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After much waiting, are RIM’s new CMO/COO executive hires any good?

Research In Motion
By Chris Umiastowski on 9 May 2012 11:58 am EDT
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Thorsten Heins has been CEO of RIM for only 3 months. But that 3 months has seemed like an eternity as we waited for updates on BlackBerry 10, restructuring of the company, potential partnerships, and long-awaited new executive blood. Well, yesterday RIM hired two new senior executives. The company finally has a chief marketing officer and a singular chief operating officer.

There have been a lot of complaints from the peanut gallery (media, analysts, casual observers) on the speed of the recruitment process. People were forming conclusions that Thorsten wasn’t doing things fast enough. But I’ve been around public companies as an analyst long enough to see a wide range of executive movement. Recruiting senior executives is hardly ever a fast process. Do you really want it to be fast? Or do you want the right amount of attention put on hiring strong candidates?

So let’s turn to the guys that Thorsten hand-picked.

Chief Marketing Officer: Frank Boulben

Frank Boulben

RIM’s new CMO was most recently with Light Squared. When I saw this I admit I was initially a tad disappointed. Why? Because LightSquared was supposed to be a big 4G LTE wholesaler in the USA. It turned into what seems to be a failed business plan when the FCC ruled that its spectrum would interfere with GPS frequencies.

However, you can’t blame a marketing guy for a tough-to-predict technical problem. I caught myself being disappointed for no good reason. I gave my self a well-deserved slap in the face. Then I read more about his background. Seems he has an executive history at both Orange and Vodafone, two well-respected European brands.

You might balk at the idea of RIM hiring a “carrier-centric” marketing guy. I actually think it makes sense. Who do carriers market to? Consumers! So having a carrier guy might not be such a bad idea. Don Morrison was a HIGHLY effective Chief Operating Officer at RIM and it was precisely because he had a strong carrier background.

Chief Operating Officer: Kristian Tear

Kristian Tear

Under Thorsten Heins, RIM decided to implement a single COO structure rather than its rich history of having two, and even three COOs running the company’s operations.

Kristian Tear is coming to RIM from Sony Mobile Communications, formerly Sony Ericsson for anyone who remembers their success in the pre-Android cellphone world.

I’ve never heard of this guy, but that’s true for most of the planet’s multi-billion inhabitants. I am, however, impressed by the fact that he held CEO and President titles at a variety of regions working at Erickson starting as far back as 1999. The guy is 48 today, so this means he was 35 or 36 when he took his first regional CEO / President job. That’s hopefully a sign of a guy who gets stuff done.

Tear’s job is operational. He has to lead the software, hardware, services and supply chain aspects of RIM. He needs broad experience. Success in this type of job is not about being a guru of all these different areas. It’s about delegating to the right people, being a great manager, smelling bullshit, fighting fires, and thinking strategically to proactively address growth and solve problems.

We’ll need to wait another few months to see what each of these gentlemen does to change the RIM that we know today. I’m as interested as the rest of you.

Let’s rock and roll this!

Reader comments

After much waiting, are RIM’s new CMO/COO executive hires any good?

73 Comments

Darn. I really thought I was in the running for the CMO roll. Seriously, I have a pretty damn impressive resume.

Ahh well, I have faith in RIM 2.0. Best of luck to these guys. Can't wait to see them execute!

Lol. I'm just kidding guys... I have too much fun on CrackBerry and Mobile Nations to ever drop that.

Plus, you know, I think I'm of more value to BlackBerry outside of RIM than within. Though, I am a machine. I don't really need sleep. So probably could have done both :)

I think you would have more fun at RIM - 6-figure salary and access to all of the prototype BB11 (yes, eleven) phones. You would be like a kid in a candy store!

Kev, you're probably a much better PR person for them by being outside the company. Makes your enthusiasm more genuine than if you were on salary.

Sorry, Kevin. You lost that job when it was reported you were seen carrying an iPad. The scandal and outrage on CrackBerry was just too much for Thor to ignore. *G*

That's just smart. Gotta know the competition. All the senior guys at RIM these days are using all platforms - gotta know what you're building is better than the competition. BB FTW!

