If you have been paying attention to the ongoing disaster that is Research In Motion, you will know that one of the more interesting developments in recent months has seen the top executives blaming of the marketing department for the majority of the company’s sales woes. This, of course, is patently absurd. If you make a product that nobody really wants, all the marketing in the world isn’t going to put you back on top.
Repeat after me: The product is the problem.
However, that doesn’t completely absolve the sales creeps of responsibility. While all the clever marketing in the world probably can’t help a shitty product, it’s a fact that really bad marketing will tank the thing even more. RIM’s current advertising campaigns are decidedly shitty – and no, I am not talking about the Power Rangers over there. I am talking about the double whammy of RIM’s mainstream ad campaigns being two decades behind the times and targeting a group of people who doesn’t generally make the purchasing decisions when it comes to high-end smartphones.
Compare the latest Blackberry commercials to those of the company who came in and changed the smartphone market forever and kicked RIM’s corporate teeth out. Apple commercials show little more than what you can do with the product. There are no thumpa-thumpa soundtracks, no cutting-edge fashions, just actual screen shots of things like “removing red-eye from a photo” and “sending a video to a friend” and “buying a movie and having it already on your computer when you get home”. Simple things that normal people generally want to do.
RIM’s latest 30-second wankfests, on the other hand, show cool people doing cool and trendy things while carrying their Blackberries around. And the screen images are, of course, “simulated”. So if you are an average Joe who wants to invest his money in a smartphone and get maximum use from the purchase, which image is more appealing to you? Actual footage of the phone actually performing a fast that you actually want to do? Or a bunch of hipsters riding glow in the dark bikes?
The only people who could possibly be swayed by this sort of smoke-n-mirrors campaign are 14-year olds. And despite all the changes in the world, those kids generally don’t have 400 bucks to drop on a phone. For every teen who does have that kind of dough, there are a few thousand grown-ups who are going to spend that money based on actual utility and not the DJ stylings of LL Kool Moe Diplo Kiki Dee. The head honchos at RIM have to sit down and decide which market they actually want – one kid, or 10,000 adults.