Research in Motion's (RIMM) new CEO Thorsten Heins made no secret that he is looking for a new CMO, and he needs one pronto. The new BeBold Super Hero fiasco only hastens the need. One could only hope that the Super Hero idea was a relic from Jim Balsillie's era, and Thorsten had nothing to do with its inception.
Regardless of whether it was a new marketing direction or just a harmless blog post, the unfortunate fact is that it got viral in a very negative way. This type of unintended viral marketing would have never come from a top-tier brand such as BMW (OTCPK:BAMXF), Coca Cola (NYSE:KO) or Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).
RIM needs to (1) define the image it wants to project, and (2) control its message from all fronts (TV, social media, product placement, CEO interviews) to make sure they are consistent with the chosen image. And most importantly, it needs to project an image that connects with the audience emotionally.
I have no marketing background, but I can think of at least two angles RIM can approach this.
BlackBerry should position itself as the phone of the elite class. It is the phone for the powerful and the wealthy - people who are too busy to have time for games and fart apps. It is the phone that is carried by C-suite executives, shown off by celebrities, demanded by Presidents, and coveted by young professionals. The focus should be on build quality, not on bells and whistles. It is a serious, premium phone - there is absolutely nothing cartoony about it.
They should throw money at bringing the top-of-the-line hardware and build material to their high-end phones. Get better specs than its competitors, but charge a premium price. Like a true luxury good, what they lose out on volume, they can make up from profit margin.
The other angle is more grassroots, and perhaps suited for their mass-marketed product line: BlackBerry is the phone that helped ignite revolution in the Middle East and other repressive areas of the world. It is the phone that is hated by oppressive governments, but loved by those who value their privacy and freedom. Its security is valued by spies and military alike. It is the enemy of corporate espionage. BlackBerry is the stuff that story books are made of, it's just that superheroes have nothing to do with the story.
RIM is at a very critical juncture not unlike where Apple was over a decade ago. They need to fire up all cylinders, and not only execute a flawless transition to the BB10 platform, but also create a truly inspirational compaign that rekindles love for the brand.
Apple (AAPL) had their legendary "Think Different" campaign. What will BlackBerry have?
Disclosure: I am long RIMM.