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BlackBerry ups and loses its damn mind

  • Business = business, stupid!
  • No new BlackBerry phones. Just insults
  • Attack on Apple iPhone justified, just because
Written by Adam Wajnberg

Writing about Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of the BlackBerry mobile phone, is leading to a lot of dead fish in a mostly destroyed barrel. This is getting ridiculous.

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blackberry wake up ad campaign

Photo courtesy Gifulmination

Both RIM and Nokia were smashed right in the face by the Apple AND Google onslaught, so it’s understandable that they might go off the deep end a little. Nokia responded by cozying up to another dying giant, Microsoft. But the fruit of that labour is Windows Phone and the Nokia Lumia line, which actually offer something distinct, and might yet succeed. That fruit isn’t ripe yet; but at least it’s fruit.

Meanwhile, RIM have responded by walking around in a bathrobe asking passers-by for a token to take the ferry. They’re not just silly, they’re mean. Their latest ad campaign, the WAKE UP enigma, is far more Pete Campbell than Don Draper. It’s flatfooted, unnecessary, AND FAILS TO SELL A DAMN THING!

Let’s back up and have a look where this current madness started.

1.    April 2011 – RIM release the BlackBerry Playbook, a nice looking 7-inch tablet computer that has barely any apps, an inscrutable operating system and no email or messaging client. Not even a calendar.

2.    August 2011 – BlackBerry Bold 9900 (for business types) and BlackBerry Torch 9860 (for hip-fresh-fly types) released. Good phones. Nothing special.

3.    Dec 2011 – RIM fires its two CEOs, because it has two CEOs for some reason. It replaces them with Thorsten Heins, officially the most boring man alive with “Thor” right in his name.

4.    Jan 2012 – RIM release their “Bold Team” ad campaign, a team of clip-art tweenage superheroes that somehow embody the qualities of a BlackBerry device. Like Max Storm, who is described as “Able to jump out of a plane”. Breathe deep. There’s more.

                         blackberry bold team

                         This exists.

5.    May 2, 2012 – At a press conference in Canada City (I’m not looking it up), Heins reveals BlackBerry’s new operating system, OS10. It’s ok. Not available yet. Everyone there got a phone-like development device that looked neat, but probably won’t be the final design released to the public in…the future?

6.    May 4, 2012 – Mysterious WAKE UP billboards start popping up in cities across Australia and NZ. No website. No nothing. Just WAKE UP. Journalists get tiny blackboards in the post, with the words KJLKL K on them, BECAUSE ‘WAKE UP’ WAS WRITTEN IN CHALK THAT RUBBED OFF. Later that day, Ominous black busses pull up outside of Apple stores in Sydney and Melbourne. Flash mobs come out brandishing tiny signs that say WAKE UP on them. shows the words WAKE UP and has a countdown of seconds to May 8th. Someone trails the site back to RIM, who smugly say “Aw yeah. That was us. Just you wait until May 8. We’re gonna show Australia what it means to be in business”.

7.    May 8, 2012 – In the states, word leaks that the next BlackBerry model will have a dedicated hardware button that will open BlackBerry Messaging (BBM) for you. YOU’RE WELCOME, WORLD.

8.    May 10 – I personally discover the new site, Maybe it’s been up a few days, I don’t know. I am confronted by this ad copy:

Wake Up.
It’s time to mean business. Now before you go looking for your suit and briefcase, we’re not talking about that kind of business.
Business is no longer just a suit wearing, cubicle sitting, card carrying kind of pursuit.
These days being ‘in business’ means you’re the kind of person who takes action and makes things happen.
You don’t just think different. You do different.
It’s a simple choice:
You’re either here to leave your mark and eat opportunity for breakfast
You’re satisfied to just float through life like a cork in the stream.
Now, we know some people will choose to float on by and that’s fine.
Being in business is not for everyone
But unfortunately…there is no middle ground.
You’re either in business or you’re not.
For those of us with our eyes wide open, we need to realize there’s only one device for people who mean business…the brand that’s been in business from the very beginning.
Wake Up. Be Bold. BlackBerry.


I click on a link, and I am shown pages for BlackBerry’s current line of phones. No announcements of the new operating system, or a new phone. Same year old phones. Not even a “Buy Now” button.

What to make of all of this? First of all, the actual ad copy is offensive. Never mind the mixed metaphors and the generalities (“you’re the kind of person who takes action and makes things happen”. K, thanks). The copy sounds like it was written by a 53 year old trying to sound “the hip”.

BUT…there’s also the implications being made. The line “You don’t just think different. You do different” is meant to be a dig at Apple. Their 80’s ad slogan “Think Different” was ridiculed because it was grammatically incorrect – until someone pointed out that this snappy slogan (1/83rd the size of BlackBerry’s manifesto) was suggesting that you think about the concept of “Different”. Good ad copy. Thoughtful.

What’s RIM saying? They’re saying, in unmixed terms, that if you’re not with them, you’re not in business, and if you’re not in business, you’re a cork in the stream.

Everyone accuses Apple of being trendy, of people who buy Apple products of being sheep. But does it mean nothing that the products and services are just good? That they work well? RIM can’t match them for anything – even their much vaunted security has failed from time to time. So what’s their angle here? That you should buy a BlackBerry device because it isn’t Apple? What does BlackBerry do that’s better? And what do they do it on? Show me a new device that breaks the old paradigm! Surprise me! Don’t call me unserious just because I think your current gear is garbage.

And why is Apple taking the abuse here? BlackBerry phones used to be referred to as “CrackBerries”. They were that addictive. Apple didn’t say ‘Break your Crack habit”. They came out with a waaaay different paradigm for mobile computing and communications. Good on them. Where’s the abuse to hurl at Android? Why does Google get off scot-free? More people use Android. Do these people also not mean business?

In my last rant about how awful RIM is, I suggested they were selling steakless sizzle. Now they seem to be selling…I dunno…sizzleless sizzle. There’s no ‘there’ there. Time to break this company up for scrap.

POSTSCRIPT - "The brand that's been there since the very beginning". Beginning of what? Of business? RIM had a shop set up at a Corinthian trading post in the 16th century BC? Selling actual blackberries?


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