CEO John Chen has sent a strong message on behalf of the latest company under his wing: Don’t mess with BlackBerry.
T-Mobile last week emailed some customers, telling them, “Now is the time to upgrade to iPhone 5s,” under a thick magenta banner stating: “Great offer for BlackBerry customers.” And Chen fired back.
“I can only guess that T-Mobile thought its ‘great offer for BlackBerry customers’ would be well received,” Chen wrote in a Feb. 18 blog post. “T-Mobile could not have been more wrong.”
Chen went on to insist that T-Mobile didn’t alert BlackBerry of its “clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion” plans, cut down T-Mobile and give BlackBerry’s customers the verbal equivalent of a firm, appreciative handshake.
“By expressing your outrage directly to T-Mobile through tweets, calls and comments in the media and on blog posts, you sent a powerful message that T-Mobile could not ignore,” Chen wrote. “Your partnership with our brand is appreciated by all of us at BlackBerry and draws a sharp contrast with the behavior of our longtime business partner.”
Chen also said that BlackBerry’s “loyal customers” would soon be receiving a little something extra.
“Know that we have an offer in the works designed especially for you. Watch this space for an update very soon,” he wrote.
On Twitter, loyal BlackBerry users took up the hashtag #ichooseblackberry10 to tout—at BlackBerry’s encouragement—the platform’s benefits. The campaign gave voice to a group of mobile users who, amidst the aggressive popularity of Samsung and Apple devices, can seem silent, if not non-existent. (In January, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners announced that BlackBerry’s market share for the fourth quarter of 2013 was 0.)
“Anti virus for my smartphone? Sorry, I don’t need it. #ichooseblackberry10,” tweeted user @Odreyesm.
“Space-grade technology in the palm of your hand,” tweeted @Bodee902, also using the hashtag.
User @badiyee wrote, “Upgraded from my old BlackBerry Torch to Z10. After installing 10.2.1, a whole new world of wonder opens up.”
Others used Twitter—a favored podium for T-Mobile CEO John Legere—to push back against the carrier.
“@johnlegere this is embarrassing. Carriers should show loyalty to customers, not products,” wrote Twitter user @jfortunato.
In a Feb. 16 tweet, Legere responded. “BlackBerry users, I’m hearing you loud and clear. Let me work with the team and get back with you.”
T-Mobile announced two days later that beginning Friday, Feb. 21, it will ship purchased BlackBerry devices free and via expedited shipping.
The carrier also told eWEEK in a statement that customers can purchase the full line of BlackBerry devices, including the Q10 and Z10.
“Customers can also bring unlocked BlackBerry devices to T-Mobile,” the carrier added. “We are happy to be a BlackBerry partner and apologize for any confusion.”
It’s unclear whether the offer was the one Chen was talking about.
Ultimately, BlackBerry may also have received a little something extra from T-Mobile’s misstep.
“I don’t think anyone can accuse T-Mobile’s Legere of nuance, so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the trade-in program’s messaging wasn’t subtle,” said Ken Hyers, a senior analyst with Strategy Analytics.
Plus, he added, BlackBerry users who want to switch to another platform have already done so or will do so, with or without such a trade-in offer.
“For BlackBerry, it gives CEO Chen one more opportunity to appear large and in charge and appear as a mature business leader, which is exactly what his enterprise customers are looking for from BlackBerry management.”