12 Questions with BlackBerry's new Chief Marketing Officer, Frank Boulben

Frank Boulben is the charming fellow on the left; CrackBerry Kevin is the one on the right in need of a haircut
By Kevin Michaluk on 13 Jul 2012 04:28 pm EDT

Including why he took on the role, marketing BlackBerry 10 and more!

Research In Motion's new Chief Marketing Officer has only been on the job for four weeks, but he has hit the ground running. As we learned from RIM's CEO Thorsten Heins, Frank Boulben has already presented his marketing plan for BlackBerry 10 to management and the board and everybody is excited for it. 

RIM has been without a CMO for a long time now, and even when the position was filled BlackBerry's marketing has been one of those areas that the CrackBerry community has been highly critical of over the years. A new CMO with energy and smart ideas is something BlackBerry has been desperately in need of. Sitting down with Frank, it's clear that he gets it. I walked away from this interview feeling much more confident that RIM will really be able to not only bring a compelling product to market in BlackBerry 10, but also market it in such a way that people will want it. 

I probably should have stopped at 10 questions in honor of BlackBerry 10, but my list of questions was long and I managed to work in 12 before Heins dropped by to join the discussion (if you missed that editorial, read it here). Big thanks to Frank for sitting down with CrackBerry for this!

Q1. Some would say you've probably accepted what currently is the toughest job in tech today... the CMO position at RIM. Why did you take on the challenge?

Frank: First because I believe we have all that is needed to be successful.

Before I took the role obviously I did my own personal due diligence. I reached out to the carrier community on three continents. I reached out to the developer community. Both gave me the same very positive feedback.

The wireless carriers absolutely want RIM to be successful. They want more diversity in terms of ecosystems. They have a huge install base with us and they want to and continue and upgrade that install base. And we have a longstanding relationship with them, so they want that to continue. So on the carrier side -- developed markets, emerging markets -- there is very strong backing, and as you know having the carrier support is absolutely critical for a successful go to market.

And on the other side, the developers were extremely positive about the platform. We have 78 million users. They expect those users over time to be on BlackBerry 10. The developers are really excited for what the platform is offering - if you want to develop rich applications you can use Cascades and C++ SDK. If you're more of the HTML 5 school you also have an SDK there that is leading edge. And if you don't want to dedicate more than a couple of days to port an app to BlackBerry 10, you can port your Android apps and use the Android runtime environment. And if you combine that with billing relations we have with carriers, it's an attractive platform for developers. The BlackBerry Jam tour has been very successful, we're quote "sold out everywhere" and each time it generates a lot of excitement.

That's a long answer, but it was the first element for me to be sure the partners were supportive of BlackBerry. So the carriers were. The developers were.

Then when I look at the company, the brand is still extremely strong globally. We have a weakness in the US right now, but when I look at it globally, we are #1 in South America, we are #1 in South Africa, in Nigeria, in the Middle East and some Asian countries. We are still in a solid position in Europe, so overall the brand is in a very good position, and it's an iconic brand. We have growth everywhere in volume, except in North America, so there is still a lot of attraction for the brand and the products.

The company is financially healthy. We have a strong cash position. No debt. We are still cash flow positive. We are engaging in a cost reduction program that will increase our financial flexibility as we transition into BlackBerry 10.

And for myself, under NDA, I saw demos and mockups of BlackBerry 10 devices so I could judge by myself and I really think BlackBerry 10 is the step change in the smartphone user experience. We've been living now for five years in a paradigm that is the in and out paradigm. You have a page with icons, you click on one icon to get into an app, and then the only way to exit is to press the home button and then you go into another app. That paradigm was great -- it's still great -- but what we are going to introduce is the next generation of user experience on a smartphone where you are always in. You don't need to get out of an app to get into another one. It's a seamless and continuous flow with one's gesture. That will be a very powerful experience. When our fans first, and then customers and prospects see it, they realize how powerful it is.

That's a long answer to your question, but carriers and developers being supportive, a great brand, a strong and healthy financial position and a great product experience to come. And in terms of employees and management, I think we have lots of talent in RIM. We need to make sure we're all focused on the same objective, but that was also very comforting for me. I met many people before I joined... I must have had almost a dozen meetings.

I was very interested in the roll, and now having been four weeks in the company I have had no bad surprises whatsoever, and I'm still confident we are on the right strategy and BlackBerry 10 will be the source for long term success and value creation for our shareholders who are screaming for it.

Q2. What are the first things for you to tackle as CMO?

Frank: The first big thing is to get the marketing plan for the introduction of BlackBerry 10 right. So that's the absolute priority, and I've assembled a team that is composed of functional leads in different areas of marketing, and also I've associated to it all of the country and region marketing leads, and we work as one unified team.

So what I want to do with BB10 is get away from the fragmentation we have today in the management of the brand and our marketing activities so that we can fully leverage our scale and scope globally with the introduction of BB10. So preparing all of the elements of that marketing plan, that is the absolute #1 priority.

At the same time, I'm in building a world-class marketing team. I think we have many talents inside the company, but we are going to have an organization that operates differently and is organized differently (than in the past). So that's my second big task.

