7 Marketing Lessons From RIM’s Failures

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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 Logitech.

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 the 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 the YouTube video of Steve Jobs introducing the iPad, and listen to how everybody who followed him on stage used exactly the same words.

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?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, franckreporter

Article Courtesy – Mashable


Amazing E-mail-less Man

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This is amazing and it leaves us thinking, I am in favor of being E-mail-less are you ?

This live experiment by IBM executive has resulted into improvement of his productivity and weight loss, read more to find out how to lose weight by being E-mail-light

Email communication was supposed to reduce the use of paper and enable swift communication at lightening speed enabled by high speed internet, but what has become of email is exactly opposite – people print email, emails are marked as CC ( Carbon Copy) bcc (Blank Carbon Copy) etc just for the sake of informing a group of people or keeping in ‘loop’.  The misuse of email communication actually takes away productivity and takes maximum time of executives. What could be solved in few minutes via face-to-face communication or a verbal communication takes hours of drafting, reading, responding to emails

Last year, European technology services giant Atos said that it wants to get rid of e-mail by 2014 and a few weeks ago Volkswagen said it was going to turn off BlackBerry e-mail access to some staffers during non-work hours.

When IBM’s new CEO Ginni Rometty released her first message to company employees earlier this month, she posted a video to Connections, rather than sending out a corporate e-mail blast.

No wonder blackberry is losing market share and edge in developed markets

Read this interesting article here ( source –

When Luis Suarez decided to live in a world without e-mail, some of his colleagues thought he was making a mistake. After all, he works for IBM, one of the world’s top vendors of e-mail software.

But Suarez was ready to cut the cord. Like any other 21st century white-collar worker, he was bombarded daily with around 40 e-mail messages. More than he wanted to answer.

Suarez — who cut his teeth in the 1990s at IBM’s mainframe tech support center in the Netherlands — is an affable guy. Four years ago, he was working on IBM’s BlueIQ social media team, helping IBM’s salesforce understand social media. It was a hot area, and people wanted to know more. Suarez had developed a reputation as one of IBM’s social media stars, and he was spending more time answering questions and delegating work via e-mail than he wanted. The questions kept coming, and privately, he was getting burned out. “I was getting tired of doing everyone else’s work instead of mine,” he says.

So in February 2008, he all but stopped sending e-mail. He didn’t wipe out his inbox. In fact, he still checks e-mail daily — it takes him about two minutes per day; most messages are internal meeting notifications — and he still uses it for sensitive one-on-one conversations. But for the most part, when people write him, he answers via social media and suggests that they’d be better off chatting via Twitter, Google+, or on Connections, IBM’s internal social network. The idea is that if more of his communication is in the open, he’ll spend less time communicating.

Luis Suarez is an extreme case. But he nicely represents the tech world’s gradual migration away from e-mail and onto social networks and other services. For many, services such as Facebook and Twitter have replaced e-mail, at least in part. Facebook has introduced e-mail addresses to encourage its more than 800 million users to keep their communication on its site, and even an old school tech giant like IBM is moving in this same direction.


Suarez may be the most famous IBMer to drop off the e-mail treadmill, but he isn’t the only one. He reckons that there are still several dozen colleagues who have done the same thing.

Juliana Leong is one of them. Like Suarez, she hasn’t totally done away with e-mail. But when coworkers send her a message, she replies with Connections. It’s more efficient, says Leong, a project manager with IBM’s Office of the CIO. Often, people who ask her questions in public get answers from Leong’s colleagues before she even gets a chance to read them. And those answers remain public, for others to see. That means there are fewer questions for Leong.

She says that her fellow IBMers are paying attention to Suarez.

“He’s a very prominent person in the social community in IBM, so a lot of people like to follow his example,” she says. Exactly how effective they’ve been, Leong doesn’t know, but her office has made reducing e-mail a focus for 2012.

So four years into his brave experiment, Suarez is looking less like a crazy man on an island. (He literally lives on an island: Grand Canary Island, which he moved to a few years ago. He loves the “beaches, sun, and mountains.”) He’s looking more like a visionary.

Carbon Copy? Are You Kidding Me?

Last year, European technology services giant Atos said that it wants to get rid of e-mail by 2014 and a few weeks ago Volkswagen said it was going to turn off BlackBerry e-mail access to some staffers during non-work hours.

When IBM’s new CEO Ginni Rometty released her first message to company employees earlier this month, she posted a video to Connections, rather than sending out a corporate e-mail blast.

Facebook is trying to move users to its own messaging service, something that goes beyond e-mail and instant messages. E-mail alone is too slow, and archaic, according to Molly Graham, who works with Facebook’s mobile group. “Look at that line that we use every day called CC. What does CC even stand for? It stands for carbon copy, which is insane,” she said in November at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara. “What does that even mean in today’s world’

“When we were doing research for our messaging product, we actually looked at what subject lines people used. And like 80 percent of subject lines are “hey,” “hi,” or left blank. The subject line is outdated. The truth is, e-mail is outdated.”

Though he’s IBM’s poster boy for dropping out of e-mail, even Suarez admits that the inbox and carbon-copy will probably never completely go away. But four years into his experiment, he feels more productive, and almost all of his work is done in the open.

For Suarez, it’s not just more efficient. It’s a nicer way to communicate. There’s a “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” kind of passive-aggressiveness to the way many people use corporate e-mail, with the strategic bcc and the cover-your-ass e-mail message. “If you have been using e-mail in a corporate environment, you know that plenty of people use e-mail as a weapon against their own colleagues,” he says. “This was also creating a new way of working where you wouldn’t need to justify the work you did. You earned trust from your colleagues by being a lot more public, a lot more open and a lot more transparent in what you do.”

And there’s one more thing. Suarez has lost about 50 pounds since 2008, a feat he at least partially credits to his e-mail aversion. “Since I’m no longer spending much time on e-mail during the day I’ve come up with other things to do,” he says.

The Stresses of Smartphones

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A smartphone is supposed to keep you connected with the world at your fingertips, but is it just stressing you out? A new study from the University of Worcester suggests staying connected is stress-inducing for those that feel they can never sign off.

Study volunteers admit their constant checking, rechecking, and triple checking for new notifications has them experiencing phantom vibrations, believing their phone is chirping for attention even in those rare moments it’s not.

Most of the participants originally began using smartphones to keep up with work on the go, which quickly spiraled into 24/7 replies to emails, tweets, and Facebook messages.

Companies are starting to react to the pressures of work-life balance in the face of technology. Volkswagen, for example, shuts off its BlackBerry email server outside of office hours so employees can recharge without a mobile distraction. Are you feeling the stress of being tethered to a smartphone?

This article originally published at GeekSugar here.