Top 5 gRIM Truths About BlackBerry: a B2B vs. B2C Marketing Case Study

E-mail – that quintessential of outbound marketing tools – is what had catapulted the BlackBerry as a darling of corporate America in the early 2000s. But in the latter part of that decade, when social media savvy smartphones began enticing the corporate user’s fancy as well, traditionally strong mobile communications companies such as Finland’s Nokia and Canada’s RIM were caught slightly off-guard.

After RIM’s stock took a 21% nosedive on June 16th, there was some speculation whether this successful B2B marketer had literally met its Waterloo in its half-hearted battle for new B2C customers. A gist of the recent marketing turmoil at RIM has been succinctly reported in a Wall Street Journal story, “Misfires in Marketing at BlackBerry,” dated June 25th 2011.

Based on this WSJ report, The Marketing Id would like to make a few observations as to what happens when the B2B and B2C marketing worlds collide:

  1. What is good for the goose (B2B) is not necessarily good for the gander (B2C)?
  2. In December 2009 RIM hired as CMO, a marketing wizard from Nokia, which had dominated the pre-iPhone consumer mobile phone space but had proven surprisingly lackluster in its own efforts with social media savvy smartphones. Also, it looks like RIM did not recognize that its traditional corporate Blackberry user did not necessarily have the same persona as its purported consumer Blackberry user.

  3. B2C product lifecycles are much shorter than their B2B counterparts.
  4. Per WSJ, RIM’s consumer subscribers have been growing far more rapidly than its corporate users, but apparently RIM’s product feature set has not kept pace with competing social media savvy smartphones. This problem has been compounded by a techie co-CEO, who got too involved with all aspects of product development.

  5. Messaging is a marketing responsibility – distinguishing B2B from B2C messaging is critical.
  6. RIM’s co-CEOs apparently butted heads with their CMO on marketing strategy and there was also friction between the consumer and enterprise marketing efforts. This resulted in the co-CEOs putting out “muddled and confusing messages about everything from product strategy to what their devices are supposed to do” per the WSJ article. It is therefore worthwhile repeating Eloqua co-founder’s seminal advice from his 2009 book, “Digital Body Language” that marketing must always deliver “the right message to the right person at the right time.”

  7. Two heads are not necessarily better than one!
  8. The co-CEO concept is one that never ceases to amaze, especially when both individuals happen to be “strong-willed.” Also, a lot of successful start-ups grow out of the proverbial garage with bright engineers, who are intent on making their dream a reality. However, at some point in their company’s evolution, they need to understand the importance of other functions and the need for those functions to function independently. The point here is moot because RIM is a public company that has been around for almost two decades, but it still seems to suffer from that perennial startup disease, which I facetiously refer to as FECKless (Founding Engineers Control Kingdom) management syndrome. More worrisome for RIM is that one of the co-CEOs has been running marketing after their CMO resigned – they need to get a replacement ASAP!

  9. The marketing mix – the 4Ps, namely, Product, Price, Place and Promotion – lives!
  10. Since the advent of social media, the rumors of the demise of traditional product marketing have grown incessantly louder, especially on the B2C side. The gRIM reality has once again proven otherwise–the marketing mix is quite different in the B2B space from what it is in the B2C space. It appears that RIM consumer and enterprise marketing were colliding in their marketing mix–probably on how to keep them distinct?

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About Jack Nargundkar

High-tech marketing is always a constant compromise between logical left-brain analytics and creative right-brain activities. Jack has been living this struggle his entire working career, which he began as a software geek after graduating with a BSEE degree from Bombay University. To hone his marketing skills, Jack went on to pursue an MBA degree from Columbia Business School in New York City. Jack has since gained wide-ranging marketing experience from working at start-ups to Fortune 500 companies in the global IT, Defense & Space, and Telecommunications industries. In the past few years, Jack has focused on developing integrated marketing strategies and plans that incorporate a judicious mix of inbound and outbound marketing techniques. In addition to being a self-published author, Jack has been recognized for outstanding analytical and communications skills, authoring technical articles (self and ghosted) in numerous trade publications and editorial opinions in Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
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