Blogs & Comment

RIM's 2012 marketing blitz gets off to a shaky start

After watching the BlackBerry maker's latest ad, consumers seem more interested in bikes than smartphones.

Over the holidays, you may have seen a commercial for the BlackBerry Bold 9900, in which a group of cyclists with fluorescent wheels meet up for a late-night ride in the city. The ad is part of Research In Motion’s “Be Bold” campaign and marks the start of an aggressive marketing blitz for the coming year.

During RIM’s December earnings call, co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis blamed prior marketing for RIM’s recent woes in the United States. “In order to drive increasing demand for BlackBerry products and services in this key market (the U.S.), we’re planning to undertake a comprehensive advertising and promotional program in 2012,” Balsillie said. Hundreds of millions will be spent on advertising and retention programs before the launch of BlackBerry 10, which has been delayed until late 2012.

But if reaction to their recent ad is any indication, RIM’s off to a shaky start.

In a blog post yesterday, The Globe and Mail’s Boyd Erman had some harsh words for RIM’s latest commercial. “The current ad running for the Blackberry Bold (with the tagline “be bold”) gives no sense of what the machine can do other than look at maps and instant message, or why you would want to own it, unless you want to be invited to ride in a group of cyclists straight out of Tron,” he writes. Erman prefaces this statement by saying that it feels like RIM’s marketing in North America “has given up.”

YouTube comments—though generally unreliable and a hotbed of hyperbole—are more preoccupied with the glowing bikes than the phone’s features. Sample the video’s second-highest-rated comment: “Forget the phone, I really want one of those bikes.” For the record, the highest-rated comment is also bike-related. And hundreds of consumers are asking via social media where they can buy the bikes, which are sold by a German company (no word on whether fluorescent rims are included).

Even though RIM switched advertising agencies last January—its former agency, Leo Burnett, was replaced by 72andSunny and BBDO Worldwide—the “night bikes” commercial treads on familiar territory: hip twenty-somethings make plans via instant messaging, then meet up for shared experiences like concerts, parties and bike rides. Erman says that RIM is “falling back on a lame attempt to tell consumers that they will be cool if they use a BlackBerry.”

And if one commercial from the “Be Bold” campaign looks especially similar—the one starring American DJ/producer Diplo—that’s because it’s a reworked version of a 2010 ad for the Torch handset, using many of the same visuals and voiceovers.

In RIM’s defence, the year is young and their marketing push will reveal itself over time. But so far, RIM’s new ads look and feel—sometimes exactly—like the old ones.

(Just to clarify, RIM and 72andSunny parted ways in the summer. The ad shown above is from AMV BBDO.)