The third is to continue to support the growth of BlackBerry 7. We have a portfolio in the market. There are many markets where we have very strong growth, so we need to continue and sustain BB7.

Q3. On that note, do you think there may be any confusion among consumers as BlackBerry 10 marketing ramps up and BlackBerry 7 marketing continues?

Frank: I don't think there will be any confusion as BlackBerry 10 will enter the market at the high end of the smartphone category. And today the vast majority of the BlackBerry 7 portfolio is positioned at the entry segment and mid-range segment.

Q4. One of the areas where the CrackBerry community has been most critical of BlackBerry over the years is in their marketing. Looking back, what kind of scorecard grade would you give them on their efforts?

Frank: First of all, I'm not devoting much time to do a post-mortem of campaigns over the last couple of years in different countries. My high level view on that is that the quality was uneven. There was a lot of fragmentation. And that's it. I'm not going into the specifics of what was the return on a particular campaign, or how it was perceived, etcetera.

I'm focused on moving forward to have a unified approach. The same creative framework across countries will be used for BlackBerry 10 so you won't see that fragmentation again, so hopefully the quality and creative thought will be there and we'll delight our fans. 

Q5. Leading up to BlackBerry 10, who do you feel it's most important to market to right now? Is it the carriers? Is it the end consumers to build back some brand equity, enterprises?

Frank: You market first to the carriers, as the carriers have to test the devices and they have to prepare their own marketing activities. We are speaking to carriers now.

What we want to do immediately after that is to engage directly with the end user, both consumer and enterprise, through different means. With enterprise we can have more direct contact through our sales force.

For consumer the primary audience is our existing users -- we have 78 million BlackBerry users -- so informing them of what is coming in BlackBerry 10, giving them sneak previews of the user experience before the device is actually available will be important. Most of the people buying BlackBerry 10 devices already own a smartphone today and so we will also use mobile marketing quite a lot, to target them on their smartphone. And we know through the surveys we've done that today we have many smartphone users who are not satisfied with their current experience and who will want to migrate to BlackBerry.

Q6. I hear you also have a residence in New York. If you walk into a Verizon store these days it can be difficult to find a BlackBerry. Are you confident we will see US carrier support with launch of BB10?

Frank: First of all, let's address your example of Verizon. Yesterday we've announced a new device with Verizon, and so there is support from the carrier community. I cannot be specific, but we are very engaged with US carriers for the launch of BB10.

And by the way, it's the same in every country. I couldn't name one country where we have carriers telling us not interested. So that's a clear sign of confidence.

And for the BlackBerry 10 introduction, we'll be working with the carriers on a comprehensive program -- joint marketing effort, below the line effort -- so materials for point of sales, upgrade programs, retention programs and etcetera. So that will be a comprehensive effort, for consumer and enterprise.

Q7. So that leads me to my next question, and it's one our community has been asking a lot... if I own a BlackBerry Smartphone today, and I know I'm going to have to wait until 2013 until I can buy a BlackBerry 10 phone, are there going to be incentive programs or trade up programs to make me hold onto my BlackBerry the next six months?

Frank: That's a case-by-case discussion with each and every carrier, so I cannot comment on all of them. [ laughs from both of us ]

Q8. How do we win back the mind share in the US?

Frank: When I look at our US customer base, we still have a very strong fan base across segments -- business people, artists, young people -- we're growing in the pre-paid market as we speak. So it's not like we're not present in the US market. We still have that strong base. The key for us, as soon possible, will be to put that new user experience in their hands, and let them do the marketing so to speak. That will amplify it. That's the way to approach it.

Q9. I'm not sure you're going to have an answer for this one but I'm curious... BlackBerry 10. One of the questions I get asked a lot is Why BlackBerry 10 and what happened to 8 and 9? Then I have to explain to them about BlackBerry and QNX and BBX was the coming together of both names and then there was trademark issue so they couldn't use BBX, so now it's BlackBerry 10. But that's not much of a marketing message. So why BlackBerry 10?

Frank: [ both of us laughing a bit at my run on question as Frank begins to answer ] So I was not in the company so don't know the exact genesis but my interpretation simply is that we were single digit before -- BlackBerry 5, 6, 7 -- and given that it's a change of generation that we go double digits.

Kevin: I like that. So my thoughts were that it's going to get a 10 / 10 on all the reviews.

Frank: Exactly! [ Laughter ]

Kevin: Or I have heard the line in the past couple of weeks that once BlackBerry 10 is to the market it's a platform to build on for the next 10 years.

Frank: Yep, and from a marketing standpoint, 10 is a great number.

Q10. On the topic of loyalty. I'm always a BlackBerry fan. Some days that's easier than others, but I've always maintained my loyalty and want to see BlackBerry succeed. On the other hand, we have seen a lot of users leave BlackBerry (and I get mad that they're not as loyal as me). So what are people loyal to? Is it BlackBerry the brand? Is it the product? Is it the company? Does having a company name like Research In Motion that is separate from the brand, BlackBerry, make people less loyal than say a company like Apple where the brand and company are one and the same? I know that's not a great question... errr.. so how do you build loyalty long term?

Frank: We want to build loyalty around the BlackBerry brand. The mega brand, to use in advertising jargon, is BlackBerry and in all of our marketing activities moving forward you will see the BlackBerry name taking an even more central position than it has in the past in all aspects of marketing and naming.

