How an Iconic Brand Went From Boom to Bust
The demise of the BlackBerry brand is worth studying for any consumer technology company. There are many lessons to be learned. The company struggled to remain relevant in the market and failed. We took a look into some of the mishaps and misfortunes that led the company not only to the edge of the cliff but over the cliff. Here are 4 lessons that we see as being a big part of their demise.
1. Don’t be too confident.
Not too many years ago, the BlackBerry brand was synonymous with Smartphones. Corporations around the world relied on its secure network for their mobile email systems. Consumers were addicted to their “Crackberries”. Then Apple® stepped into the game with the introduction of the iPhone®. Suddenly there was the idea of an all touch screen that can adapt to anything that is on the display. It seems so easy now to say that it was a natural evolution of the Smartphone user interface. The GUI replaced old command terminals. In 2007 everyone in the industry, including BlackBerry and famous Microsoft®, laughed at the idea. Confidence breeds arrogance and it was easy to call Apple the new kid on the block. They had no idea about the telecommunication world and what the needs of the Smartphone users were. However, just as Sony® did before with the rise of the iPod®, underestimating the design and engineering prowess of Apple can be very costly.
2. Software is the true success story here, not the hardware.
As Apple’s iPhone began to penetrate the market at an alarming rate, executives, the BlackBerry brand and other companies began to look at the iPhone as a piece of hardware that they could potentially emulate. BlackBerry’s idea was to slap a touch screen on top of their aging Operating System. On the other hand, the true success of the iPhone comes from the software. When Apple opened the App store and drew in thousands of developers the Hardware became a platform with rapidly accelerating capabilities. BlackBerry understood the mobile market as a hardware industry but certainly lacked the capabilities and engineering talent to take on a software behemoth like Apple. Yet, there was more bad news brewing for BlackBerry. Another Silicon Valley company was about to enter the market. Google® was a pure software company. They realized quickly that only they and perhaps Microsoft could take on a company like Apple. Google, however, lacked the hardware manufacturing capability. They decided to release Android™ as free open source software to any smartphone manufacturer that wanted to support it. This could have been a golden opportunity for the BlackBerry brand to combine their hardware expertise with the software capabilities of Google to pose a real challenge to Apple. After all, they decided to stick to their own OS and paved the way for Samsung® to take Google’s offer.
3. Adapt quickly or die
Under attack from Apple and now Android-driven Samsung devices of every shape and size, BlackBerry began to understand their hardware was not enough to compete anymore. Lacking internal talent it decided to acquire QNX Software Systems to develop a new Operating System capable of competing with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. However, developing a sophisticated operating system takes a long time even for an experienced software company. More time was wasted developing a new BlackBerry operating System. In addition, the company still lacked a viable App Eco system, which would render the new OS pretty useless to the average consumer. To make matters worse, with the rise of the iPad®, the company decided to divert much of its engineering efforts towards building a BlackBerry branded tablet—the ill-fated Playbook®.
4. A brand is more than a logo.
A brand is the consumer’s perception of a company and its products. When Apple became the cool kid, and BlackBerry began to look like a technology fossil, unable to innovate and excite, the brand’s demise began. By shifting its focus away from its traditional corporate customers to the mass consumer market, the company further alienated its hardcore established consumer base. A lack of smart engagement with consumers and an outdated marketing approach, further diminished the BlackBerry brand.
In conclusion, the BlackBerry brand demise is a prime example of how the mighty can fall. Poor decisions at every step combined with self-serving confidence and self-delusion in an intensely competitive market drove the company to its final chapter. If you are interested in this topic, here are some additional articles.
This BLOG was written by Mehrdad Haghighi, a designer at JDA, Inc.