RIM Needs to Stop Embarrassing Itself

by Jim Dalrymple   |   May 10th, 2012

I haven’t seen a company embarrass itself as much as RIM has in the last year or so. From failed products to sad attempts at marketing, it seems that RIM doesn’t know when it’s time to take a step back.

There’s a lot to be said for the bravery of a fighter that repeatedly gets back up after being knocked down. However, RIM has been knocked out. The company needs to take a step back, regroup and do something substantial.

In its latest debacle, RIM hired a busload of protesters in Australia to hold up signs outside the Apple store that read “WAKE UP.” Really? Apple needs to wake up?

While nobody knew it was RIM that organized the protest, sleuths on the Internet quickly tracked it back to them. A couple of weeks later RIM followed this up with its “Wake Up. Be Bold.” Web site. The site contains the most confusing message directed at Apple.

It reads:

It’s time to mean business.

Now, before you go looking for your suit and briefcase, we’re not talking about that kind of business.

Business is no longer just a suit-wearing, cubicle-sitting, card-carrying kind of pursuit.

These days being ‘in business’ means you’re the kind of person who takes action and makes things happen.

You don’t just think different… you do different.

It’s a simple choice:

You’re either here to leave your mark and eat the opportunity for breakfast

OR

You’re satisfied to just float through life like a cork in the stream.

Now, we know some people will choose to float on by and that’s fine.

Being in business is not for everyone, but unfortunately… there is no middle ground. You’re either in business or you’re not.

For those of us with our eyes wide open, we need to realize there’s only one device for people who mean business… the brand that’s been in business from the very beginning.

The only word I could come up with to adequately describe this campaign is pathetic.

RIM is talking to Apple, the company that changed the smartphone and tablet markets forever. Apple is defining every market they enter, forcing all of its competition to rummage for the second place scraps.

These days, RIM isn’t even on anyone’s radar as a competitor. Remember this is the company that made it’s name with secure email and then released a tablet that couldn’t do email.

What RIM needs to do is keep quiet for a while so it can work on products that will appeal to consumers and businesses. It is the quality products, not silly marketing campaigns that will win people over.

RIM is right about one thing. “Being in business is not for everyone.”

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Jim Dalrymple

Jim Dalrymple has been reporting on Apple for almost 20 years and has written for many industry publications. Jim currently runs The Loop, a technology focused blog, and plays guitar in his spare time. You can follow him on Twitter or visit his Web site.
  • http://planetstephanie.net/ Stephanie

    I wonder if after waking up and being bold, we’ll get to see RIM’s Bold Team again?

    Anyone else remember their quartet of cartoonish super-heros?

  • TheEternalEmperor

    I thought the message was directed at Apple’s customers. Still bad though. RIM’s message, like Samsung’s appears to be that we, the customers, are stupid, unless we purchase their products. That we are sheep.

    I can at least understand RIM’s. Samsung’s I don’t get. I read one that when asked why he doesn’t endorse candidates, Michael Jordan said “Republicans buy tennis too.” Samsung isn’t ingratiation themselves with me to buy more of their products(I have two Samsung flat screens).

    At least RIM is just in the phone market. For now…

  • xenrobia

    I’ll openly admit that I”m a RIM fan, I have a Bold 9900 and wouldn’t trade it for anything else, just so you know.
    I think the “Wake Up” tactics were very sound, but that it was ultimately a wasted shot. Let’s face it, it definitely got everyone’s attention (and I mean everyone), the internet was full of chatter and speculation about it; so from a marketing stand point it started beautifully. It was the end result where it really fell flat. It should have ended with a big news release, not that lame business message that even I found disappointing. The “Wake Up” stunt would have been a great way of introducing the soon to be released BB10 phones, but now it is pretty much a wasted tactic that can’t be utilized by RIM anytime in the near future and for me, that missed opportunity is the real failure.

    • benbajarin

      ” have a Bold 9900 and wouldn’t trade it for anything else”

      I am genuinely interested in what you feel your Bold 9900 does better than any other phone on the market and perhaps the primary reason why you aren’t open to any other phone / brand.

      Any insights into your personal preference on this matter are appreciated.

      • http://www.releasedates.co www.releasedates.co

        I’m guessing he likes to to old school things like write emails with the hardware keyboard and call people… though I don’t prefer BBs, they do those things well.

      • xenrobia

        Thanks for your interest. I’ll try to answer your question as concisely as possible, but that might prove to be difficult.

