BlackBerry by choice is bad marketing by choice

30 Oct is selling two “BlackBerry by Choice” t-shirts. This is the less vulgar of the two.

Way back yonder in journalism school, oh, about two decades ago, there was a funny division of students. In the undergraduate program, you had to choose a specialty stream at the halfway point of your four years. In those halcyon pre-internet days, that meant picking either broadcast, magazine or print. The problem was, the first two accepted very few students, so those who didn’t get in were shunted off to print where the majority of unwashed journalism students resided.

As a result, there were a good number of disgruntled wannabe broadcast and magazine students in print, but a good portion of us were also hard-core newspaper fans for whom the stream was the first and only choice. We jokingly considered broadcast students to be shallow people who only wanted to be on TV, while magazine students and their high-falutin’ big words and surfeit of adjectives were just artsy hipsters. To us, the people who were “print by choice” were the only real journalists.

As funny as those youthful days now seem, it’s doubly humorous to see a large company adopting that same sort of borderline immature stance in its marketing. If you follow the smartphone field, you’ve probably recognized that I’m talking about Research In Motion’s “BlackBerry by choice” campaign.

Earlier this year, RIM insisted that many of its woes stemmed from poor marketing – that it simply wasn’t doing a good job at pointing out all the positives of BlackBerry. To that effect, the company went out and hired a new chief marketing officer, Frank Boulben, to fix the image problem.

Boulben doesn’t appear to be doing a very good job, if the recent New York Times story about how BlackBerry users are ashamed of their outdated devices is anything to go by – not that the company has given him much to work with, what with the continued delays of next-generation devices. The “BlackBerry by choice” slogan, propagated on Twitter as a hashtag, is one of the company’s responses to that story, which posited that the only reason people still use BlackBerrys is because their employer forces them to. (Note: the slogan originated on, but has since been propagated by RIM.)

It’s too bad that it’s exactly the wrong kind of sound bite. Marketing 101 dictates that you generally don’t point out your own product’s shortcomings in your own advertising, yet saying that users are there “by choice” does highlight a sort of defiance against something that many are finding more desirable. Whether it’s the broadcast stream of a journalism program or an iPhone, proclaiming that you’ve chosen something that isn’t very popular also highlights the fact that there may be reasons for why it isn’t popular in the first place.

In the case of print journalism, it was perhaps the lack of fame or inability to be creative that made print the less desirable choice. In the case of BlackBerry… well, take your pick. We might have gained some points for being rebels, but in the long run, we knew we were saddled with everyone else’s second choice. That’s the reality RIM’s slogan/hashtags highlights.

Some of RIM’s other messaging efforts, such as BlackBerry4Life (a motto borrowed from pro wrestling, by the way) or ProudToBeTeamBlackberry are positive slogans that don’t also point out the looming negative. If marketing really is at the core of RIM’s problems, efforts such as the “by choice” campaign aren’t going to make things any better.


Posted by on October 30, 2012 in RIM


9 responses to “BlackBerry by choice is bad marketing by choice

  1. John

    October 31, 2012 at 12:04 am

    This is by far the worst article ive read..your research and arguments are just as amateur as the NYT article..they had what? 3 women knew nothing about technology…greattttttttt journalism right there!!! Journalists like you need to find a new job….This article is going to get bombarded by blackberry users that use blackberry by choice… Ridiculous

  2. I'mNotCrazy™ (@JustATadStrange)

    October 31, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Really nice article…

    See, I can write bullshit too!

  3. GW

    October 31, 2012 at 12:49 am

    I guess the internet has allowed everyone to voice their opinions. Stupid or not ,and this article would be the first one . How do we allow such trash journalism and i use that term lightly.

  4. Pete

    October 31, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Perhaps you should send Thorsten Heins an email offering your services, since you clearly feel you are the greatest marketer that the world has ever known.

    I love that you quoted THE NEW YORK TIMES slander piece where they found three random women (out of 80 million customers) to do a hatchet job. Guess market research isn’t one of your fortes

  5. Pastor BlackBerry

    October 31, 2012 at 9:53 am

    What can I say here that hasn’t already been said. Your own attempt at journalism is in itself a failed attempt.
    And talk about inaccurate…the BlackBerry By Choice was not in response to the lame NY Times garbage article.
    Get your head out of your ass…

  6. Simon

    October 31, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Hey Pete, I definitely agree that RIM’s marketing efforts are still way short of where they need to be, and also agree that until next year, that’s not likely to change. But I’m not convinced that the “by choice” slogan suffers from association with a negative. You’ve overlooked the increasing sentiment that buying Apple products is *not* a choice, but merely a response to that company’s impressive marketing prowess. Thus, by saying “BlackBerry by Choice,” people can take a certain pride in not being one of the so-called ‘iSheep’. In this case, “choice” becomes a powerful differentiator that gives the brand back some of the street cred it has lost recently.
    RIM can’t do much at the moment to woo back the average trend-following folks that the NYT article chose to highlight, but they can help the morale of those who feel that their ongoing loyalty to the BlackBerry is being cast in such a negative light. The new slogan gives them that rallying point and I suspect very few people who see it or say it will make the mental leap to the negatives that you think it implies.

    • petenowak2000

      October 31, 2012 at 11:03 am

      Good points, Simon. As with all marketing efforts, this one’s open to interpretation. Personally, I think they should go with the underdog thing – it certainly worked wonders for Apple while they qualified. But they should screen for potential negative associations, like the one in question here.

  7. Aegis

    October 31, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Pretty sure that the BB by Choice was not a marketing push by RIM, but rather a grass roots reaction by the members of Not sure this is news anyways.

  8. John C

    November 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Every negative comment has been left by an angry, delusional Crackberry fool. Enjoy your DOA phones jokers.

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