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Smartphone maker launches curious cartoon campaign amid plunging sales

Research in Motion, Ltd.'s (TSE:RIM) plunged to a 4.5 percent share in the U.S. market during holiday 2012.  

The company is clinging to profit margins thanks to strong sales in emerging markets like China (who is the new largest smartphone market), markets which gravitate towards budget smartphones with lower end hardware -- RIM's specialty.  But RIM's dominance in these sectors may be short lived as they are increasingly looking to emulate the American market in turning to sleek Android handsets or the iPhone.  

I. RIM Goes Full Hard on Superhero Campaign

But don't worry, investors.  RIM has a plan -- superheroes.  No, really.

RIM has put out a bizarre marketing campaign to boost its sinking market share.  The campaign features childish cartoon caricatures (think 2D versions of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Xbox Live avatars).

RIM Superheroes
[Image Source: RIM]

Meet Gogo Girl (left), who "saves the day with a brilliant strategy",  Justin Steele (bottom left), who's "always ready to stick up for his friends"; Trudy Foreal (middle), who "isn't afraid to call it as she sees it"; and Max Stone who is "able to jump out of a plane."

The full campaign aired in a RIM blog.

The characters were part of a fancy infographic:

RIM infographic
[Image Source: RIM]
 
RIM writes:

[F]our bold characters emerged from your #BeBold resolutions, and it’s clear to us that all are bravely stepping out of 2011 and into a 2012 filled with unlimited possibilities. Which are you? Tell @BlackBerry on Twitter!

II. RIM: The Trouble Child of the Smartphone Market

But this is hardly the first sign that the company's grasp of reality may be slipping.  After being outsold nearly 10-to-1 on the U.S. market by Android, new CEO Thorsten Heins claimed that Android phones were unappealing and that all of them were the same.  

While Heins was clearly getting at software differentiation, the majority of consumers don't seem to be finding BlackBerry's fee-laden messaging and email services all that appealing.  While their strong encryption may be a selling point to privacy fanatics, politicians, CEOs, or other high profile officials that handle sensitive transactions on a regular basis, to the average Joe or Jane they're a lot of buck for not much bang, compared to free offerings from rivals.

Mr. Heins was bumped up from the chief operating officer spot, which he came to in 2007 after years at Germany's Siemens AG (ETR:SIE).  Many -- including a vocal investor contingent -- felt the ouster of long time co-CEOs (and company co-founders) Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis was much overdue.

Mr. Heins, for his part, vows to "stay the course", saying that making smartphones "isn't baking cookies."

Kanye baking cookies
[Original Image Source: The Onion, modifications -- DailyTech/Jason Mick]

The "Be Bold" campaign was first announced on Jan. 1 and its new cartoonish mascots just hit the web.  RIM hopes to use the characters to lure consumers back to the company.  RIM will launch in H2 2012 the delayed BB 10 OS, which incorporates elements of QNX.  The new OS was delayed due to RIM's difficulties in attaining acceptable LTE performance, according to company officials.  RIM was forced to rename the OS after its executives (reportedly) refused to listen to their legal staff and named it BBX -- a name that was already trademark by a business software company.

While RIM has struggled in the era of modern touchscreen smartphones with outright flops like the Storm and underwhelming performers like the Torch, it does at least have one strong selling point left for the masses -- it has the best physical keyboards (hands down) in the industry.

Sources: RIM [blog], Engadget



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RE: So...
By alexkinsella on 1/31/2012 2:17:16 PM , Rating: 3
Hi @Motoman,
Alex from RIM here. Just jumping in to clarify the intent of the infographic we published on our Inside BlackBerry Blog. On New Year’s Eve, we asked BlackBerry Twitter followers and their friends to submit their resolutions on how they plan to Be Bold in 2012. More than 35,000 resolutions were submitted by Twitter and Facebook users, and we wanted to organize the data and share it in a fun way. The result is the infographic (this is not a new ad campaign). You can see the full post on our Inside BlackBerry Blog here: http://bit.ly/wQo4BS.
Alex, RIM Social Media Team


RE: So...
By Trisped on 1/31/2012 2:50:02 PM , Rating: 2
@alexkinsella
That makes much more sense.

I wounder if Jason will add your comment to the main article. I think it would help people understand what RIM is trying to do.


RE: So...
By Pirks on 1/31/12, Rating: 0
RE: So...
By Motoman on 1/31/2012 7:00:31 PM , Rating: 1
...huh. OK then.

Let me suggest that you Boldly go where you have been before - corporate enterprise. I'd hate for these bold toons to be the last thing people remember about RIM.


RE: So...
By Lord 666 on 1/31/2012 11:25:02 PM , Rating: 1
Glad I'm not the only one thinking the RIM rep's (Alex) explanation even more bizarre. Yes, I remember seeing Jenny McCarthy hawking the Bold on NYE. On a broadcast to millions, only 35,000 respondants?!?!

These four cartoon characters look suspiciously close to the Little Einsteins to personify the 35,000 respondants. RIM could have easily played up security like Cisco did with their cartoon characters from 2009 that quickly came and went. Nope, they quoted what obviously drunk people posted on Twitter and Facebook.

@Alex - if the RIM's Social Media team is focused on improving their products, hopefully you are aware this is a technology site. Have been a big fan of RIM's products, security, and centralized management. But unless RIM reveals a product to centrally manage iOS and Android devices (yes, i know its in the works, but so is a LTE device) or quickly port Android apps to existing BB platforms, the clock is ticking. No amount of social media hype can save your hold out customers; business customers.


RE: So...
By Motoman on 2/1/2012 12:06:33 PM , Rating: 2
That might explain it right there - I can guarantee you I would never touch, with a ten-foot pole, any product that Jenny McCarthy is promoting. She's one of the most harmful humans on the face of the planet.


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