Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Can Alicia Keys help Blackberry to “keep moving”?

Blackberry has launched its largest campaign ever for the make or break new operating system OS BB10 and a new range of products. The campaign will carry a “keep moving” theme to demonstrate the software’s capabilities. Among the central features are a smarter predictive keyboard and a “hub” for notifications from email, Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign
The mobile manufacturer announced on its launch event that Alicia Keys would act as its global creative officer. The 14-time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter and entrepreneur will be joined by film director Robert Rodriguez and author Neil Gaiman in a series of online films demonstrating how they engage with their BB10 devices and inviting users to share their own stories. The heart of the campaign consists of a real-time marketing drive across search, video, direct marketing, social media, CRM and mobile.

How it will be assessed
According to BlackBerry’s CMO, Frank Boulben, the central measure for Blackberry success and market share will be the Net Promoter Score (NPS), adding “we want the first customers using BlackBerry 10 to recommend to friends and family.” As seen in our Marketing Performance Evaluation lectures, NPS measures the "willingness to recommend" a product and is usually adopted for higher involvement products, where opinion leaders and WOM is in play. It is becoming an increasingly popular customer loyalty measure with growth of social media. Although all companies have their favourite metrics, some going for the traditional Customer Satisfaction measure while others adopt the famous NPS, the growing reliance on a simple single customer metric won’t provide them the full picture and can be dangerous trend.

Target market
BlackBerry’s global market share fell from 20% to roughly 6% in the last three years and many see this as a last resort to recapture old and new users. The company is aiming to expand beyond corporate users and appeal to working moms. Boulben described Keys as the embodiment of a "very typical BlackBerry user" who is a "working mom" and runs a small business.

"Faced up against guys with significant market share, BlackBerry needs to find areas where it can make headway in. They can't compete broadly and they can't compete everywhere," said Stephen Baker, a VP of industry analysis for consumer technology at NPD. "If they think women is how they can do that, and it's a big enough segment and there's an opportunity there, then God bless them, they should go for that."

Celebrity endorsement
Celebrity endorsements are nothing new and they can often be an effective marketing tool if the company can find an authentic advocate for their brand. Alicia Keys seems a good fit with their new target audience; however, some analysts question her suitability as an endorser for Blackberry. To make matters worse, her official Twitter account showed her posts just days before the launch event were published from an iPhone and used Instagram to share all photos — an app that’s not available on BlackBerry according to a recent NYT release.

How NOT to do it
BlackBerry isn't the first tech company to employ a celebrity to boost its credibility. Three years ago, Lady Gaga was named creative director of Polaroid and she even designed a printer for the company. Two years ago, Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas was announced as the director of creative innovation at Intel. These high profile job titles attempted to make the relationship more authentic when it involved little more than just posing beside the product in exchange for a large cheque.

A different spin on product endorsement
To distance itself from those claims, Boulben has stated the Alicia Keys hire is different from “traditional product endorsements” as it is based on user experience. "You won’t see the celebrities in the 'Keep Moving' campaign on TV. The 'Keep Moving' TV campaign is all about showing the product experience in the flow of your professional and personal life." Activity will include Alicia Keys creating a video in each city where she is performing her “Set the World on Fire” tour, with each customised video based on ideas she receives from fans.

Is it this kind of celebrity endorsement a good investment?
Do you actually need a famous creative director when you truly have great product design? Why doesn’t Apple have a celebrity creative director? Do you think the women audience targeted by Blackberry could be better inspired by an authentic ambassador, such as a young mother who genuinely loves the product, sending the message that it is the users who really matter when it comes to the design process?

The global mobile market could really use more competition right now; let’s hope Blackberry can “keep moving” with its ambitions.

Adriana Heinzen 
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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