But fundamentally to your question, the brand is what it does. A brand is what people say when you are not in the room. And that is formed by the user experience. BlackBerry is a great brand because it delivers to you and me a great experience for what we expect from a smartphone. If we continue to deliver that, the brand will continue to be vibrant.

Q11. Is there anything you want to tell our audience of long time BlackBerry fans who are frustrated right now to keep holding on?

Frank: First of all, I want to thank them for being loyal BlackBerry fans and users. The thing I would like to tell them first is that we're putting all of our efforts into developing this next-generation smartphone experience I was talking about so we can delight them once again.

What I intend to do, as soon as practical and possible, is to show them what the experience will be about. Even before the device is available, so that they can realize by themselves that we are really introducing a step change in the smartphone market. So that will be done through digital assets, videos demonstrating what this seamlessness, always-in paradigm will be.

Q12. Last question. If your marketing efforts are successful, a year from now, when people hear the name BlackBerry or see a BlackBerry phone, what do you want people to think? What values do you want the brand to instill in you? I guess what I'm really asking here is... What does BlackBerry mean to you?

Frank: It helps me to get things done, better, faster than any other smartphone.

Reader comments

12 Questions with BlackBerry's new Chief Marketing Officer, Frank Boulben


You know... Just some highlights. If I'm going to grow out my hair until BlackBerry 10 phones hit the market I might as well embrace the challenge.

I'm either going for the Patrick Swayze in Point Break look...

or Hansel from Zoolander...

I can't quite decide which?! Any other CrackBerry readers want to join me on this challenge so I'm not the only one? Seems like maybe there's a marketing play in here... hmm.. maybe Frank has some ideas for us.

Out of the restaurant ... 1 bottle each ... won't take a firm engagement now ... but ... may be solidary ... must ask miss Superfly ...
Cheers CB nation !

Either one would be okay Kevin. We just hope you don't look like cousin "IT" from the Adams Family tv show before they give us BB 10. ;)

RIM should higher a phycologist to be part of their marketing team, i'm sure Apple has one which is why tey are so good at targeting different segments of the human mind

I think you meant a psychologist; a phycologist is someone who studies algae and seaweed.

Apple certainly has a lot more than one psychologist. Phycologists, I wouldn't know.

lol sorry sir i apologize for beign a dumbass, you know what i meant you didn't have to continue on with bullshit

Kinda disappointed in the answer to Q7. I can promise you without incentive from RIM, a provider like TELUS is going to tell me to either go pound sand if I try to upgrade to BB10 devices next year, after only getting my 9860 less than a year ago, or they are going to say "sure you can upgrade, just pay a boat load of money and you can have any phone you want".

RIM has to have some sort of incentive program in place to allow users to upgrade early as well as have companies like TELUS recoup some of their money on phones that were just recently purchased.


I agree completely. The other major problem, which should've been asked somewhere in there, is the problem with 2 year contracts and the fact that many, MANY consumers will be locked into them this fall and winter after the iPhone 5, new Android Nexus phones and Windows Phone 8 are released...Months before BB10. I get what Heins said about a late 2012 release and better carrier position in early 2013, but there's no getting around the HUGE number of contracts that will be signed before then.

I don't think that's RIM issue. You, or anyone who purchased on a 3 year plan, knew that going in. I agree 3 year plans suck, but either you pay higher and get a 1 or 2 year term or you live with the 3. There will always be new phones coming out, regardless what brand you have, and if you in the middle of any contract you have to deal with that. I got my phone on 3yr, a yr ago. I was really hoping for BB10 but it wasn't ready, so I went ahead. I will have to bite the bullet in 2013 if BB10 is really ready, otherwise ride out the term and see what's up in 2014.

The problem is that most people in your position (within contracts, whether 2 or 3 year) will not "bite the bullet". The huge number of new contracts from the iPhone 5 alone, along with the new android and windows phones will mean a huge number of non-buying (potential BB10) consumers in 2013. It's a major bite into the potential BB market and there's no way to put a positive spin on that.

Well, it actually is RIM's issue because if they don't give enough incentive to people to stick around, customers might switch to other OSs. I am not talking about hardcore fans here. I am talking about people who simply need a good competitive product and solid reason to stick around until BB10 shows up.

