Posted: May 25th, 2022
Critiquing Research in Motions’ Brand
In critiquing the Research in Motion (RIM) brand according to the major attributes of a brand audit (Keller, 2000) the transition RIM made from being purely technologically driven to re-defining their identity based on the young, upwardly mobile C-level executives, company founders, and industry leaders who comprise their customer base. The need for creating an entirely new strategy for showing how the Blackberry didn’t always have to lead to exceptional career performance but could also be relied on as a tool for attaining work/life balance for its users is also now an objective of this brand critique. Breaking the Crackberry reputation (Columbus, 2003) by showing highly successful customers and providing insights into their interesting, passionately-lived lives that also have work/life balance have created an entirely new set of values for the RIM brand.
First Brand Attribute: Brand Excels at delivering the benefits customers truly desire.
RIM has struggled with this area of their branding the most, showing much vacillation between leading with technology or with benefits. The “crackberry” backlash the company has gone through that damaged the brand and also highlighted how addictive it can be to check e-mail constantly has been battled against by the company, stressing how movers and shakers, and leaders of high growth and unique companies are now using the Blackberry to get more freedom. In an era where there is more accountability and measurement of how people use their time, the positioning by RIM with their latest branding campaign seeks to underscore the freedom that their devices can provide. As has been mentioned however the Blackberry was initially seen as a digital leash by many critics, and that reputation has not completely gone away for RIM.
Second Brand Attribute: The brand stays relevant.
Globalization, teleworking, and a highly mobile workforce all are social factors that contribute to RIM’s increasing relevance as a brand. The relevancy of the brand when presented from a purely technological standpoint was mediocre however; when executives would be given one it was considered both an honor and a curse. Today however RIM, with its revised approach to speaking to upwardly mobile, high achieving professionals, has been able to increase its relevancy while fighting off the Crackberry reputation it had gained previously.
Third Brand Attribute: The pricing strategies is based on consumers’ perceptions of value
RIM’s product strategies connote a price/quality relationship as the prices for their devices are at the high end of the market. RIM continues to segment its prospect base and continually works to bring out lower priced models. For all these efforts however RIM is still seen as a device companies buy their employees, not that an employee buys themselves. RIM continues to also pursue premium positioning from a purely product price standpoint. Pricing of services contracts are outside the control of RIM on many occasions, yet these costs define the brand significantly as well (Kelly, 1998)
Fourth Brand Attribute: The brand is properly positioned.
When initial branding was released by RIM the brand was not correctly positioned; it was very product centric and lacked a solutions focus. Instead of concentrating on the benefits to busy, upwardly mobile professionals, the company focused instead on the technological depth of its products. The branding re-vamp completed to put a face on the specific brand itself however has moved the brand to a closer alignment with what their prospects are looking for.
Branding, when consistent and successfully applied, successfully creates differentiation over time (Market Research Executive Board, 2005).
Fifth Brand Attribute: The brand is consistent.
The RIM branding strategy has been incredibly inconsistent, beginning with technological superiority followed by a user-centered messaging campaign, and now with a product line message on top of using the personas of their customers to make their products more identifiable with. In short RIM has committed one of the most common gaffes or mistakes (Keller, 2000) and that is the temptation to continually change their branding messaging depending on what the market is telling them. This continues to be a challenge for the company today.
Sixth Brand Attribute: The brand makes use of and coordinates a full repertoire of marketing activities to build equity.
RIMs’ re-launch to put the face of their customers onto their brand did this very well, coordinating the launch strategy across many media forms, both online and offline. The company’s re-launch of the brand with a benefits focus and the personas of top customers also added immediacy and made for interesting copy across all media vehicles relied on for the re-launch of the brand.
Seventh Brand Attribute: The brand’s managers understand what the brand means to consumers.
Again on the initial introduction of the brand, RIM did not understand that the brand was actually a compilation of many factors, with the product being just one small part of that mix. The reliance on using Blackberries for staying in touch constantly also had a very reactive tone to the messaging. While trying to show how people could be responsive they made their brand appear to be addiction to reacting instead. The re-definition of the brand with a strong focus on the personas and identities of top customers however re-cast the brand to show how they understood the most pressing needs of the highest achieving customers it has. The company further tried to communicate in their re-cast branding the value of time and initiating projects, invoking change, and making things happen over merely reacting.
Eighth Brand Attribute: The brand is given proper support, and that support is sustained over the long run.
This is an attribute that is just now becoming evident with the RIM brand, as the previous branding strategies have lacked a synchronized approach to managing all aspects of the marketing and messaging mix. The lack of support for the purely technological and reactive messaging in the first generation of RIMs’ branding opened the company up for many criticisms as the brand, in its mystique of speed of response, did not capture the more critical values of work/life balance or the need for taking control of ones’ time. Messaging today however is concentrating on these social values and is also supported through a series of other marketing, PR, and Web-based marketing campaigns and programs.
Ninth Brand Attribute: The company monitors sources of brand equity.
In the initial branding efforts, this attribute was terribly managed as the brand became quickly associated with workaholics that could not stop typing even in the middle of their daughters’ recitals (Columbus 2005). The lack of control over ones’ life but the high importance of the Blackberry as a status symbol of time urgency quickly wore out however, and the Blackberry’s brand equity dissipated as a result. With the re-definition of branding to specifically focus on how Blackberry customers are changing their lives for the better with the device, brand equity appears to be managed more effectively.
Summary and Recommendations
In summary, RIM has re-invented itself from a branding standpoint and is in the process of re-inventing its brand to be a device for keeping work and life in balance in addition to exerting more control over ones’ life. The need for managing time more effectively in addition to achieving a workable work/life balance are two values the brand is aspiring to gain as a result of their re-branding efforts. With the improvements however there are significant areas of improvement for RIM and their branding efforts. These recommendations are below:
Stay consistent with the present branding approach and delve deeper into how the customers profiled in existing advertising campaigns are also using their Blackberry to achieve more freedom and also more work/life balance.
Create more sustained support for the brand by using Web 2.0-based marketing efforts including blogging, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and by working to make organic search picked up by search engines more effective.
Create and use a brand management system that tracks overall brand equity and also creates a monetized estimate of how much the brand is worth.
Define use policies for the term “Blackberry” and control the use of the branded term to ensure that brand equity is retained. The use of Blackberry as a trademark may need to be more vigorously enforced.
Complete periodic brand audits to ensure the brand is being perceived correctly and change direction if necessary to keep the brand on track.
Columbus, L (2005). Blackberry: The Paradox of CRM. Retrieved December 13, 2007, from CRMBuyer.com Web site: http://www.crmbuyer.com/story/44304.html
Keller, K (2000).The Brand Report Card. Harvard Business Review. January-February, 2000, 3-10.
Kelly, M (1998) – Paying for that old brand magic: Marketing branding professional services, Financial Times, August 12, 1998.
Market Research Executive Board (2005) – Overview of Brand Equity Measurement Approaches. Market Research Executive Board. September, 2005. Washington, DC. September, 2005.
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