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Why RIM’s BlackBerry 10 Music Video Backfired

By Colin Ryan

Industry News

At a conference yesterday, BlackBerry maker RIM showed a video promoting its long-delayed-but-forthcoming-we-promise BlackBerry 10 platform. The video features RIM executives performing a cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Keep on Loving You,” with the words changed to appeal to app developers.

The video is intended to be goofy and geek-chic, a sign that BlackBerry is still relevant despite its recent woes. In practice, however, RIM’s foray into power ballads seems to have further alienated many erstwhile enthusiasts, while confirming to skeptics that the company will continue to slide into obscurity.

Humor is one of the most surefire ways to send your video viral. However, when it comes to marketing your company or product, you need to make sure your fun is in line with your foundation. RIM did a terrible job of this, for a few reasons.

Their focus was too narrow.

Sure, in this day and age, no mobile platform can be successful without hordes of developers willing to invest time and money in creating apps for it. And sure, this was screened at an event specifically geared toward developers. But by loading their music video with tech jargon, RIM not only created an unbelievably corny product—they also ensured that few people outside the developer world would appreciate it.

Their timing was awful.

BlackBerry 10 isn’t just delayed—it’s super delayed. In fact, RIM hasn’t even announced a firm release date, offering only Q1 of 2013 as a ballpark. The time for the kind of laid-back cheer RIM’s music video displays has come and gone, and consequently many are criticizing the video as evidence that RIM isn’t taking their problems (and, by extension, their customers) seriously.

They chose the wrong aesthetic.

Viral videos work best when they cultivate a low-budget, amateur feel. RIM’s video, on the other hand, showcases slick, glossy production values. The folks at RIM probably thought this over-the-top approach would elevate the goofiness of the video itself. In practice, however, people are condemning the video as a huge waste of money. Plus, the professional quality of the video makes RIM look like they’re trying too hard—not a great image to have in a fickle device market.

They ignored their new business model.

RIM’s music video insists that BlackBerry is still hip—but hip is the opposite of what RIM is targeting these days. As CEO Thorstein Heims declared back in March, BlackBerry is shifting away from the consumer segment, where the cool factor is important, in favor of enterprise, where it takes a back seat to power and security. RIM emphasized these qualities of BB10 elsewhere in its presentation, but thanks to this music video, their message ended up pretty muddled.

Want an example of a company that has employed the fun factor successfully in its video marketing? Look no further than RIM’s new competitor for third place in the mobile OS sector: Microsoft. While the they’re currently scrambling to recover from a security flaw in its browser, Microsoft’s marketing push for Internet Explorer 9 was the most successful video campaigns in recent memory: self-deprecating, fun, and, as it happens, effective.

Of course, it helped that IE9 was lauded by techies as Microsoft’s best browser release in years. Hopefully, BlackBerry 10 can garner the same sort of praise. In the meantime, however, RIM needs to think seriously about how to approach their marketing if they want to regain any of the ground they’ve lost.

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