        The most important function of a mobile phone, as I see it, is as a communications device – which doesn’t seem to be a very widely held opinion these days. Speaking for myself, the the most valuable features of a “good” communications device are: Radio Reception, Security and Messaging.

        BlackBerry devices have always been at the top of their class where reception is concerned and as a rural resident I can guarantee that nothing will drain a phone battery faster then when it starts hunting for a cellular signal. The BlackBerry gives me excellent reception where other phones no longer get any signal at all, which means I am able to travel further afield and still remain connected to the rest of the world. And, naturally, this great reception means I also continue to enjoy the great Messaging capabilities that the Blackberry has always been known for.

        Although “push” messaging services are now offered by others, it was one aspect that I loved about BB devices that attracted me in the first place – not to mention that it also extends battery life. Then there’s BBM: everybody loves it (judging by the numbers trying to imitate it) and only BB has it. Many of the 380 million in North America may deride BBM, but the remaining 7 Billion on this planet are still quite smitten with it (ya, ya, I exaggerate, but it’s still extremely popular). I would say, however, that the best aspect of BB Messaging (actually communications as a whole) is the Security.

        Nobody does security as well as BlackBerry and though many downplay it’s importance at the “Joe Average” consumer level, I personally value the peace of mind it affords me more then any other feature. Let’s be honest, the internet is turning into the freakin “Wild West.” No, it’s turning into one of those old Hollywood free for all saloon brawls, in the wild west. It’s getting to the point that I don’t trust anything that comes across the internet, either email, or browsing. I may be overly paranoid, but it should help you understand why I look to my BB for some much needed paranoia relief. I can’t help but wonder how the other manufacturers are going implement “virtual wallets” on their systems if they don’t get their security problems sorted out. I can guarantee that I will only use a BlackBerry device as a virtual wallet as the situation currently stands and with RIM expertise and history in this area, I can’t see the others catching up any time soon.

        One final note: I find the quality of BlackBerry products to be among the best in the business and I have never experiences any hardware issues to date. Now, obviously, I’m not all that hung up on Apps, my mobile phone is my communicator, first and foremost. As such, my BlackBerry is the best communicator that I have been able to find, while none of the others have been able to deliver anything that suits my needs (and tastes) any better.

        • Recision

          And maybe that is the core of the difference.
          Xenrobia wants a communicator device, where as the millions of iOS users want a mobile computing device (that can also do phone functions).

          • xenrobia

            Ya, God forbid something called an iPhone should actually be able to function as a phone. What does the “i” stand for, “idiot”? And yes, the 3.5 inch screen is ideal for all your computing needs. Sounds pretty desperate to me. Sorry folks, I didn’t realize that this was one of those sites that only speaks well of anything Apple. Enjoy your delusion while it lasts.

          • TheEternalEmperor

            And there’s your real reason he prefer’s Blackberry, folks! You can ignore all that other stuff as fluff. You should have just said this stuff from the beginning and spared yourself a lot of typing.

            It is diffcult to take seriously the words of someone who resorts so quickly to insults and strawmen.

          • kibbles

            ah, there’s the troll. good xenrobia…nice xenrobia…

        • SomeAdditionalThoughts

          What’s BBM?

    • TheEternalEmperor

      I have to tell you. This “shot” was no better than “Playtime is over.” All the thinly veneered insult slogans in the world, all of the attention, won’t help you if you can’t deliver.

      You ever follow gaming? Do you remember “John Romero is going to make you his b*tch”? Strong words, followed up by a universally panned game.

      Fancy slogans and campaigns mean nothing if you don’t have a product people want to buy.

    • GuyFromWaterloo

      Marketing campaigns like this appear cheap and nasty because they are just that, cheap and nasty.
      Yes, they get attention, similar to walking out of a public loo trailing toilet paper on your shoe – do you really want that kind of attention.

      I agree with the author, stop embarrassing yourself RIM, grow some class. Allowing the Aussies to run, reign-free, setting the tone for your global marketing messages is a mistake. I’m a RIM supporter, I need the company to do well, but every time I see this kind of thing it feels like a kick in the gut.

  • Cory

    Well written and very true.

  • gjgustav

    What I find embarrassing about this campaign is that if you really look, iPhones and iPads have more business apps than Blackberries. So if I want to “do business”, why wouldn’t I use iOS devices? BB still has the most secure email, but I wonder how secure my email needs to be. I mean, if I was in an office, I’d be using the same standard encrypted SMTP that iOS and Android devices use.

    So other than preferring a physical keyboard, I just can’t see why would you go with BlackBerry. They need to come up with something soon.

  • somethingmissing

    “These days, RIM isn’t even on anyone’s radar as a competitor.”

