Not So CrackBerry…

“The stream of high-profile departures from Research In Motion Ltd.’s marketing department over the last few months has put the spotlight on an area where the BlackBerry maker has traditionally been weak: understanding and talking to ordinary consumers.”  Read more at Wall Street Journal: http://on.wsj.com/kluJiu

I worked with RIM as a result of a partnership one of my clients had with them around 2002. At the time BlackBerry ruled the roost. They were the only smartphone and had a near total monopoly of the corporate market and the “Road Warrior” segment. In fact, every corporation and service provider was courting and wooing RIM to the point that each one of their employees seemed to believe that they had just invented sliced bread; they were not arrogant, just thrilled – it felt like a company that believed it had conquered the summit.

Except for one problem – their device was crap!

This is the issue I had with BlackBerry at the time. It was called CrackBerry by business people because they said once you picked one up it was impossible to put it down again. But what RIM failed to realize or acknowledge then and for many years after, was that it was not the beauty, ease-of-use or the user experience of their devices that people were addicted to but the access to 24×7 emails and information it gave them. And that BlackBerry was dominant because nobody else offered the same access. Not because they had invented a device nobody could live without.

As a result the other blindness they suffered was that they never anticipated or cared about the consumer market. Apple walked in the back door and totally blew them away. Suddenly, BlackBerry was faced with increased competition in the business segment from Microsoft and others, and had totally missed a huge opportunity in the consumer market; which Apple realized can be easily transferred into the corporate one with a better device and user experience.

It is a classic trap that most companies and brands fall into. When they totally dominate or have a near monopoly of a market or segment, they stop doing the one thing that allowed them to become so dominant – innovate! Instead, they rest on their laurels, build opaque walls around themselves, stop listening to customer needs and begin to believe that their customers will blindly follow them forever.