Blackberry trying to be hip: like parents getting stoned with their teenagers

I posted last year on a great book called Strengths Based Leadership. The idea is to focus on amplifying your strengths instead of just worrying about weaknesses. Its written with people management in mind, but I think it also applies to brands.

And one brand who could perhaps benefit from focusing on strengths is Blackberry.

The brand owner, RIM, has had a catastrophic year. Its shares are trading at 1/3 the level of a year ago, as the brand looses smartphone market share to Apple and Android phones, especially Samsung.

I wonder if part of Blackberry's problem is that they've been trying to mimic Apple, in order to address a weakness of not being cool and trendy. You can see this straining for coolness in brand's ad campaign, with the slogan "Love what you do". We had an emotional "sizzle" based campaign, with fashion shows and cool urban dancers.

Screen Shot 2011-11-01 at 15.23.26 Screen Shot 2011-11-01 at 15.22.58

Another campaign featured a cool DJ showing how his Blackberry helped him create, share and record his music using lots of fancy multi-media functions. Click below on the blog to watch the ad.

But there are two problems with all these attempts to inject coolness into Blackberry.

First, the marketing lacks credibility and authenticity. Blackberry is just not cool and the phones also under-perform as multi-media devices, as Stanley Bing says in Fortune:  

"The BlackBerry is hopelessly lame as a media tool. When it tries to do anything in that department, it seems like one of those parents who attempt to be 'hip' by getting stoned with their teenagers."

The second problem with Blackberry's futile quest for coolness is that have forgotten what made them famous: being the ultimate, efficient tool for email and texting.

As a result, Blackberry has the worst of both worlds. They'll never be cool enough to attract people really looking for the coolness of an iPhone. And they risk fogetting and even alienating the people who loved what Blackberry stood for before.

Perhaps its time for Blackberry to remember and refresh what made it famous and where it has an edge over the iPhone, which is texting and email. Being a functional device that really delivers. Here's Stanley Bing again suggesting time to rally the Blackberry fans and make them feel proud again:

"If you need a tool to conduct extensive phone calls and handle complex messages on the road with precision, stick up for your old friend. Defend its status, which is so intimately tied up with yours. Don't let the guys in chinos make you feel like a farmer."

In conclusion, Blackberry is an example of how you can lose your way as a brand by focusing too much on addressing your weaknesses. A better idea is to remember and refresh what made you famous. Hell, it has to be worth a go given the dire situation Blackberry are in. Things can't get any blacker can they?

I hope not, as I've had a punt on RIM shares. See you in a year's time to see how smart this was….