Couldn't agree with you more. As i die hard blackberry user and fan I was presented with this exact issue. I was eligible for a early free upgrade a month ago with my 9800 dieing on me with dieing battery and os crashing issues. I was faced with a hard option. Stick around waiting for BB10 till next year with a dieing phone. Upgrade to a 9900 and possibly buy a BB10 outright (highly doubtful)most likely adopting BB10 in 2 1/2 years when another upgrade hits. Or go with a newer more competitive platform and come back to blackberry in 2 1/2 years. I went with the last option and upgraded to android, hoping to be back with BB10 next time around. Why I switched and decided not to wait. Lets face it other then browser and better cpu BB7 devices not a major improvement and still behind current competition. Wasn,t going to lock myself into that for another 2 plus years by having the only option out to shell out 600-800 dollars for a new phone come January February. Also I really cant see BB10 be that much better then current android or apple products but finally RIM will have something on an even playing field. Some features might be better but over all equal. Why do I think this, after using my nexus for a month, I like androids multi tasking on ics alot better then any BB i owned and I owned a few over 7 years. Also with my daily usage patterns I find that i am only using on average 10mb more per day with out RIMS data compression. Also don't miss BBM as I have contact with all my old Blackberry friends and family through other great IMS. Its an over all smoother device. It does has its draw backs but not to such determent as other Blackberry fanboys have been saying and making the competition seem. And from what I am seeing from all the BB10 previews other then camera feature and swipe fluid multi tasking, for now thats the only thing worth while. Their swipe up predictive keyboard looks sleek but swift key 3 keyboard on my android rocks and looks easier to us form the vids i have seen from RIM and I can type as fast if not faster. As for Rim being able to run everything at the same time no matter how many apps open because of qnx os, android does the exact same thing, I can run as many apps as I want and switch on the fly. So unfortunately RIM has lost a loyal customer for 2 plus years because I was stuck in a shitty situation without any major incentive to stick it out with RIM currently I want Rim to kill it with their future phones as i am looking to be back rocking a BB10 in 2015 or what ever it will be called by then lol. Sorry for the rant but I didnt want to look like I am trolling I wanted to back up my statement and decision.

First, your argument assumes there are a finite number of people who will purchase smart phones between now and launch. On a global scale, there are millions of people who will be rolling off previous contracts or purchasing a smart phone for the first time in January 2013. The cell phone contract market is a continuously rolling one.

Second, there is going to be a fair number of enthusiasts and people tired of their existing phone who will simply break their contracts to upgrade (I know its not rational, but it happens). A smart phone among gen-y/x has become the most important item they carry. When you leave the house you check for 3 items; keys, wallet, phone. People are willing to pay top dollar for the best in technology because a smart phone has become such a weapon of utility, especially BB10!

I agree that it's a rolling market, but it's a little naive to simply discount the impact the iPhone 5, next Android Nexus and Windows Phone 8 will have on buyers who might otherwise wait for BB10. I'm on your side and have no problem breaking my contract and spending more to get BB10 (I'll probably get both the touchscreen and qwerty at the same time), but the buying pool will be much smaller after the holiday season with the fierce competition. Of course there will still be buyers, but nowhere near what it could've been.

Totally agree as the reality is their is only a handful of people that can justify or have the means to buy phones for full pop once a year or even twice like yourself. For the vast majority we depend on the carriers substantial subsidies with a multi year contract to get that high end current device. Currently that phone is the SGIII, come fall it will be the iphone 5 come holiday season it will be the new nexus device. Hopefully come Jan Feb it will be the BB10.

My current iPhone 4 contract ends in October however I'm planning to stay out of contract and wait until bb10 phones hit the market and then decide what my next phone will be. Never had BlackBerry phone before but bought Playbook recently and really liked hardware and the OS. So, there are people like me who's a bit bored by Android and iOS and will be interested in alternatives as long as those alternatives are good enough. If bb10 phone doesn't meet my expectations I will get a new iPhone in Feb or March, 2-3 month wait is not a big deal at all especially knowing that new iPhone is not gonna be so much better than my current handset.

RIM has trade up programs for older devices onto BB7 and I imagine they will have similar programs for BB10 but even they cannot get you out of a contract.

The trade-ups to BB7 devices are not aggressive enough. RIM itself should subsidize or cover the expense of buying a BB7 device at "full price," thereby enabling you to keep your upgrade eligibility with your carrier. That way, when BB10 is released, you then can upgrade via your carrier.

Every CrackBerry post has comments from users who are torn on whether to exercise their upgrade option now or hold out until BB10. RIM's rapidly losing share in the U.S., and since lost share equals lost revenue anyway, RIM should eat it on the hardware and do all it can to maintain these subscribers--at least in the U.S. 2012 is already a lost year for RIM with users wary of investing in lame-duck BB7 devices. Therefore, the company should do all it can to move units and keep these subscribers.

No one forces you to sign a contract. You could have gone to a different service provider and do monthly or buy the phone outright. Yeah, it might suck that you're not going to be past your one year upgrade mark but that's just how it goes. With that noted, I'm switching from Telus. Their service downtown Vancouver sucks.

Totally agree. RIM needs to do something to stop the bleeding and show customers that they care. Simply leaving to the carriers will not work. I am not sure what carriers are telling RIM but from what I see in the stores, tells a very different story and that is, carriers don't care. Blackberry phones are not even displayed properly, you have to specifically ask for them. Also, RIM needs to offer really good deals. The phone plan recently announced on Verizon wireless was a joke. Who would signup for $80 dollar plan for two years for that phone? RIMM is doing good job in developing countries because their plans are quite attractive. Here, in North America, they are not giving enough incentive to customers to buy BB phones. At this point, Other OSs are better, atleast that's what most consumers think, so only aspect left to attract customers is price.

