What to do about Research in Motion, Canada’s flagship technology company that just can’t seem to find its equilibrium in a market that has become volatile, competitive and unstable despite its growth.
Here’s a radical idea inspired by an exchange on Twitter with the National Post’s Matt Hartley: RIM should embrace its startup roots and the entrepreneurialism that made it a wireless tour de force by creating a new unit focused on teenagers or perhaps people under the age of 25. It may sound like an odd concept but here’s what I’m thinking:
Despite the BlackBerry’s diminished stature, young people are huge fans based on “in-depth research”, which has consisted of looking at their wireless devices.
Anecdotally, the BlackBerry rules the roost. Maybe it’s BBM, which lets them connect with friends and family for free. Perhaps it’s the keyboard, which makes it easy to use BBM and social media services such as Facebook. Whatever the reason, the young’uns are a pocket of strength for the BlackBerry.
A New Business Focused on Young People
To capitalize on it, RIM should carve out a new startup-like unit focused on young people. The new business would be all about creating devices, applications, marketing campaigns, events and social media activity for the under-25 demographic.
Free from the shackles of RIM’s enterprise roots (aka Your father/mother’s BlackBerry), the new business would have the freedom to be hip, cool and connected with an audience that aren’t geeks but looking for devices that meet their lifestyle needs.
This business would use BlackBerry hardware but customize it for younger people. The device, for example, would emphasize chat, video, music and social media, while e-mail and the phone would be standard features but certainly not the main selling points.
The marketing, created by an agency with expertise in younger consumers, would appeal directly to a demographic that knows what they want but are looking for someone who understands their needs and how they live. The lead spokesperson would be someone such as Justin Bieber. a BlackBerry user, who grew up close to RIM’s Waterloo headquarters.
It would be a radical move for RIM to create a new business but it might take some strategic and tactical creativity to jump-start the company’s prospects.
As it now stands, RIM has a split personality. It has a strong foothold in its traditional enterprise market but, at the same time, trying to figure out how to play in the pro-sumer market. This has made it a challenge from a marketing perspective given they’re two different audiences.
The creation of a new business focused on young people would be a way to resolve this problem and, in the process, maybe bring back RIM’s mojo.