It's not all that often that the great rock-n-soul duo of Hall & Oates sum things up so nicely, but, in the case of Research in Motion (RIMM) they do with "You're out of touch/I'm out of time."
Wednesday night, while watching the Vancouver Canucks beat the Detroit Red Wings in an NHL regular season battle on Canada's The Sports Network (TSN), I saw one of the better 30-second commercials you'll ever see on television:
Wow. Well-done. Why didn't Apple (AAPL) think of that? It must be because Steve Jobs no longer walks the earth, as far as we know.
In all sincerity, though, that's a pretty good ad. It blends texting culture with the bicycle craze that's sweeping urban America. Brilliant. And it only reinforces my reality that you see way better commercials on Canadian TV than you do south of the border. (I don't think RIM runs that spot in the States). But, there's just one little problem.
Everybody knows that the loft-dwelling, urban hipsters you see heading out on a nighttime group ride would be texting on iPhones, not BlackBerries. In fact, it's almost surreal to see that set messaging on something made by RIM and not Apple. Here, RIM makes the cardinal sin that so many companies make in advertising.
It tries to pick up on somebody else's cool. You'll have much more success following a trajectory of our products become cool and hip sensations because people actually think they're cool and hip without much prodding and then we immortalize that with our advertising to fuel aspirations and drive present and future demand. Instead, RIM tries to sell its now uncool brand as such. It's not going to fly, particularly with the 18-24/34 year old demo it appears to target.
It seems that RIM risks its revival on the back of its new BlackBerry 10 phones, which likely will not make it to market until the second half of 2012. That's nothing short of an ill-advised gamble that absolutely will not pay off. Even if the phones are good, RIM appears completely out of touch with reality. It needs to execute a Domino's Pizza (DPZ)-like turnaround where it publicly admits it lost touch - in self-deprecating fashion - and then proceeds with a plan that stands out from what Apple and everybody else is doing.
Such a bold move does not look like it's in RIM's stubborn and seemingly authoritarian culture. The co-CEOs need to either step down, bring in young marketing blood from another company, hire the type of PR firm known for orchestrating Domino's and Jack-In-The-Box (JACK)-type campaigns or some combination of all of the above. Don't hold your breath. And don't hold your shares if you bottom-fed and profited from RIMM's latest dead-cat bounce.
Time has passed RIM by. To think it can simply rise from the dead when it gets around to it falls short, given that it's offered nothing new or inspiring in the strategy department. You can produce lots of great commercials, but if they're not part of a larger, more meaningful narrative that's in touch with reality and supported by excellent, timely and sought-after products, the impact will hardly generate results.