After spending two years reading and writing about the BlackBerry, I get a tinge of parental pride every time I read an article like the one in Fortune about RIM earlier this week:
“…According to industry tracker IDC, the bestselling smartphone in the U.S. so far this year by units is not the iPhone but the BlackBerry Curve.”
While many see the iPhone/BlackBerry competition as zero sum between consumer and business users, it turns out that Apple’s marketing job convincing consumers they’d enjoy having the power of a desktop in a handheld device has been a boon to RIM.
Jessica Hempel, author of the Fortune article, states, “Since the iPhone’s introduction in June 2007, BlackBerry quarterly sales have more than tripled, from $1.1 billion to $3.4 billion.”
Most interesting to me is the article’s note that RIM first started targeting mass audiences in 2008:
“Once considered mostly a business tool, of late the BlackBerry has made huge gains as a consumer product. RIM launched its first television ad campaign targeting a mass audience in 2008, and last quarter 80% of its new subscribers came from the nonbusiness crowd.”
During the research I conducted into RIM’s market positioning in 2006-2007, I found the campaign for the mass audience consumer to already be well under way as RIM was promoting the BlackBerry Pearl to consumers.
Below is a short excerpt from Chapter 3 of Constant Connectivity in a Wireless Age: The Discursive Promotional Strategies of the BlackBerry
The BlackBerry Pearl Website
Many of the themes found on the Prosumer and Corporate focused BlackBerry website are reiterated on the Consumer-focused Pearl website, albeit with a flashier designed website. The focus is on family and leisure, as well as the style component, as the profiles include several creative professionals who highlight the design features of the device. It is clear from the high-production value of the website that RIM is leveraging its best-in-class reputation (RIM, 2006 Annual Report, p.11) as a business tool to promote the Pearl as an aspirational, luxury brand smartphone. The Pearl is presented as an extension of the user’s personality, enabling one to mediate their successful personal and work lives with the technological assistance of a stylish device.
It seems RIM’s first foray into a consumer phones with the Pearl has been followed up by what looks to be the wildly successful BlackBerry Curve.
I wish them luck on the on-going battle for market dominance. The lack of exclusive service provider deal baggage should provide some real leverage as complaints about AT&T service continue to intensify.