Thesis & Catalyst For BlackBerry (BBRY)
CEO Thorsten Heins has BlackBerry ready to battle for market share in the smartphone space. Is Thorsten Heins the master of guerrilla marketing?
BlackBerry several times delayed its release of the BlackBerry 10 until it was ready for prime time. While the design, specs and programming tasks were being worked on, Heins streamlined the company, cutting several thousand jobs to preserve their considerable cash holdings/war chest for future battles.
A shrewd leader never picks a fight he can't win.
Delaying the release of BlackBerry 10 allowed BlackBerry time to ensure its new phone would be ready to do battle. The device is a sleek bit of minimalist industrial design, with top of the line components and very likely the best OS we will see for quite a while. Rather than keep it under wraps, BlackBerry traveled the globe getting apps developers on side in world markets. Its BlackBerry Jam developer's series traveled the world several times over, building momentum and awareness.
Putting the 'dev alpha' BlackBerry 10 devices into the hands of developers worldwide allowed for many advance leaks of the new OS and it capabilities. Leaks, run throughs, side to side comparisons with current offerings of its competitors have been posted to YouTube and many other websites for months. This underground marketing campaign has successfully created pre-release buzz and awareness of BlackBerry's new products months in advance of the official release.
I've held off for 8 months purchasing a new device until I could try the Z10 myself before locking into a long-term contract. A fine example of 'Guerrilla Marketing 101' and how it can prime consumers to make a 'buy' decision.
How many hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of cell phone users globally made the same decision - to wait and see - to 'kick the tires' of the new BlackBerry 10 device when it became available? Certainly the release of the iPhone 5 was no reason to run out to update phones for most users. Its changes were evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
Following the international release of the Z10 in late January came the Super Bowl ad. More precisely the announcement of the Super Bowl ad. Whatever your take on the Super Bowl ad, it was certainly one of the most talked about. Poof >>> BlackBerry 10 turns a charging 18 wheeler into toy ducks, just before a 'toy duck' is squashed in the final sequence of the ad.
BlackBerry 10 first went on sale in the UK, the day after the official release presentation. A week later the new Z10 was available across Canada, followed by the UAE and Australia, and India up next. Staging a series of international Z10 releases is allowing BlackBerry to get exposure each and every week. Longs and shorts, daytraders and swing traders follow each release closely to determine if they are playing their cards correctly.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes BlackBerry goes about its business. Before the Z10 launch, the device and enterprise software were in the hands of hundreds of corporate and government users for evaluation. Since the release, BlackBerry is now increasing exposure - with 14 cities around the globe to host BlackBerry road shows for corporate users. The first of these was held in Vancouver on Wednesday attracting 700 corporate types wanting to see the device for themselves. BlackBerry may not get all the business, but they are giving a strong message that they are back and ready to play in the game.
Certainly, the most challenging market for BlackBerry will be the USA, home field of Apple (AAPL), along with high demand for Samsung (SSNLF.PK) products. Whether by good fortune or design, with the delayed release of the Z10 (4-6 weeks) there is a whole lot of market awareness happening in tech and investing circles. At least some of it is filtering down to the consumer level and we know that BlackBerry is working hard behind the scenes in the corporate space.
Soon after the Z10 is released in the USA, the UK and Canada will be receiving shipments of the Q10. We are told that 4 additional devices will be released during the year. Every product brings with it wide speculation, testing, written and video critiques as to its technological merits and possible consumer and corporate success.
Some analysts believe that the success of the BlackBerry 10 is all about marketing. Staggering release dates and international releases along with the promise of 5 new devices this year means a continuous barrage of news releases, device critiques, and stock analysis that is bound to keep BlackBerry front and center in the media.
BlackBerry CEO Heins stated that they are in a battle for survival - he has been shrewd enough to realize it is better to put off battle until one is in a position to win. A win for BlackBerry is of course, first about survival. In my small mind, the Z10 and new OS system have what it takes to survive. A great product and a worldwide guerrilla marketing campaign have captured consumer awareness and decent or better sales in every market entered thus far. In a column on androidauthority.com, Randy Khoo predicts that BlackBerry will move ahead of Nokia (NOK) and its Windows platform.
Top notch product and worldwide awareness through guerrilla marketing
I believe that BlackBerry will clearly establish itself as the #3 ecosystem worldwide. Whether BlackBerry will be widely adopted on Apple's home turf remains to be seen. Please let me know your opinions and insights into the US market.
In this column I have purposely stayed away from the kind of hard analysis which has already been done so well by others. I have attempted to look at the battle for mindshare - rather than absolute sales predictions, gross margins, sensitivity analysis, stock evaluations and the like. I want to make it clear that Thorsten Heins is unquestionably now in charge of BlackBerry and he has a clear vision and plan to keep the BlackBerry name in the media. Is Thorsten Heins the master of guerrilla marketing? Time will tell.
Additional disclosure: While I am currently long BBRY - I swing trade and day trade up to half of my holdings to take advantage of short term oscillation in stock price.