Kevin,
It's true, you do have a damn impressive resume.
(I did the research ).
However, if they hired you, they'd be knee-capping themselves.
You're just too good and too valuable here.
So, you've kinda backed yourself into a corner.
On the plus side, you won't have to cut your hair, wear a suit, and people will still buy you a beer! ;-)

Sorry, your conclusion maybe correct about the CMO but until someone shows me his historical performance or previous marketing campaigns I will not believe he is the perfect guy needed to successfully launch BB10.

I was hoping the new CMO would have worked in a company within the consumer discretionary space who also had product reinvention experience. Who is the million dollar question.

I am not saying this guy is the wrong guy for the job but IMO it is not obvious that he is the right guy. This is the first article by Chris in which his conclusion was based on mediocore support.

what qualifications do any of us have on any subject? this is a forum. A place for Crackberry addicts to give their two cents.

What happen to the Ham sandwich? Surely if it was CEO material,it had to qualify for cmo.

That poor ham sandwich can't catch a break!

Just because a guy has executive experience in two good companies doesn't prove he's good for the job or anything to be optimistic about. Ignoring Lightsquared, I have not read anything really impressive the new CMO has done that will help him deal with RIM's monumental task of changing it's public perception in US/Canada.

Yeah. Even though he was vice president of strategy of LightSquared, I'm willing to toss that aside because there may be other factors involved as to why it failed despite his best efforts.

As far as my understanding goes, a CMO has to be highly creative for obvious reasons and analytical. Something that even Jim B was not good in. I like Thorsten Heins, he gives me a good feeling about his commitment, but like I said above, I don't see anything in his resume that might help RIM with it's US image which is a massive market. The comment about him being good with carriers seems like the same old RIM.

RIM has to fire on all cylinders for marketing. Last night while watching tv, I saw 5 apple commercials within an hour. Zero blackberry commercials! It could have been the channel or time but zero commercials...! C'mon RIM, you have good products but people won't see them unless you shove it in peoples faces!!!

It would be wiser for them to spend that marketing budget on the new products when they come. I would worry more when Blackberry 10 is released to the public and you dont see any marketing then in comparison to Apple.

People are giving him a pass because they say "How could a marketing guy have forseen the problems at Lightsquared". Well, guys, he was also the STRATEGY head. If anyone should have forseen the problems it was him.

Something tells me he's going to fit right in at RIM.

I don't know the first thing about any of these guys. I'm just happy that their team is complete. Now show off the innovation and take ma money please ha. I actually stopped checking blackberry world for apps because I'm expecting to go nuts on my bb10 device

Also Kevin, you should do a servey on how many keyboard addicts plan on going with the all touch. I'm one of them and seeing that new keyboard is making me rething my plan of waiting. So who's switching???

I am originally from the UK where Vodaphone and Orange have done extremely well so I respect that part more than the Lightsquared experience. How long was he at Lightsquared, how successful were they at marketing their product to customers?

Vodafone is arguably the most successful carrier in the world, they even own 50% of Verizon if I am not correct. Both had very effective campaigns in the UK so I have hope he can be effective.

Unfortunately, you market differently to different markets. Why hire someone who has to become an expert in the US market while rebranding the company. That's too much to ask of one person in a short time. BBX devices are to be shipped by end of year and there needs to be a solid campaign prior to shipment. He also needs to understand the buying habits of the largest consumer market before that time. I'm sorry to be so US-centric, especially since my job has such a global focus so I get that not everything is about the US. However, it's the market with the most damaged reputation as of this moment.

He also needs to understand the buying habits of the largest consumer market before that time.

I assume you are talking about China :D

Seriously Americans get over yourselves. The growth potential in the US for RIM is minimal compared to China and India. Sell every BB owner in Indonesia a BB10 phone instead of having them switch and you've probably sold more phones that you are going to sell in the US.

RIM needs to think global for growth not USA

and in case you are wondering I am an American...

Sleek, big screen, high-level hardware specification, localized apps are definitely the key factors of success in Chinese market. I think BB10 meet most of the requirements, if the price is not extremely high, BB10 is going to be a big hit in China. The precondition is RIM does not launch it one year late after the first launch.

Now China is in the beginning of switching dumbphone to smartphone. You can see more and more people start to use iPhone or Andriod every day.RIM needs to make a good strategy,action plan and execute quickly before Apple and Andiod eat all the market share. Time is running out, hope the new COO and CMO can change something in RIM, especially for Chinese market...

