Interview: Frank Boulben, RIM’s BlackBerry CMO
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Research In Motion’s new Chief Marketing Officer, Frank Boulben. We did something a little different by opening up the questions to our users. We picked 5 user generated questions, of which Frank happily answered. Check out Frank’s responses and his outlook into the future of BlackBerry.
Yeohda asks: So far, we’ve heard phrases like “BlackBerry gets things done” “keeping people successful” “BlackBerry by choice”…In light of your efforts to consolidate and create a more cohesive marketing message around the world, what exactly is the message you want to convey about what BB10 brings to the table that will differentiate it from other platforms?
Frank: “Great question. The core of the BB10 experience is about providing consumers with a change in the smartphone experience. When you think of the last five years we’ve been living in a paradigm that is described by the in and out. You have a menue of icons and you click on icons and you click on the home button and another icon to do something else. What we hope to introduce with BB10 is a paradigm where you are always in. There is no more notion of a home button. You will move seamlessly from one application to another. And the applications will be integrated. That will start with managing all your contacts, email, social networks, calendar etc.. Whichever applications you are using. will always be in the background and with one gesture you will move to the other form of communication. it is difficult to describe the user experience with words. That seamlessness of applications that flow of applications will be the fundamental differentiation of the BB10 experience.
And will be something ready on the market. The first approach to marketing will simply be to showcase it so that people realize how different the user experience is on BB10. That experience is designed to help people to get things done more efficiently, more rapidly. You will use fewer clicks and be able to move from one app to another seamlessly so you will be more efficient and accomplish things more quickly . Getting things done within that new user experience.”
StephenBB81 asks: Please share how you plan to address the lack of retail support for RIM and BB products. How is it different with BB10 phones versus BB7 and PlayBook?
Frank: “let me begin by saying we are very excited by BB10. It is difficult to have the right kind of support to be successful in the smartphone market. We are seeing lots of support for BB10 across the world. So that’s something we’re going to work on jointly with our partners to make sure that the point of plan is strong with a carrier.
JackLOGAN asks: Focusing on the category of applications, what do you feel is your responsibility in communicating what’s coming. Do you plan to show that BB10 will have the same or better content than it’s competitors?
Frank: “I’ll be clear, a new platform, a new experience. The native applications on BB10 will be fully enabled. So yes, we will showcase those native applications, taking full advantage of BB10. At the same time you will have the ability to launch non-native applications either using HTML-5 or Android Runtime.”
SOC asks: These days it’s almost fashionable for the media and ex-BlackBerry users to bash the brand and the company. How do you plan to repair the BB image with consumers in the U.S. and especially the media?
Frank: “Well, we start by simply explaining what we are doing. The company is undergoing radical change. We are taking a new approach with respect to our operation. We are committed to saving one billion dollars in operating costs before the end of the year. So this is a time of change and anyone bashing the company should be made aware of big changes going on at RIM.”
GlassofPinot asks: What is RIM doing differently to reach business decision makers and influencers? Especially those who are getting info today in parallel from their consumer side?
Frank: “With enterprise customers, CIO’s in particular, we engage directly. So we have the opportunity with large enterprise, government customers to speak with them directly, to explain what our roadmap is going forward and to show them the new services we have introduced recently, for them to manage their fleet of devices more effectively. We have announced mobile fusion, balance, cloud services. So we have the opportunity to communicate with them directly, and we do it also through the carriers who are also engaging with the enterprise customers and government and are familiar with our portfolio of services. So I would say that direct communication with enterprise and with government is a primary means to inform them about what’s already here and what’s to come.
How is marketing in North America different from the rest of the world?
Frank: “Our marketing will follow a common approach which is to put the BB10 new user experience in the hands of our existing customers to starts with. We have a huge loyal base of customers, 78million worldwide and growing. We also have very loyal customers in the U.S. So the first objective is to delight our existing customers and to put the BB10 user experience in their hands so they start a grassroots movement, that we will then amplify with more traditional marketing techniques.”
Will both touch screen and qwerty keyboard devices receive the same amount of marketing? If not, which device will RIM push more?
Frank: “We will start with a push of the touch screen experience and the hybrid experience (keyboard with the touchscreen). I don’t think in terms of putting money on one or the other. Both of them will be key components of our portfolio moving forward.”
You will be based out of new york city correct?
Frank: “I think I will be based out of an airplane (laughs). I intend to be as close as possible. We are a global company. We focus very much on North America but we are the number one smartphone brand in South America, we are number one in South Africa, in Southeast Asia. We obviously also are very present in Europe so we are truly a global company. We sell BlackBerrys in 175 countries so I want to spend my time as closely to the markets where we operate, so i will be spending a lot time traveling to our different regions.”
How will you go about syncing the marketing departments around the world so that you will have a clear message throughout the various regions?
Frank: “That’s clearly something I want to change. I want us to speak with one voice and have a much more unified approach to marketing across the globe. Obviously there are always some local elements to be taken into account but largely when you are a product company selling smartphones there are a lot of commonalities in the way you can market across the world. So we’re going to use a much more unified approach so that we can better leverage our scale and avoid any fragmentation.”
RIM recently did a huge promotion in New York City with “BeBold” signs to advertise the Knicks basketball team. Underneath the BlackBerry logo it showed details to download the app, of which was only available to iOS and Android users. Do you consider that poor marketing on the part of RIM and is this something you would like to change fundamentally in the company?
Frank: “I haven’t spent much time doing an analysis of the past commercials of RIM. If I were to do that for the US and all our other markets where we operate I would have to devote a lot of my time. My focus is on making sure we do the right things for the life of BB10 and that we do it in a unified and impactful way across markets. Since you mention it, I will look into that particular one. A full review of our commercials from the past year would not be a good use of my time.”
What will be the main focus feature of BB10 in your marketing?
Frank: “The fundamental user experience that is different from anything to date on smartphones. Seamless transitions through applications will create a radically new user experience.That is really the core differentiator of BB10. Again, words do not describe very well and so the best way to market it will be to show in videos , and features that I cannot do on my smartphone today…”