BlackBerry 10 Marketing Head Talks Super Bowl, Keys, Organic Growth

A BlackBerry 10 ad during the Super Bowl will kick off the second phase of a marketing strategy designed to encourage word-of-mouth promotion.

BlackBerry introduced its long-awaited Z10 and Q10 smartphones and BlackBerry 10 mobile platform Jan. 30. But while news that these products won't be available in the United States for at least another six weeks sent the company's stock prices falling, BlackBerry Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben has a plan for making the most of those weeks, part of which will kick off with the Super Bowl Feb. 3.

BlackBerry is on a mission to refashion its image, win over consumers and win back the affections of users past and present. The first of a three-part plan to accomplish this began back in September, Boulben told eWEEK.

"We began to do numerous face-to-face demonstrations—with CIOs, developers, CEOs, but also entrepreneurs, celebrities, reporters, musicians, sports people. The idea was to show what the device is capable of, so they could start talking about it. And it worked. Our approval rating went from 55 percent negative to more than 70 percent positive," said Boulben.

The next part will entail disseminating the same information via a series of videos that users will find via searches, YouTube and methods that include a commercial during Sunday's Super Bowl that will reportedly run during the third quarter. (The image running with this article is a still from the commercial that BlackBerry shared in advance.)

"That will be the kick-off to encourage people to go online and check out what BlackBerry is about," said Boulben.

The third component of the campaign is the "Keep Moving" initiative, which BlackBerry announced alongside the news that BlackBerry had hired 14-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys to fill a new global creative director position.

"Keep Moving" will document the creation of creative projects helped along by BlackBerry 10 technology, initially by Keys, film director Roberto Rodriguez and writer Neil Gaiman. Keys, among other projects, is planning to shoot and edit (on her BlackBerry Z10 smartphone) an original music video for each city she visits on her upcoming "Girl on Fire" tour.

Boulben said that "Keep Moving" will have nothing in common with the way Samsung tied its Galaxy Tab 10.1 to creative folks like director Baz Luhrmann and fashioner designer Zac Posen. "Keep Moving" will feature documentaries of real people honestly using BlackBerry technology in their day-to-day lives.

"We are not doing any product endorsement," Boulben said. "One criteria [of signing on Keys and the others] is they are genuine BlackBerry fans. When we first showed them the Z10, each of them wanted one immediately. We want them to share their experiences and enthusiasm [but] not in a TV commercial kind of way."

(Executives couldn't have been pleased, then, when Keys was found to have recently been Tweeting from an iPhone—a device she said she'd broken up with to get back together with BlackBerry. A spokesperson for Keys told The New York Times Jan 30, "After a transitional period, she's officially an exclusive BlackBerry 10 user today.")

Organic word of mouth—genuine enthusiasm versus crafted marketing—is the best advertising a company can have, Boulben said. When asked at the BlackBerry event how the company will know whether it has succeeded with BlackBerry 10, Boulben said the primary success indicator he'll be watching for is that people want to recommend BlackBerry 10 to their families and friends.

"In this age ... you have to be authentic as a brand; you cannot make it up," he said. "There are too many blogs, too many reviewers, too may forums—there's no faking it. So what we want to do is focus on what the device is capable of, compared to what is on the market right now."

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