In an open letter published in 30 news outlets across nine countries, Blackberry sent a plea to the public to stay with the brand and give it another chance.
The letter, which punctuates the brand's demise from a category creator to an awkward 'also ran' in the breakneck smartphone environment, has been met on social media and by some commentators with ridicule and pity, but Hong Kong brand image experts Marketing spoke to today say it might not be the worst thing the company could do in it's current state. Read the letter at the bottom of the article.
Asia Pacific executive vice president of Bite Global Paul Mottram lauded the brand’s effort in communicating directly with its clients but was less flattering about the corporate tone of the letter, down to minute details like using the ® in the first sentence.
I like the idea, but hate the execution. The letter purports to speak directly to those users, but it comes across as a press release.
“Blackberry’s one remaining emotional advantage for users is the comfort that comes from deep familiarity. It’s a smart idea to use paid media to bypass the operators who own the one-to-one communications with Blackberry subscribers. But the content and tone should have addressed that emotional connection between the brand and its fans, not bland details like growth in its enterprise server user base.”
Betty Ng, current executive director at Etymon and ex-director of brand marketing at Burson-Marsteller, agreed and added that the letter is Blackberry’s way of making its voice heard through the negative press despite its flaws in timeliness, length and the lack of a solid action plan.
“Public letters are becoming more and more prominent with brands that are in crisis mode because sometimes they’ll send out press releases and the media won’t pick up 100% of what they want to say; so this letter a much more direct way to get your message out,” she said, adding that though the letter captured main points, it was a bit lengthy especially for something that will appear in newspapers.
“In a PR point of view, it reinforced the brand’s advantages – such as heritage and security – and showed an understanding of the current situation: so that’s good; the downside, however, is the lack of detail in its action plan.”
Ng also said that the letter would be more effective if it were published closer to the announcement of its potential sale back in August.
Charles Pownall, current advisor for Watatawa and ex-Asia Pacific managing director for Burson-Marsteller, chimed in, adding that the lack of mention of the future fails to regain consumers’ confidence.
“While the letter addresses Blackberry's immediate financial health and makes a decent case for its product pedigree, it fails to convince of the firm's longer-term viability nor does it tackle its future direction - key concerns for enterprise technology buyers,” he said.
“By failing to address these issues directly, the letter is likely to achieve little beyond fueling further uncertainty and speculation.”
When asked whether the letter did its job in rekindling with its consumers, both Mottram and Ng said it depends on its success in differentiating itself.
“Blackberry will be saved by truly differentiated products or truly differentiated communications. Unless we see either of these things – or a simultaneous, catastrophic failure of iOS, Android and Windows Mobile – we shouldn’t expect any recovery any time soon,” said Mottram.
Ng chimed in by saying that though existing Blackberry fans may be happy about the company’s proactivity, general consumers and app-developers will need to see some concrete action.
“It will really depend on the breakthrough of the platform.”
Pownall also says it will be an issue of credibility and stability
“Blackberry has to settle its ownership question as fast as possible and persuade customers that it has a credible, focused and disciplined new leadership and strategy. Only then will the company have a strong platform for re-building confidence in the brand.”
Here’s the letter:
To our valued customers, partners and fans,
You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry ®. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day.
We have one important message for you:
You can continue to count on BlackBerry.
How do we know? We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free.
We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.
These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.
One thing we will never change is our commitment to those of you who helped build BlackBerry into the most trusted tool for the world’s business professional.
And speaking of those dramatic headlines, it’s important that we set the record straight on a few things.
Best in class productivity tool.
We have completely revamped our device portfolio this year with the launch of BlackBerry 10. We have four BlackBerry 10 devices – two all touch and two hybrid (touch and QWERTY) – and all are running the third update of our new platform. If what you care about most is getting things done – taking care of your business – we have the best range of devices for you. And we continue to offer the best mobile typing experience – no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Best in class security.
Governments all over the world, global corporations and businesses that simply cannot compromise on security choose and trust BlackBerry. Security is our heritage, and the industry recognizes that BlackBerry is the most secure when it comes to the device, server and, of course, our global data network. Have no doubt that you can continue to trust us to keep your communication safe and private.
Best in class enterprise mobility management.
We changed with the market, embracing BYOD because we understand that as iOS and Android devices become common in the workplace, businesses still need to manage all of these different platforms seamlessly and securely.
This is not a trivial task. While there are a number of startup companies that make bold claims, BlackBerry has more software engineers and the most resources dedicated to developing the most innovative solutions to address this complex challenge.
And our customers know it. Over the past quarter, our BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 server base grew from 19,000 to more than 25,000. Corporate clients are committed to deploying and testing the latest enterprise technology from BlackBerry. We are committed to evolving with our customers. That will never change.
Best in class mobile social network.
We are bringing the most engaging mobile messaging platform to all, with our BBM launch for Android and iPhone.
There are already around six million customers pre-registered to be notified of our roll out. This number is growing every day, and speaks to the tremendous opportunity we have to expand BBM beyond BlackBerry smartphones to make it the world’s largest mobile social network.
Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone. That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.
We believe in BlackBerry – our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you. We focus every day on what it takes to make sure that you can take care of business.
You trust your BlackBerry to deliver your most important messages, so trust us when we deliver one of our own: You can continue to count on us.
The BlackBerry Team