It's clear you're American because you think the largest consumer market is China. It's not about getting over being an American, it's about the US market, which is larger than China in consumerism, having a very negative image of BlackBerry. It's fine to concentrate on China, India and any other emerging markets but well that didn't seem to work out weel for Nokia, did it?

There is a big difference between marketing and lobbying. Lobbying required a whole different skill set.

I disagree with your disagreement. How much involvement would marketing have in a lobbying issue?

I get the sense you're looking for a rationale to justify continued criticism.

Can either of you explain to me the fundamental differences between lobbying and marketing? Similarities?

You are correct that I am critical of that decision...way to state the obvious.

Thanks bye.

Lobbying is the attempt to bribe (sorry,persuade) politicians to do what you want. Marketing is aligning your product to the needs and desires of the people you hope will buy it. They are almost opposites. Marketing is like being the politician, not the lobbyist.

Indeed. Lobbyist says to senator, Senator, if you continue to oppose offshore oil drilling your wife will find out about your affair with a staffer. If you change your mind, we'll build a refinery in your State and you get the credit. Marketing guy goes to see senator, comes back and says Listen, guys, we need to convert our offshore oil rigs to wind turbines, it's a big growth opportunity.

I'm sorry but the issue RIM has is the perception in America. We'll know in time if it was a good hiring decision or not but for right now I'm curious why they wouldn't hire someone with more experience and an established professional "friends" network in the US market. The CMO has a steep hill to climb quickly.

I'm very pleased with the way RIM has been run since the "reset" last fall. Only time will tell if these guys are the right hires (and I hope RIM's board examines CVs better than Yahoo).

As far as Boulben goes as CMO, I think a "carrier-centric" marketing plan is probably a very good idea now; RIM's had a history of thorny relations with carriers. And one would also assume that Boulben has been hired on the strength of a plan he's already proposed. We'll see.

Problem is that Verizon and ATT rule the land in the US with Sprint and T-Mo following behind. So his experience and connections with Vodofone and Orange won't be as effective as if he had established contacts with Verizon & ATT. Maybe I'm just being too negative or maybe I'm being too logical; not sure which.

Vodafone owns 45-50% of Verizon.

LightSquared had to deal with carriers to get them to implement their networks. Just a thought

I don't see how that matters. Having established relationships is important. Just because one has relationships with Vodafone execs does not mean that it automatically translates to relationships with Verizon execs. Especially if Verizon execs are licking the butts of Apple and Motorola.

I don't think its right for any of us to assume whether or not these guys are the right guys for the job.. It was a pretty lengthy hiring process & I'm sure Thorsten chose these guys for good reason. Thorsten wants RIM to succeed & doubt he would pick these without giving it much thought. Like someone else said only time will tell..

Instead of asking if the new CMO is suitable for RIM why not ask if he was suitable in his previous company. May be he is more suitable for RIM. You never know what Thor saw in him. I completely trust Thorstein decission from what ever I have seen so far. Let's give them a chance. Don't be too critical too soon.

Chris, you end your piece with "Let's rock and roll this!" I'm surprised. Oh, well, I guess it's better to build credibility with Crackberry Nation than with analysts and other members of the peanut gallery.

A few weeks ago Chris wrote an article speculating that Gavin Kim, formerly Windows Phone marketing guru, might be headed to RIM. IMO, that would have been a horrible decision by RIM, and I am glad he was wrong. The reality is that the reason why the Lumia will end up doing average or worse than expected in the US is because you can not compete with Apple on consumer marketing, so why even try. That may sound defeatist, but it is always important to remain realistic. Where Google has succeeded has been primarily through marketing through the carriers. And that is the opportunity that is most available to RIM, not taking market share from Apple. I think this decision is a recognition of that fact, and for that I think Thorsten deserves a big thumbs up. It seems like the last 3 months, his decisions have shown that he really understands the nuances of what RIM needs to do to begin clawing back market share.

+1

You get carriers on your side, you get more in shop marketing as there are few to none Blackberry dedicated shops in the US as far as I am aware but plenty of carrier ran stores.

Product placement people!

My god, are you serious?  The post did no such thing. It raised the question. It reminded us that we were waiting for a CMO. I never suggested that Kim was a candidate. Wow, how things get twisted. 

My apologies Chris, I probably worded my post in the wrong way. I was simply trying to make the point that although alot of people would have probably liked to have seen an appointment like Gavin Kim (judging by the responses to your blog post), I think that type of hire would have been the wrong direction. No twisting intended. Cheers.

