BlackBerries on the strength of word-of-mouth
recommendations. BlackBerries were aspirational, and people wanted to own
one because friends and colleagues were so passionate about them.

Now, fast-forward to today.

Consider the excitement and energy around the iPhone and all those Android handsets.
RIM enjoys none of that today. Not one percent of it. In part, it's because
it stopped making good smartphones in favor of a poorly received tablet
called the PlayBook.

Successful marketing begins with having a tremendous product or service to
market. Nothing happens without this.
 2. Build on Strengths Instead of Improving on Weaknesses

I'm constantly telling clients that they should build on strengths instead
of trying to improve their weak areas. For RIM, the BlackBerry was a great
strength, and they all but abandoned its development and marketing for a
year or longer to create the tablet. RIM did this to try to prevent the
world from passing it by in the tablet space — which it did anyway.
Tragically, as a result of diverting talent, attention, resources,
investment and innovation from the BlackBerry to the Playbook, the consumer
smartphone world has also passed RIM by.

It doesn't matter what business you're in. If you focus on developing
weaknesses, your strengths will atrophy due to neglect. If you want to
market well, identify your strengths — products, services, techniques,
approaches, relationships — and exploit them relentlessly. This technique
overcomes nearly all weaknesses.
 3. Gravity Pushes Backwards

If you've attained a measure of success, you must continue innovating your
products, services and your marketing just to maintain your position.
Because you can bet the competition is innovating aggressively, and they'll
pass you by in three seconds if you stop doing the things that brought you
success. RIM not only stopped releasing new BlackBerries while focusing on
its PlayBook, it basically stopped talking to its customers about them for
an extended period. We've seen this story before with Palm and many others.
Gravity pushes backwards in business. Consistent and aggressive innovation
is required not only to attain success, but to *maintain* it.
 4. Know Precisely Who Your Customer Is

RIM's management famously disagreed on
who their customer was. Then co-CEO Mike Lazaridis felt the customer was
the corporation. Others, probably including his counterpart Jim Balsillie,
wanted to aim BlackBerry products at consumers. If you don't know exactly
who your customer is, it is impossible to market. Language, messaging,
platforms, branding and public relations change completely depending on the
customers you target. So identify your customers as precisely as possible,
and aim all of your marketing efforts at them.
 5. Executives Set the Marketing Tone

Consider the most successful companies in consumer electronics (and two of
the most successful companies in all of business): Apple and Amazon. Their chief
executives set their marketing tone, and everyone follows. If you haven't
seen it yet, watch this YouTube video of Steve Jobs introducing the iPad,
and listen to how everybody who followed him on stage used exactly the same

 This is no accident. The next day, thousands of articles used the same
words to describe the amazing, remarkable and awesome iPad. Amazon's Bezos
is the same way. The best marketers have high-level executives setting the
tone. They not only teach the rest of the company how to talk about their
products and services, but the customers, the media, and the market itself.
Obviously, RIM's co-CEOs did not set this tone. They couldn't even agree on
who the customer was.
 6. Avoid Unforced Errors

Most marketing problems are self-made and entirely avoidable. Consider the
major developments from RIM's recent past:

  - It voluntarily stopped focusing on the BlackBerry to make a product it
  had no experience with.
  - It could not identify its customer.
  - It stopped marketing to consumers, allowing competition to roar past.

Not convinced? Consider Netflix's recently
concluded horrible-terrible-no-good-very-bad year.

  - A dramatic price increase.
  - An extended period with no action to placate angry consumers.
  - Spinning off something called Qwikster and then spinning it back in.
  - A remarkably poor response to it all by the CEO, Reed Hastings.

None of these things happened to these companies. They did it to
themselves. Don't try to outsmart yourself. Avoid unforced errors.
 7. Keep Talking to Your Customers

My work with clients often involves conducting qualitative conversations
with their customers to deeply understand how they feel about what the
company is doing and what the company is thinking about doing. If RIM had
talked to its customers like this, it would have quickly learned that they
probably weren't particularly interested in a BlackBerry tablet without
built-in email, messaging or contacts!

If you're not talking to your customers, you're just guessing from a
conference room.

I believe RIM has enough of a corporate and government customer base to
sustain it through this most difficult period. To recover, the company must
precisely identify its customer, make terrific products for it, and orient
all of its marketing and messaging toward it. In the meantime, we can all
learn from the mistakes that brought the BlackBerry maker to this point.

You remember the Blackberry, don't you?

Edited by: Lawyer Asad

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