Why should they? What's wrong with your device? I'm just as loyal as CB-Kevin (maybe even more) and I don't think I deserve one because I stuck with them. I don't care if I purchase a new BB7 the day before BB10 launch (if I can afford it) I'll buy it (in support of RIM). My $0.02

When my contract came up last sept I got my 9900 on a 12m contract and told Vodafone I am waiting for BB10 when they called last month to discuss upgrades. Nope, as stated, it is not an issue for RIM as the market is always in motion. Think of all the iPhone 4s users with 2yr contracts ending after BB10 is released..........

WindMobile, Mobilicity both don't have contracts and offer a tab if you want to subsidize the cost of the phone. If you leave them, you settle the remaining balance of the tab.

I switched from telus and haven't looked back since. Oh and fuck their 4G false advertising. It's still 3G.

I would carry the 9900 everyday in my back pocket but for the fact it doesn't sync my Hotmail calendar, nor will it sync Office 365 (AFAIK) when the company moves to it shortly. I know I could pay $50 and have Hotmail syncing but I don't believe I should have too.

I expect BB10 to sync this stuff as my Playbook can, but the question still remains around Office 365.

My Torch 9800 is synced with Office 365 along with my Playbook. Git er done!
Actually, our office has 3 9800s and one 9900 along with 4 Playbooks on Office 365.

Good interview Kevin! It sounds like a solid marketing plan. That will be good for a change. Bring it on.

Blackberry OS 8 = Playbook OS 1
Blackberry OS 9 = Playbook OS 2
Blackberry OS 10 = Playbook OS 3

In my mind at least

Exactly what I was thinking.

In the world of windows:

Windows 1.x
Windows 2.x
Windows 3.x
Windows 4.x (NT 4.x SP1/2/3/4/5/6, 95. 98, 99/ME)
Windows 5.x (NT 5/2000 SP1/2/3/4, XP SP1/2/3/4, MCE)
Windows 6.x (Vista SP1/2/3/4)
Windows 7 (windows 7 SP1/2/3/4)
Windows 8 (unknown)

Same for DOS, (which has a ton of different versions/forks/editions up to 10.0 for some) which is still in windows as the command prompt, but inaccessible if windows crashes and you're flunked out. 95 and 98, maybe ME had DOS 7.x. Windows Vista and 7 have 6.x, Windows XP and 2000 under the name, Windows-DOS.

Other OS's are different in their own terms.

just talked to my cousin that is a big gun hardware engineer at RIM and they are ALL convinced BB10 will be a grand slam for RIM

he told me not to look hope in Blackberry and when i told him i'm waiting for my BB10 device he told me he loves me :P

I'm not fully satisfied with question number 5. I realize that retention is important but I wish greater exposure to new and potential customers had a greater emphasis.

i would think the initial launch should be targeted to existing Blackberry users. if anything they should be keeping those that are on the brink happy and keep them with the brand, doing this will give them a boost in sales enough to bring a good cash flow and eventually market out to other users and try to win them from other brands.

winning over a person that has left a brand because they are unhappy with it is a big task and a task that will take more time in the market to do.

it took apple 3 years to start winning over blackberry users to their platform and they started from no users, where blackberry already has an established user base that should be kept happy with their experiences

"It helps me to get things done, better, faster than any other smartphone. "
The guy got it: go Frank !
& thks Kevin ;-)

First: thanks for a great interview, Kevin; glad you asked the hard yet important questions!

Second: so excited to see Frank answered all the questions in this interview. I have been waiting for a long time for RIM to have an awesome CMO! Good to see the marketing team coming together; All the best to Frank and his marketing team!

Glad to see growth of BB7 is also a priority recognizing there are many users with basic phones who need to switch to BB7; latest Verizon and RIM announcement says: ``The BlackBerry Curve 9310 is a slim and easy-to-use smartphone ready to help customers make the move from a basic phone to a smartphone.``

#BeBold 9900 + PlayBook #BlackBerryByChoice

Great, RIM just got hit with a $147.2M patent infringment lawsuit. Stock to trade down another $0.20 on Monday.

Oh well. Just another buying opportunity.

Q8. How do we win back the mind share in the US?

Some ideas:

1. Get the retail sales excited with BB7 and train them how to sell BB7 to those customers upgrading from basic phone; train them so they know BB7 features including touch screens, etc.; customers who need good solid secure messaging and cell phone must walk away with a BB7. Maybe run a contest: weekly or monthly or quarterly sales performer awards!

2. How about a referral rewards for BB fans? Fans can earn some reward points when customers try or test a BB and fill out a feedback form; they get *lots* of reward points when customers buy BB. Maybe free accessories?

Good Luck!

#BeBold 9900 + PlayBook #BlackBerryByChoice

I have an idea as far as incentives. Since the answer to Q7 was basically that it's up to carriers, RIM could offer 10 free apps (in honor of bb10) to any exixting blackberry 7 customer that purchases a BB10 device and logs in with their BBID.

THIS is a great idea!!! Or maybe instead of "10 free apps" maybe make it have a dollar value attached? A credit in appworld would be awesome, especially if they DO have good quality apps... It would also help word of mouth because all these people would have killer apps...

Yes! absolutely terrific interview with Frank. A big thank you goes out to Kevin! you do look a little 70s porn star-ish, but it's a good look. I am absolutely upbeat about BlackBerry 10 doing well. Looks like the upgrades will be all for the benefits to the end user. Can't wait!

