Blackberry marketing chief departure hints at tough times for RIM

Blackberry: chief marketing officer Keith Pardy has quit
Blackberry: chief marketing officer Keith Pardy has quit

Consultant and Marketing contributor George Nimeh evaluates why Blackberry chief marketing officer Keith Pardy decided to quit the brand last week.

Battling fierce competition on multiple fronts, Blackberry’s parent company Research In Motion (RIM) capped a tough week by announcing that its chief marketing officer, Keith Pardy, is leaving the company for ‘personal reasons’ just before the launch of its PlayBook tablet.

RIM finds itself caught between two very strong competitors. On one side is Android, the Google mobile operating system, which is steadily chipping away at Blackberry’s handset sales.

On the other side is Apple, which competes against RIM not only in the handset market with the iPhone, but now threatens the success of the PlayBook with the iPad. The Blackberry PlayBook isn’t out yet, but Apple has already launched the iPad 2 to very positive reviews.

‘Love what you do’ is RIM’s most recent advertising campaign and TV spots feature suited American DJ Diplo, Scottish artist Anna King’s art dealer, and French eco fashion designer Nadège Winter. They’re hip but not hipsters. They’re older and have a more established sense of who they are professionally.

Another set of ads with younger adults promotes BBM, Blackberry’s instant messaging service. Is it working? RIM is currently looking for a new agency, having parted ways with Leo Burnett.

And then there’s the developer issue.

The hardware manufacturer market is an ecosystem that lives and dies depending on the developers who create stuff that runs on their kit.

Apple has done an incredible job of bringing over developers from iPhone to iPad. Android’s growing traction in the handset space is translating into interest for tablet manufacturers including Motorola, HP, and HTC. To date, RIM has yet to prove that it can sustain the interest and commitment of large numbers of developers, and that’s a real problem.

One consolation for RIM is that it’s not alone. When asked to compare his own Galaxy Tab 10.1 to the iPad, Samsung’s mobile VP Lee Don-Joo told the Korean Yonhap news agency, ‘We will have to improve the parts that are inadequate.’

Despite all this, RIM has an excellent opportunity. Apple ‘fanboys’ would have you believe that the race is run, but it’s far from over. Some have speculated that RIM may be the first company to launch a hybrid OS, combining the best of Android with the security and trust Blackberry has built up with IT departments around the world. That would be interesting.

RIM’s stock dipped a couple of points this week on all the bad news, but it’s up almost 50% over the past six months. Hopefully it knows what to do with its war chest of cash, lest it be raided by pirates flying flags with symbols of robots and fruit.

For more, follow @iboy on Twitter.

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