Open Letter to Frank Boulben

June 7, 2013

Frank Boulben
Chief Marketing Officer
Blackberry

Dear Frank,

Is there any other way to interpret the “Two Scoops” campaign than Blackberry giving up on product differentiation?

It isn’t that I don’t appreciate associative brand marketing; but the fact that you couldn’t say anything about the product that wouldn’t apply just about equally well to every one of your competitors is alarming.

I realize you face challenges not of your making; if you were selling only the Q10, you could have fun with the concept of real and faux, because after all, it has a real keyboard. But you can’t do that, obviously.

In a previous letter, I suggested to Thorsten that Blackberry is uniquely positioned to build a very large business around a fractured and underserved market need. I can’t quite imagine why he wouldn’t grab an opportunity to write another chapter in the book of leader-driven business turnarounds, but I have to acknowledge it is unlikely.

So it is on your shoulders. You have to find something that engages the intellect as well as finding resonance. After all, you’re not marketing soap or sugar water. Nor is the market stagnant; if you’re not breaking free from the pack at launch, even briefly, when will you?

The problem isn’t confined to one area. The “keep you moving” tagline is, to be kind, weak. It isn’t talking about the product and it isn’t even talking about the experience of using the product. It is about the benefit of using the product, and it isn’t a benefit that makes sense. I may want Ford or fiber to keep me moving, but you’re conflating the opportunity to be mobile with the requirement to move, and it doesn’t work. If you’re going to get lofty, at least go with something that makes sense. Freedom. Power. Connection. Information.

I know you must be under tremendous pressure, and certainly the implementation is top notch, but this quality of thought applied to messaging worries me. Either you want to do better but can’t for a multitude of reasons, which raises one issue, or you don’t realize that it doesn’t work, which raises another. Either way, the only solution is to set a new course, and for Blackberry’s sake, I hope you do.

Warm regards,

Larry Zulch