I agree with most of what he says but I still don't think he has any idea what goes on in VZW. He needs to put on a polo n cargo shorts, walk in and see what happens. There's a lot of work to be done. Advertising in the US has to be completely different than anywhere else. It's looking like we the faithful are gonna still have to show the rest what the experience is all about.....I'm built to do just that^

Maybe send Frank to mobile stores as a sales rep (just like Undercover Boss) to see the reality. Find out which brand most sales rep know the most and what they are pushing to sell to customers. Then, he can figure out a sales and marketing strategy that works!

#BeBold 9900 + PlayBook #BlackBerryByChoice

I think there's a disconnect between what the corporate side of carriers say they want and what retail locations actually do. Carriers supposedly are tired of Apple's heavy-handedness and high margins, which likely wouldn't be possible without the carrier's hefty subsidies. At the corporate AT&T store I visited a few months ago, it seemed like, unless you knew exactly what you were going to buy, they would steer you to an iPhone. I thought it might be based on commission incentives or kickbacks tied to iPhone sale, but after thinking about it, I suspect it comes down to support. I'd wager that iPhones have the lowest return-rate among leading smartphones. Those stores don't want you coming back unless it's to buy an accessory or to sign up another user.

RIM can't bank on these retail stores pushing BB10 devices. AT&T trained sales staff, put out a lot of advertising, and even gave the staff Lumia 900s as their work phones, and we can see how well that phone has done... RIM should take a more brute-force approach and get some evangelists into the stores. Or, figure out a less carrier-dependent way to get BB10 out there.

Agree RIM cannot rely on carriers to do the selling alone. I was in a Costco club last May and the sales reps were pushing Android. They did not even ask about my needs first. I was told they had zero units sold for Lumia 900 since it was released and WP7 will not work with Windows 8. As for BB, they only know the negative things the media is saying and have very little knowledge what it is good for.

#BeBold 9900 + PlayBook #BlackBerryByChoice

Kevin, I use to have a huge afro about 2 years ago, I havent had a haircut in about 2 months. I think I may join you in growing out my fro until BB10.

Just give them candy and stupid stuff, they'll fall for it. Oh and a bunch of misleading advertisement, this is not illegal in the US, is done all the time. Example: on all newspapers tell them that BB10 will be available on launch date for 1 cent, and on the tini tini words put only 1 per store. That would do it. But the letters must be unreadable so they focus on the 1 cent BB10 offer to get them to the store and buy it or see it. Oh and show how well it plays games, don't bother about apps to do work, most people in the US just buy smartphones to play games and chat. Hey you can even advertise it as the best phone to play games ever. That would put BB10 number 1 in no time.

Very interesting confidence boosting interview. Although I might have a different view on why Rim decided to launch 10 @ the most unusual time in the beginning of the year. Personally I don't think it has to do with sales, holidays or back to school events. Obviously, Rim is fully aware of this fact. Rim continually mentions that this is going to be a ten yrs project and an evolving platform. I think the sole reason rim is launching beginning of the year is simply to test how the new platform is working and operating globally. I think this is more important then anything else. To see how well rim global infrastructure is handling the new platform with its customers. This new os is bound is have unforseen issues and the less amount of users involves easier to correct.

I believe 10 will work, but there will be bugs I can see this coming. It's one of those inevitabilities with new software. It cannot be avoided. And if you caters to berry loyalists in the beginning they will be more forgiving than the average user. If Rim presents a solid os with minimal issues, they will have strong product in the long run. The unusual launch date is ideal for Rim, and I for one, understand it now. It's the only thing that makes any sense at this point. To get the new platform selling is critical but it's smooth run out of the gates, as they say, seems to me is much more important as this will determine the future of 10. As the expression goes, first impressions are everything.


Great Q/A session Kevin. Like a few individuals commented on here earlier, the only concerns/problems I have come from answers 5 and 7. I think they need to focus on the end user. Sure, if they put out a solid device, it will get some publicity and even carrier support as far as marketing goes. But at the end of the day, the end user has to want that product. Better yet, the end user needs to be convinced it needs this product. I love the 78 million total being brought up consistently but if I'm not mistaken, that was the same user total last quarter. Whatever marketing campaign gets put out there has to beat us in the head over and over again as to why BB10 has created a new standard/floor that smartphones have to reach in order to be comparable.

As for the upgrade, work with the carriers to make it easy to upgrade. You need revenue and new sales. Some sort of upgrade plan will resonate well with the public.


The difficult, we do immediately. The impossible takes a little while longer.

Nice interview Kevin. To Boulben, I am going to be blunt. A device and OS means nothing without content: apps, video, books, music and so forth. Currently, App World falls way short in this ecosystem comparison.

All of the upcoming popular apps show up on iOS and Android first. Microsoft is ramping up quickly with $$$ to developers. So Frank, as CMO, what is your game plan ($$$$) to bring the latest and greatest apps to BBOS 10?