If the first BB10 phone does as well as the Lumia 900 it'll be great. My understanding is the launch of the lumia 900 in Europe has been delayed because of the overwhelming demand for the phone in the US.

Given that they are selling the phone for $99 on contract at AT&T, and AT&T employees have been told to push the phone hard, it is not surprising that sales at AT&T have been slightly better than expected. But on Amazon, the price has dropped to $49, and is still dropping quickly on the sales chart. So in a sense I compare it to the Playbook, obviously better sales is better than bad sales, but when you need heavy discounting to drive those sales, it is not a positive (other than in trying to encourage developers to be interested in your platform). That is what the Playbook was about for RIM. If the first BB10 phone can not sell in big numbers at a $249ish price point on contract, that will be bad. The Playbook was a different story, but BB10 phone sales have to happen at a high-end price point out of the gate.

I like that they hired a "carrier guy" for the CMO position. I don't have any kind of business background, so my opinion probably holds little to no weight, but from my perspective it seems like a good move.

I don't see carriers pushing BlackBerry at all these days, you can see plenty of evidence of that on the forums. I see little to no advertisement for BlackBerry from carriers, and it would be nice to get that support back. A few years ago I couldn't walk into a Rogers store without seeing BlackBerry everywhere. I was recommended a BlackBerry plenty of times from a sales rep in the stores I visit, and that just doesn't seem to be the case anymore. BlackBerry phones are usually hidden somewhere in the store, and the reps definitely are not offering them up as first class.

I hope that having someone who has a good relationship with carriers can remedy this and hopefully we can start getting BlackBerry's into more hands again.

As for the COO, I don't really have any opinion...other then: You'd think someone that makes the kind of money this guy does could make sure he doesn't have a huge yellow tooth in the front of his mouth for a photo op. :)

Chris, you are wrong with Carrier marketing. They market to both consumers, small to medium businesses and the enterprises, the same spectrum of customers that RIM has.

I think the new CMO is a good choice as they need a chief that can manage the brand and market its products around the world. Vodafone has many operations and partners across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (e.g. South Africa, Egypt), the Asia Pacific (e.g. India, Austrialia) and the Americas (e.g. US, Canada, Chile, Dominica). That's the same footprint and then some that RIM need to address. I'm sure the new chief will have a special team dedicated to address the US turnaround.

@blackberryto

I think your comment is exactly "on target". Most of the comments in this thread don't seem to mention that none of us knew Thorstein Heins a few months ago either. We've seen some samples of his "laser focus" on making things right at RIM and he is, after all, the guy who was involved in the interview process for these guys. He must have detected certain attributes that are seen as key ingredients for the job.
As far as carrier specialization goes, doesn't it make sense that you would directly engage the community that can make or break your company, and that has a direct interest in making money, and would endorse your product using their own marketing expertise?

With an ex-Orange exec now in place for Blackberry marketing... sadly... this now virtually guarantees there will never be any support for Skype. Orange blocks Skype in Europe. Even their internet provider service in Europe blocks Skype.

Your comment doesn't make any sense. How is the fact that the guy worked at Orange makes this impossible? Do you even know the reasons of why Orange does not allow skype in Europe? Jeez....

I think that Mr Heines might just have a bit more information and feel for what these Gentleman can do. Taking any one thing about these folks is very shortsighted and rather niave. Rim is a huge company that has a huge talent pool. They didnt choose them on a whim. I am sure that they had to provide some presentation or past accomplishments. I challenge anyone to name someone and why they would be better. These guys fly under the radar. You only see thier labor in final form.

Previously RiM micro-managed a prominent advertising agency who eventually fired their client, and in the process they lost their previous CMO. If there is something to be learned, it is not to over-control a successful ad agency.

Honestly I was initially disappointed in the CMO choice, given the LightSquared involvement. Then it dawned on me that this guy was clever enough to get Sprint to commit heavily to LightSquared. In the process the share value of LightSquared increased, until technical issues were simply too much to overcome. If nothing else, it indicates this guy was clever and resourceful.

Can't people realize that this was a friggin' discussion related post? Shits, just realize and wake up, don't assume everything. Fuck man, just READ AND THINK!!! Amazing of the amount of blindness I read every day. No wonder I skim past comments.

Is it me or does the new COO Kristian Tear look like a mix between Mike Lazaridis & Thorsten Heins?