    This is so completely and tragically true. For proof, look no further than the fact that when this stupid ‘Wake Up’ stunt first hit the headlines, everyone thought it originated from Samsung, not RIM. Nobody even clocked RIM as a possible waking-up-to destination for iOS users. This would have been fancifully idiotic even if it had been Samsung, but the fact that it’s RIM just takes this into the realm of you-couldn’t-make-it-up. What were they thinking? To wake up from iOS to RIM, you’d have to be in some Inception-style scenario with dreams-within-dreams. You’d have to go through Samsung, HTC and Nokia before you woke up in Blackberry land.

  • http://kaizenity.blogspot.com/ FalKirk

    I think that this advertising campaign, and the prior “Amateur Hour is Over”, campaign says a lot about RIM and what it says isn’t good. Not only doesn’t RIM seem to know their enemy, they also don’t seem to know their customers or themselves.

    Let’s say that you’re Apple and your Mac is fighting an uphill battle against Window’s massive market share. You perceive your strength as being that yours is the superior, if quirky, computing platform while your opponent’s platform is established, ubiquitous but perhaps a little bland, a little mediocre, more tolerated than loved. You shape your “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” advertising campaign to highlight your strengths and mock your opponent’s weaknesses.

    RIM seem to be attacking Apple as if they were Windows – as if Apple were a large, established and not all that well liked Brand with mediocre products

    - “Amateur Hour is Over” is suggesting that Apple has Mickey Mouse Products.

    - “Wake Up, Be Bold” is suggesting that Apple owners are settling for Apple products – that they’re unaware of the superior alternatives available to them.

    First, it’s not wise to mock your target audience. People did not understand that in Apple’s famous “I’m a Mac” advertising campaign you were supposed to empathize with the PC, not the Mac. The Mac was the straight man. The PC was the funny one that we came to love and root for. He embodied us and our everyday struggles with our PCs. Apple wasn’t mocking PC. They were pulling for him to find a better way.

    Not so the RIM Ads. The “Amateur Hour” is a straight forward attack on every tablet that preceded the Playbook. The “Wake Up” campaign is worse because it attacks the Apple owners not Apple. It is the owners of Apple’s products that they are telling to “wake up” (implying that they’ve all been asleep – or in a coma!)

    Second, RIM’s hubris is palpable. They have the unmitigated gall to mock Apple’s products when their own recent hardware creations have been less than stellar and in the Playbook’s case an absolute joke.

    Third and finally, RIM seems to be targeting the wrong opponent. Apple is well loved. Their iPhone has satisfaction ratings in the high eighties. Apple’s iPad has a staggering 98% satisfaction rating! When you build an Advertising campaign that mocks Apple products you are attacking Apple’s strength, not highlighting its weakness.

    Conclusion: Marketing is the least of RIM’s many problems. Marketing gets your foot in the door but it’s the product that makes the sale. And RIM’s products haven’t been making many sales of late.

    In some ways, I don’t know why I’m bothering to critique RIM. I think they could have the best marketing campaign in the world and it still wouldn’t save them. They squandered their lead, they didn’t even realize they were falling behind and then they attempted to change their operating system far, far too late.

    But even if none of that were true, I still think RIM would be in trouble. The company thinks their products are the greatest despite all the evidence to the contrary; they think’s their opponents products are amateur attempts sold to sleepwalking zombies; and they think that they can humiliate the competition’s customers into buying RIM’s products. Even the greatest company in the world couldn’t survive long with that kind of attitude.

  • Hm

    Badly conceived, badly written and read out in one of the most annoying Australian accents I’ve ever heard, this campaign, without anything to back it up, is the death rattle of a dying company.

  • Canucker

    Could another company from another country please take RIM over as they’ve become an embarrassment to Canada. It was once superb company with leading edge products but has fallen so far from grace that it would be humane to put it out of its misery. Ex-BB user.

  • Nangka

    The first thing RIM needs to do in its recovery is to build a good enough smartphone, one that matches the iPhone about 70%, and work to win back it’s CURRENT customers.

    Then work doubly hard to keep them.

    Then they can start working on the competitor’s customers.

  • Rich

    “For those of us with our eyes wide open, we need to realize there’s only one device for people who mean business…the brand that’s been in business from the very beginning.”

    Since the business market has come to accept Apple’s products far more than RIM’s, this statement seems to be saying that most businesses have got their head in the sand.

    For several years now, RIM appears to have had a classic case of denial, and unless they can survive on a very small slice of market share, it will kill them.