Research In Motion investors started pulling dropping stock when Thorsten Heins took the reigns as CEO. Those investors that jumped ship thought that Heins was the wrong man for the job – and apparently they were right. Seemingly, Heins’ first order of business was to take a cue from the Trix Rabbit, the Lucky Charms leprechaun, and other cereal box cartoon characters by creating four RIM superheroes. That’s right; RIM has created four superheroes to represent the brand.
Why would the RIM marketing team choose cartoon characters to represent a brand that’s largely used by business people? Your guess is as good as mine (unless, of course, RIM simply wanted to generate press. In that case, mission accomplished). However, the fact remains that the public will be seeing four very colorful RIM superheroes in the months to come.
Since all superheroes need a name and a slogan, RIM has created both for the four new characters. RIMs new superhero lineup includes: Justin Steele who’s “always ready to stick up for his friends,” Max Stone (“always able to jump out of a plane”), GoGo Girl (she “save the day with a brilliant strategy”), and Trudy Foreal (Trudy “isn’t afraid to call it as she sees it”). As bizarre as this marketing plan seems, RIM seems to have a method to its madness, though that method might alienate North American RIM devotees.
Clearly, RIM is attempting to target Asian markets with the new cartoon characters. The notion that Asian markets are emerging isn’t completely off target, but RIM’s new superheroes will likely be seen for what they are: a cheap marketing ploy. RIM is also after a much younger audience, since competitors (such as Samsung and Apple) have managed to capture younger consumers. Yet, RIM will certainly alienate the serious business class that the company has been strongly linked to. Is this marketing plan a good one? Analysts (and this reviewer) state a strong and loud: “no!”
Watering Down the BlackBerry Brand
What business owner or executive wants to walk around with a phone that’s associated with a pink-clad cartoon character? The whole idea is ridiculous, really, but it looks like RIM’s marketing team isn’t going to stop with the new superheroes. The company plans to spend $100 million on marketing this year, and that amount probably includes more cartoon characters and colorful icons. Sadly, a new marketing campaign isn’t what RIM really needs.
As has been said time and again, the only way for RIM to survive in the quickly accelerating smartphone market is to start innovating.
An aging BlackBerry lineup coupled with a tablet flop puts the company in a treacherous position. It’s going to be a tough road for RIM in the next few months. Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, and a slew of other smartphone and tablet manufacturers are the ones to beat – and none of these companies are relying on cartoon characters to push products. Instead, those leading the smartphone and tablet pack are creating new, interesting, and innovative products – a lesson RIM could do well to learn.