Noticing the cool hip way execs dress when they take the stage to promote the business phone Blackberry makes me think a name change is in order cause when you think Blackberry you think business not the fun smartphone aptly named like Apple or Android and since that's how BB specialists are trained to market your product but your execs want to take to the stage and try to look like a hip Steve Jobs then they kinda need to sell a hip product not a business class smartphone so here are some name change suggestions:

1) Crackers
2) CherryBerry
3) BatmanBerry
4) PipeDream
5) SunnySideUP

So the point is Blackberry has already become synonymous with business through years of marketing to think that you can change now from the business class smartphone to the fun smartphone is ludicrous stay in the business class you don't have the apps to compete with the big boys and your device ain't the easiest to use.

The only way you gonna be like Apple is if you sell to apple don't lose your identity.

lmao... What's up with you and your run-on sentences?! Did you pass grade four? If you're going to troll the least you can do is learn how to construct a proper sentence... mental midget.

I bet these interviews just burn geller. True accomplishments kevin. Certainly your loyalty is paying its returns. Best of luck to RIM and it's community. On a side note....celebrity death match bgr and kevin? Anyone? Hello MTV?

Good interview, a bit powder puffish, but good nonetheless.

I have to say that the answer to #3 has to be the dumbest answer a RIM exec could possibly give.

By stating that the BlackBerry 7 devices are "entry" or "mid-level" devices whereas the BB10 devices will be the high end this CMO is basically relegating those that choose remain with BBOS 7 to the"technology ghetto"

These are still RIMs paying customers and to me that seems to be an asinine position for someone responsible for marketing the brand to take.

No, RIM has emphasized the OS7 will be vigorously supported for the rest of its life cycle, which will overlap BB10's for a while. So no. not a "ghetto" for quite some time to come.

Just because a device will be deemed mid level in a few months doesn't mean we can paraphrase the CMO to the degree of using the terminology "technological ghetto". I don't believe that to be a fair interpretation.

"I don't think there will be any confusion as BlackBerry 10 will enter the market at the high end of the smartphone category. And today the vast majority of the BlackBerry 7 portfolio is positioned at the entry segment and mid-range segment."

Smartphones with BlackBerry 7

BlackBerry™ Bold® 9900/9930
BlackBerry™ Bold® 9790
BlackBerry™ Torch® 9850/9860
BlackBerry™ Torch® 9810
BlackBerry™ Curve® 9350/9360/9370
BlackBerry™ Curve® 9310

Seems to be a pretty accurate statement, depending on which BB7 phones you consider to be "high-end". No offense to anyone's phone of choice, but when I look at that list, I would consider the 9900 and 9810 to be high end and the rest, a majority, are entry and mid-range...

Didn't realize that RIM no longer considers BB7 to be a premium OS. Kinda makes me think they won't spend too much money on it, it would suck to have just bought a BB7 device, have a 3 year contract (ah ah Canada!), and realize that they'll be next to no apps for it.

Then again, Heins calls the iPhone "entry level" as well, so maybe Heins and this guy have different definitions.

"And today the vast majority of the BlackBerry 7 portfolio is positioned at the entry segment and mid-range segment."

He is right, the vast majority of the BB7 portfolio are positioned at the entry/mid-range segment and this is nothing new. In general, the current BB7 breaksdown as:

High End
Bold 9900/9930

Bold 9790
Torch 9810/9850/9860

Entry Level
Curve 9350/9360/9370/9380/9220/9320

So, with only two models as the high end, it is true that the vast majority of the BB7 portfolio is the entry/midrange segment. So, why are you acting surprised? Once BB10 comes out, the two launch devices are going to be the high end devices so that means ALL of the BB7 devices at that point will be entry/mid-range level devices. Welcome to the world of technology.

Let me restate my point: in 7-8 months, when BB10 launches, then of course it will eclipse BB7. No problem with that.

However, let's consider today: today, RIM needs to be selling BB7 devices, and it needs to be selling "high end" devices, especially in North America where it makes a bigger profit from these "high end" devices. And from their recent marketing efforts and previous comments, we know that RIM considers BB7 a high end OS, especially when combined with Bold devices.

But: when you have the CEO and the marketing dude going around and proudly stating that whenever BB10 comes out, those devices will be "premium", and basically anything BB7 will become the pink slime that remains at the bottom of a meat processing plant's dumpster (I am paraphrasing), then it makes me think twice about getting in my car tomorrow and buying a Bold 9900. Maybe I'll just wait for BB10. Or maybe get something else. And that won't help sales for RIM right at this moment, especially for the more profitable Bolds.

So that was my point: by making somewhat careless and callous comments about the future of BB7, it just makes me think twice about getting myself into a long term contract right at this moment with a Bold, especially if no one will likely develop for BB7 after BB10 comes out.

I think there should still be apps made for BB7 because emerging markets may not (on the whole) be able to afford the top tier BB10 phones; there are still millions of people who will want a BB7 device.

I'm having huge issue with my Torch9800 at the moment, and only the anticipation of BB10 is stopping me from moving up to a 9860. It's a tough wait, but I'm sure we all agree it'll be worth it.

That was one of the major reasons I passed on a BB7 device when I got my free upgrad last month and needed something as my 9800 was on its last legs. I went android for my current term as I am not going to chance BB7 becoming another BB6 no new major apps, all being developed for BB7. The same thing will happen to 7 when 10 hits. Frank can say all he wants that BB7 will be supported for years to come but once developers see how easy it is to program for BB10 they arent going to bother and program for ealrlier BB OSs. Then what. Their is a reason why ios has most apps. Zero to none fragmengation easy to write code for unlike android and rim which have to many phones and os's currently out their.

