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Could Blackberry’s demise have been avoided?

As a Canadian and a prior unsatisfied owner of a Nokia, Samsung and LG, I was ready to put my money on the Blackberry Z10, especially after seeing it in action back in April.

Two operating systems, an AI-trained keyboard and a camera that lets you choose your best look amidst 10 seconds of pressing the shutter? I was drooling.

When it launched in Hong Kong four months ago, the new Blackberry system was the company’s last bet to revive itself and what Blackberry CMO Frank Boulben (pictured) said was the final repositioning effort for the masses after renaming itself from Research in Motion, appointing Alicia Keys as its creative director and partnering up with the likes of Mercedes and Formula 1.

“We have a fantastic brand: it’s a global icon,” Boulben told Marketing back in April.

“This market is driven by innovation; it’s about differentiation and the market is thirsty for that.”

As of yesterday, however, Blackberry proved to be no longer “a fantastic brand” when it weighed a potential sale of itself.

But is Boulben wrong to think that the market isn’t thirsty for innovation?

The new Blackberry phones are by no means subpar to Samsung and Apple products; in fact, its new platform allows easy adaptations from Android apps and houses features that are much more impressive than just small variations like different screen sizes, better resolution or a longer battery life.

One of the edges the Canadian phone manufacturer – and to some extent Apple – loses against Samsung is its advertising budget.

While Hong Kongers are used to mega-sized campaigns of the Korean phone plastered across MTR stations, magazines, newspapers and on television, Blackberry was only seen in a few street events and on selected train stations and print for a limited period of time.

To be honest, I have no idea whether the Z10 is already in Hong Kong; yet I can probably name all the features of a S4.

On the books, admanGo data shows Samsung as the second top-spending advertiser in June with a HK$61 million spending and a 30% year-on-year growth. Blackberry and Apple, on the other hand, aren’t even close to the top 10.

While I reluctantly go back to choosing Apple or Samsung, I can’t help but ponder how true is the John Wanamaker phrase: “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.

If advertising is strong enough to squeeze out a competitor that used to dominate the business market, every cent in Samsung’s advertising budget was not only never “wasted”, but are critical to its monopoly success.

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