It seems that the new CEO of Blackberry, John Chen, is finally getting the company to re-focus back on its core business of business users. Shame it took them so bloody long to figure this out. Over 3 years the business has imploded, with the share price down from $75 to around $10 today.
1. Forgetting the core is the worst of both worlds
Back in 2011 I wrote a post called "Blackberry trying to be hip: like parents getting stoned with their teenagers". It commented on what I suggested were mis-guided attempts to compete head on with the iPhone in the consumer market, and inject coolness into the brand.
Under the slogan "Love what you do" Blackberry ran emotional "sizzle" based campaigns, with fashion shows and cool urban dancers. Another campaign featured a cool DJ showing how his Blackberry helped him create, share and record his music.
"First, the brand lacks credibility and authenticity in the new market it is trying to enter. Blackberry is just not cool and the phones also under-perform as multi-media devices, as Stanley Bing said 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 is forgetting what made you famous, and so neglecting the core, which in Blackberry's case is being the ultimate, efficient, reliable, secure email and texting tool for corporarate warriors.
This is the worst of both worlds: not cool enough to attract people looking for an iPhone, and forgetting 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 for business users."
2. Remember and refresh what made you famous
Blackberry is now re-focusing back on the core. The first bit of re-focusing is to do with the target customer. As this article in The Times says, "Blackberry's pledge to return to its corporate telecoms heartland chimed well with investors who were put off by previous attempts to compete in the consumer market". This is reflected in a stock price which has roughly doubled (from a very low base) since Chen arrived 3 months ago. It might not be as cool as an iPhone. But Blackberry is unmatched when it comes to security, a key benefit for corporate customers.
Secondly, the brand is going back to its roots from a product standpoint. The company also shifting away from touch screens, back to the style of phones with keyboards that made BlackBerry famous, according to this report. Again, not as cool as a Samsung Galaxy or iPhone, but much better for writing emails on the go.
In conclusion, this story shows the risks of stretching too far away from your core business and forgetting what made you famous. In an ever more risky world, surely there is a great opportunity for a mobile connectivity brand like Blackberry focused on being super-secure.
Time for the brave to buy shares in Blackberry perhaps?