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Bringing up Blackberry


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Having established Blackberry in lead position among smartphones in the enterprise segment, Krishnadeep Baruah, Director-Marketing, India, Research in Motion, is focusing on an allencompassing marketing strategy with product experience at its core to penetrate growing Indian cities.


Unlike your major competitor iPhone of Apple, RIM’s range of BlackBerry phones have always been seen as enterprise phones. Did this image prompt you to change your marketing strategy to make BlackBerry an allencompassing brand?

Even three years ago, smartphone-users in India were inherently enterprises and corporate users. People would mostly use their phones to connect to their offices. But that behavior has changed. Today, social media drive a lot of usage across the smartphone platform. People want to be connected. They want to maximise their time, and what product other than a smartphone can allow them to do it? That’s how the whole smartphone evolution has happened. BlackBerry is a platform which pushes data very well. The convenience with which you consume data is the core value behind the success of a smartphone. For RIM, in the last 12 to 18 months, the average age of a BlackBerry user has dramatically gone down. Even 9-11-year-olds have started adopting our product. The first reason is the adoption of the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service. I think with a communiqué and a group, people are finding extreme value in using the messenger. This includes delivery messages, knowing whether the message is delivered or read, updating status updates etc. Sometimes by just looking at the status update, one feels connected to the people who matter. This is also the segment which wants to look cool. The second reason is applications. Around six months back, we did a campaign and spoke about three key applications from naukri.com, shaadi.com and makemytrip.com. These applications are significant because the three things a youngster needs to do today are find a good job, get married and travel. We have come up with devices that are sleek, goodlooking and powerful. That adds to the cool quotient, apart from enterprise usage.


What has been the growth rate of Research in Motion in the last three years?

Our growth has been faster than the overall growth rate of the Indian smartphone market. It has been a very exciting journey so far, but I must confess that it has also been one of learning. Looking back at the last 18 months; I am able to connect a lot of dots. Whenever any business grows the way we have been growing, there is a lot of excitement, motivation, team work, and people stretching. Success encourages teams to stretch beyond their limit. The time is so good just now that we have introduced four new products. Our presence in 18 towns and cities helped us take the products across the nation, and with the festive season coming up, we are really excited about it being a high-buying phase.


What are the marketing activities that you undertake to build your brand?

When we talk about a smartphone or a BlackBerry. a lot of it is about look and feel, not just communication. With every new product, we always have a two- pronged strategy. The first is to create awareness and visibility which obviously happens through abovethe- line campaigns. The second is experience for customers at the point of purchase. We ran ATL campaigns for our newly launched products and we are also strengthening our retail point of presence. So, as customers walk in, they get the right experience. Today, we have 1,200 dedicated BlackBerry promoters across the country. Those are the key footfall areas where we try and educate people about the product. That is our key marketing strategy – to create awareness, but also offer the right experience before the product is bought.


How strong is the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service in driving RIM devices?

Right from nine-year-olds to people above 70 use Blackberry phones. Usage behaviour is very different for  different segments. It would be unfair to say that BBM is the key driver, but among the younger segment, BBM is one of the key drivers. In the slightly older age group, e-mail continues to be the key driver. Another crucial point is consumption of media on the phone. Touchscreen with a larger screen, for example, is cooler in India because people consume a lot of media on the phone.


What is your media mix?

We use almost all the media, but we keep changing, depending on how we want to forward the campaign and reach people. We have television campaigns running from time to time. We use the print media effectively as well. In print, we try to create an impact through our message. On radio, we use ad jingles. We have used RJ mentions and testimonials very effectively as well on the radio medium. The outdoor medium is important in emerging cities and to target the top end of the market.


What is your campaign plan to target the top end of the market?

We have used airports for our high-end products because they cater to that segment. We have used television and print, and believe in using the social media too. For example, Bold 9900 is a high-end product. In our media plan, we look at television carefully. But within television, we target a particular age-group which would have high-end users.


A large number of BlackBerry users are youngsters. What is your strategy to target them?

For young consumers, the digital medium is very important for us. BlackBerry users are inherently data users. So, if you are not present on the digital medium, you are not addressing your target segment. We work a lot on our websites and have around 1.5 million people visiting our website every quarter. We have about a million fans on our Facebook fan page. We create posts and interact with them closely. A few months ago, we ran a TV campaign around our popular BlackBerry Messenger and one of the features we showed was the way in which you can add a friend by simply scanning the barcode. That really caught on and we got a lot of feedback on the digital media from youngsters. We then ran a campaign on the ground by putting barcodes on merchandise. You didn’t have to invite someone to be your BlackBerry friend – just scan the barcode and add the person as a friend. We have also uploaded videos on our digital platform showing people who use various features of BlackBerry.


What are the key insights behind your marketing strategies?

If I talk about the recent marketing strategies, then the next four weeks are a really high-buying window. So, we have a festive season campaign plan in place. In the new campaigns, we want to talk about our new range of devices. We also work with our carrier operations partners to effectively bring good propositions to the market. You will soon see some good propositions for consumers. Thirdly, we continue to build on the BlackBerry experiential campaign. We try and drive more and more people to our retail stores to experience the products.


RIM seemed to have initiated an intensive post-launch campaign for the BlackBerry PlayBook in India. What is your approach to target the tablet market in India?

The tablet market is very nascent in India. The PlayBook was built on a new platform called the QNX and we have had a good response to it. People like the way it works. Even enterprises have started looking at tablets in a different way. A lot of tablet consumption has been for consumer applications and consumer features. People consume a lot of video, media, applications and games on the tablet. What has been refreshing for us is enterprises saying that they see value in the PlayBook because the inherent security and encryption that BB has on the smartphone is extended to the PlayBook as well. All of a sudden, you are able to use applications on large screens, but on a product that is portable and extends the same security.


What are the challenges that you faced in building your brand in the presence of other established brands?

Competition exists in every business, but for a marketer, the biggest challenge is that the users become very heterogeneous. When you try and segment your set of customers, you no longer have clear defining guidelines like you had a few years ago. It is a challenge to be relevant to different segments and yet understand that within a segment, there is disparity in usage behaviour.


Feedback: rahul.dubey@exchange4media.com

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