Research In Motion Ltd. will embark on an advertising blitz centred around its "Be Bold" social media campaign, with television spots this week featuring BlackBerry users, as its new chief executive officer hones in on the marketing front.
The "Be Bold" campaign launched New Year's Eve in an attempt to revive interest in RIM devices, particularly its flagship touch screen BlackBerry Bold, in the United States.
Thorsten Heins, who took over as RIM's president and CEO Jan. 22, has promised to bolster the BlackBerry franchise in the U.S., a key market where the brand has faded over time as RIM pushed deeper into markets in emerging economies while Apple Inc.'s iPhone radically changed consumer expectations in more developed markets.
Mr. Heins stressed in a company-wide memo obtained by The Globe and Mail that the "Be Bold" marketing message, which started out as a way to solicit New Year's resolutions from BlackBerry users on Twitter, will play "an important role for all of us" in 2012.
The memo offers details on how RIM plans to change the gloomy atmosphere that surrounds the company. It's not known, of course, whether focusing on the experience of regular users, as the memo suggests, can halt the onslaught by the iPhone and devices running Google Inc.'s Android software.
"Moving into this year, we'll continue to anchor new advertising, digital and social media messaging on this compelling theme of Be Bold," Mr. Heins wrote in the memo. "In fact, next week we will launch a TV campaign that features real-life BlackBerry users sharing their stories of action."
He takes over the company at the toughest time in its history. RIM's stock plummeted by about 75 per cent over 2011 as the company missed earnings forecasts, lost ground in the U.S., saw a weak launch of its PlayBook tablet and failed to bring out devices that critics thought could offer the same compelling experience as the iPhone.
Mr. Heins said last week that one of his first major steps as CEO, taking over from co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, will be to hire a new chief marketing officer and get people talking positively about the BlackBerry brand. The immediate goal is to recharge flagging sales of RIM's current crop of devices running the BlackBerry 7 operating system, which include the new touch-screen Bold 9900 that also has a QWERTY-keyboard, and other devices such as the all-touch Torch 9860.
It is crucial for RIM to keep sales of these BlackBerrys going as the company works on its next-generation BlackBerry 10 software, which will give it an entirely new platform that Mr. Heins thinks will reposition RIM against its fast-moving rivals. In December, RIM's former co-CEOs told disappointed investors that these devices wouldn't hit the market until some time in late 2012.
Kevin Restivo, a mobility analyst at global research firm IDC, said the goals of RIM's new advertising campaign are to recharge the brand, protect the smartphone company's existing U.S. user base and convince people that the BlackBerry 7 smartphones are worth upgrading to, even as the company continues to hype its BlackBerry 10 devices.
In the memo, Mr. Heins thanked employees for the comments he received during his first "extraordinary" week as CEO of Canada's largest technology company. He also elaborated on how he sees the advertising campaign: In addition to promising the company's 17,000 employees T-shirts with the branded message, Mr. Heins said "Be Bold" was designed to inspire BlackBerry customers.
"Be Bold represents a way of living," Mr. Heins said. "It's a way of approaching every day, every moment, every opportunity that comes our way. In short, it's about action. When we say Be Bold, we're encouraging our customers to act on the things they want in life and we're putting the tools they need to do that in real time in their hands."