Next time you meet him ask when BB will market existing phones in other countries (Israel for example) and when he will start meet developers around the world to encourage them to start develop for BB.

Without good customer foundation for existing phones, BB will disappear from the market soon.

I'm impressed with the in-depth answers. I like the fact the he is working to reduce the fragmentation in the marketing efforts as it will lead to better and more efficient marketing.

This article didn't make me feel too much better as it still seems somewhat like the same old RIM. He keeps talking about marketing to "our fans". I love my BB and I fully intend to get a BB 10 device. But as a "fan", I'm already sold . The reason Apple and Android are doing so well is they can market all they can do and why they are the better/best choice. They don't market to current users, they market to show you why you want to be using their product. That's what RIM needs to do . His last statement is the best way to market, in my opinion. You need to get across to everyone, fans and pundits alike, that BB10 is the best smartphone user experience, period. The funny thing is, I don't even think RIM has to go that far. All they really need is a "Yeah, we can do that too." moniker and they will be fine. The biggest knock on BB is folks talking about what a BB can't do. BB doesn't have to be the #1 smartphone to be successful. Getting it into the hands of fans is a great way to market. Afterall, when you think about it, that's how they got to market initially. You had business users who wanted the device as their non-work phone and would show off its capabilities thus making other folks want the device too. But they need to focus on specific segments when they market.

The consumer market, as a whole, doesn't care about the lightning fast messaging. You will not sell a phone because you can instantly get emails but you cannot play Words with Friends. The cool timewarp camera feature will mean little if you can't post that pic with Instagram (and Android already has an app to do the same thing.) Consumers have shown they want a desktop like web experience, and apps galore. BB already does messaging, email, and multiptasking better than the others, so no need to focus on that as that is a primary draw for business users and "Blackberry People.". You have to go after the skeptics and those who always argue that "Blackberry doesn't ......." and show them Blackberry does. You have to convey that Blackberry does have a destop like web experience with Flash capability (which iPhone doesn't but Android does). Yes, Blackberry does have the top 100 apps available for Andoroid and/or Apple. Yes, Blackberry does do Instagram, Netflix, Skype, Angry Birds, and the other top apps. You don't need 300,000 apps, but the top apps, you must have. (Yes, I realize that is not really a marketing issue, but if it does it, you have to sell that fact.). If you can't convey that...if BB10 can't do that, then RIM can call it quits consumer wise. You have to go after those who are not curently users. Figure a way to tell any and everyone why they should use a Blackberry. You need to be able to show that whatever it is you want your smartphone to do, Blackberry just gets it done.

I currently use a 9800 and a Playbook. I am waiting anxiously for my BB10 smartphone, and I really want RIM to get this right.

It's all about execution from the first spoken word to ads to delivery. Word of mouth will also be a very big deal.

You nailed it. RIMs current run of be bold commercials are boring compared to the ads for the GSIII. Its like watching and listening to that one boring proff in college that every one cringed to listen to, you just wanted to fall asleep as his or hers slow monatone drowl of a voice and lack of any life let alone excitment instantly took the zest for anything right out of you.

To be honest my impressions from the interview with Mr. Boulben are exactly same as impressions from interviews with Thorsten Heins. This means they are VERY mixed.

Anyway I would like to bring RIM's CMO attention to this article http://www.lfpress.com/comment/2012/07/13/19984711.html. After all the bashing finally comes someone who brings RIM advice from the heights of heaven! From the Jesus himself.

All advices/tips contained in the article may be not so well-meant since the author– (respectable?) pastor of Faith Pentecostal Assembly in Glencoe – uses also word NORTEL in his essay. /See another recent RIM article on the server which has word KODAK straight in the headline/.

Unlike the holy man I think that carriers (BTW quite used word from RIM executives), enterprises and last (but NOT LEAST!!!) end consumers would after a REALLY long wait appreciate wider choice than ONE full touch and ONE qwerty device.

Average consumer (me included) expects 1) cool/unique design, 2) fair price, 3) reasonable functionality and 4) proportionate marketing. If RIM fails one of these aspects WIDER portfolio of devices could help eliminate possible losses from the unsuccessful device.

I haven't noticed that SAMSUNG or Nokia reduce their phone portfolios. I would recommend RIM to do the same instead of trying copy APPLE strategy. Many things have changed since original Apple's success. Moreover, when two do the same, it isn't the same.


Here is the winning formula for BB10. Make sure the devices are zippy even with a decent amount of apps. Please do your best to eliminate the hour glass and "stasis" moments.

Once you have the OS running to that speed, make your ad messaging about Speed. Why is it that I have to show my iPhone friends their device is slow at emails, messages, etc?

RIM needs to make Push a Big deal but not calling it Push just highlight the speed. Honestly I get my emails near real time, this is a huge selling point that is seemingly lost in the sauce.

If the product is strong enough I would even go as far to make ads that make fun of the old school Mac / PC ads staring Justin Long and John Hodgman. People would remember this and it would be BOLD!