Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum

Marketing, August 17, 2011 | Go to article overview

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum


Will BlackBerry's association with the recent riots affect the brand?

News coverage of last week's unrest, which spread from London to other cities across the UK, made frequent references to rioters co-ordinating action via the closed BlackBerry Messenger network.

NO - JAMES METHVEN, MARKETING DIRECTOR, ELECTROLUX

Within 24 hours of a leading blog suggesting that BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was driving the co-ordination of rioters, the idea had been republished and adapted so that BBM appeared responsible for fuelling the riots. Once the reaction and blame-mongering have settled, I would be surprised if technology is held to account when the causes of these awful acts clearly lie elsewhere. Social networks do not cause riots - people do.

That BlackBerry has evolved from the tool of choice for busy executives to a popular tool among urban youth culture is largely down to technology. BlackBerry faces a tricky challenge here: to assist law-enforcement officials without violating basic privacy rights.

So, while a delicate situation to negotiate, the riots are unlikely to affect the brand in the longer term. Its far bigger challenge rests with providing technology that can beat off the new messenger services being launched by rivals. Not doing so is fuel for an altogether different disaster.

NO - VIKI COOKE, DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER, BRITAINTHINKS

BlackBerry was a platform, not a contributor, and the focus is now moving on to other closed-messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. However, it might be symbolic of a deep-seated challenge that will ultimately have an impact.

BlackBerry has its roots as an 'adult' business brand that is responsible and mature - it created the market for 'on the move' internet and email access.

The more recent success of BlackBerry Messenger (commonly known as BBM) among young people poses a challenge in brand-stretch that may be more a case of brand schizophrenia. To retain its credibility and position as a business tool and be central to the lives of young people at the same time would stretch the best marketer.

Does its drive for youth suggest a brand that is trying to ride two horses?

If BlackBerry were a person, would it be the adult who's trying to be 'cool' with teens, using uncomfortable language that is easily derided? And how sustainable is the BBM focus with the growth of cross-platform competition?

YES - DAVID ATKINSON, MANAGING PARTNER, SPACE

Just as Twitter has been lambasted for its use in breaking superinjunctions, BlackBerry is being tarnished for the looting lunatics. …

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