In the art of war and business, knowing your enemy is arguably the most important key to success. The only real attribute that might hold the same level of importance is knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. BlackBerry showed today that they don’t know either very well.
There has been some positive buzz lately surrounding BlackBerry 10, something that the company formerly known as Research in Motion hasn’t seen in years. They have a product that might actually be hot and the last thing they can afford to do is to squander the momentum. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what BlackBerry and CEO Thorsten Heins are doing by going after the Apple iPhone in an article on The Australian Financial Review ahead of their next (and possibly final) smartphone.
The goals of their current PR campaign are clear. They want to paint the iPhone as “old hat”. They want to encourage developers to play on their platform. They want the buzz to continue about their smartphones. The last two goals are good, but going after the iPhone with the BlackBerry 10 is a mistake. That’s not their market to take. Android and Windows are better targets for their brand because they have a lower level of brand loyalty.
Android and Windows Phone users are more accustomed to switching up devices regularly. For many iPhone users, they only switch when Apple gives them something new. That’s not a trend that is likely to change based upon the introduction of BlackBerry 10.
The strategy is one that isn’t completely off base. It’s a risk that they’re willing to take. The iPhone has replaced the BlackBerry in one particular area that RIM once dominated – business productivity. Many companies who once gave all of their employees BlackBerries are now giving their teams iPhones and Heins wants that business back. They feel that they can already pull from Android and Windows Phone users through innovation, so they’re attacking the company that changed the game and brought them to the brink of extinction.
It’s not the right move, though. It should be the next move. Today, they simply need numbers. They need adoption. They need amazing reviews and they don’t have the chops to take on Apple head to head in the business world at this point. Once they had momentum, that would have been the time to take on Apple. You can’t have true momentum outside of buzz until you have something tangible in the hands of users that is getting rave reviews and turning naysayers into believers. To attack Apple at this point is desperate at best and self-destructive at worst.
None of this is black and white. It was a judgment call to head in this direction from a PR perspective and you can’t fault the company for at least taking a shot. Unfortunately, it’s not the right shot to take today. The play has been made so they’ll have to keep going with it, but it would have been nice to see if they could have cut their teeth on easier game first.