Frank Boulben talks on BlackBerry 10 and rebuilding the BlackBerry brand

By Adam Zeis on 18 Dec 2012 08:46 am EST

Frank Boulben has been the CMO at RIM for just around six months now. He's had a tough job to do getting the BlackBerry brand back on top, but has taken huge strides the last few months leading up to BlackBerry 10.  Kevin had a chance to sit down with Frank back in July as he explained his plan for marketing BB10, and he seems to have stuck with it. His big priority was to get the launch of BlackBerry 10 right and so far he's stood by that. Frank has a great drive for rebuilding the BlackBerry brand and making BlackBerry 10 a great success.

When asked what's needed to "overhaul the BlackBerry brand", Frank notes that it all starts with the customer.  "We need to be absolutely clear about which customers we intend to serve, and why we are going to serve them better than the competition". The BlackBerry people are about getting things done, being hyper-connected and being multitaskers. "They want to do on their smartphone what you do at your desk". 

BlackBerry 10 has been optimized to answer these needs "better than any smartphone out there", but changing the perception of BlackBerry is also needed. While Frank says there is still brand loyalty, he knows that BlackBerry 10 needs to be huge to bring back potential customers. A big part of the marketing strategy is showing rather than telling. RIM has been out in full force showing off BlackBerry 10 devices face-to-face with celebrities and media to help spread the experience and get the word out. "You see the sentiment about BlackBerry 10 building very positiviely everywhere". 

The challenge of getting consumers to use BlackBerry 10 and help build the buzz begins with showing off the new devices, then moves to things like digital marketing and social media. This includes online videos for big features like the new BlackBerry keyboard and BlackBerry Hub - amplified versions of what is being shown in face-to-face meetings. 

Frank also says a huge part of BlackBerry 10 is BlackBerry Balance (it's pretty awesome). It eliminates the need for two devices and also allows users freedom to use personal and work items easily on one device. "We are the only one with such an elegant way of managing both sides of your life". Part of the campaign is not only showing, but also educating users on just what can be done on the new software.

As we hit the final weeks before the BlackBerry 10 launch, Frank says we'll see advertising that puts the "product experience" of BlackBerry 10 at the core. He notes that RIM is true to their "BlackBerry DNA" but will take things to the next level with BlackBerry 10. "To be participating in what could be the greatest comeback in tech history is very appealing".

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Frank Boulben talks on BlackBerry 10 and rebuilding the BlackBerry brand


That may be true, and it appears BlackBerry has a solid plan moving forward with BB 10. But there are still some vital components which haven't been mentioned:
1. BlackBerry needs to establish the strongest immersive relationship with salespeople in the history of the industry. The worst case scenario is a salesperson saying "I don't know anything about the new BlackBerry. I recommend an iPhone or Android instead". In addition to the standard sell sheet, place a device in the hands of every BB10 front line salesperson in the world. Set up a website where they can share their favorite things about the platform. Offer prizes for doing so. Offer quarterly sales incentives to effectively move product.
2. Set up eye-catching displays in retail stores heralding the new BB10. Just as Apple and it's authorized retailers are well aware of, presentation is key. Don't get lost in the crowd. Stand out!
3. Having a BB10 device carried by some celebrities is a good idea. Having them carried by people you see daily is equally important. On the set of the morning show on my local TV station, the 3 hosts each have a McCafe coffee cup in front of them. That product placement is seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers. BlackBerry needs a similar strategy in every nook and cranny around the globe.
4. Use social media in a meaningful, effective manner. BlackBerry's Facebook page is currently the perfect opportunity for people to leave vile comments or post their pin. BlackBerry needs to hire a social media PR company to filter those comments and keep posters on topic. Molson Coors does it (as do a lot of major companies). It's surprising BlackBerry does not.

Anything else they're missing?

Your last point is particularly pertinent.

I follow BB on FaceBook but the comments against each wall posting are just filled with BB PIN requests, which is frankly bizarre. In other words the comment section is utterly unusuable, creepy and unpleasant. It badly needs cleaning up as the presentational image this must send to visitors to the BB FB page, not just me, is not at all complimentary about BlackBerry. This part of the public company looks a partly childish, amateur hour and partly like an on-line knocking shop. It ain't good at all.

Could someone please make Mr Boulben et al aware that pushing the name of the OS so forcefully is allowing tech "journalists" to give the impression that BB10 is the name of the _phones_? Hanging L-, N-, or whatever-other-series names out there - which are internal names anyway and shouldn't be public - isn't going to help RIM's case in the public eye, it just adds to the confusion.

If that confuses someone than maybe BlackBerry isn't the phone for them. I mean come on really?

I think everyone will be very aware that this is a totally rebuilt BlackBerry. People probably will refer to it as a BlackBerry10 phone. This is good. Right away it tells you that its not just another BlackBerry. Its a BlackBerry10 phone. Something new. Something different. This isn't your Daddys BlackBerry. This is BlackBerry10.

I love to hear Frank talk about RIM, so focused on where they are and where they want to go. Jennifer had a pleasant smile at times, which tells me she was also taken by Franks unbreakable belief in what he is doing.

BB10 looks so good in the hand in this photo! The last BIG excitement for me about RIM was the buildup for the release of the Playbook and I'm feelin' it again!

Shareholders are wise to invest in great management teams. I feel like RIM has a great line-up of highly visible and capable people on their roster. Mr. Boulben is no exception. I thought he was very direct in his answers and pointed out what I feel are the main reasons to keep faith in a successful BB10 launch.

1) He gave props to the large community of fans. There are many BlackBerry loyalists, even on other platforms, that are waiting to upgrade to BB10.

2) Defining the market segment. The intention is not to create universal appeal. It's to maximize the experience for hyper-connected, communication-comes-first user. 1/3 of the smartphone market is a respectable goal. I think this is an important distinction from WP8, which I think struggles to define its segment.

3) Carrier support. If Boulben is as effective as he should be in shaping carrier perception, making partnerships, and leveraging carrier marketing to support BB10, it could be a huge advantage over WP8. Samsung has been gaining ground on Apple largely because they've marketed the hell out of their products. They gained enough mindshare that Apple is not longer the first and only choice in a smartphone. I rarely see a carrier commercial for anything other than an Android device. Any iPhone or WP8 commercials are funded primarily by the deep pockets of Apple and Microsoft. Hopefully BlackBerry/RIM can create an advantage of carrier support in marketing their products.

+1. Your comment in regards to WP8 is spot on. It's a product without a readily definable customer base. Sort of explains why it never really takes off.

That WP8 comment caught my eye too. Though WP8 is starting to gain traction - but that's proof of the immaturity of the mobile market as it is. But i digress, i do like how well they have defined their target market. It means they can focus and have clear goals. That should make BB10 a success in the long run.


Excellent analysis especially on point 3). This is absolutely correct. Carrier sentiment and marketing has to be on the side of RIM for BB10 to be as successful as we all hope. I think Frank is uniquely positioned to make the case with carriers from his prior experience with Orange.

So far we've seen pictures of the L-Series, we've seen videos of the operating system in action, We've seen some cool features and heard positive reviews.

So my question is what's left to be announced ? Seems like everything has "leaked" already.

Bla1ze we know you have seen more but have you seen it all? Also,is there a WOW factor that we havnt seen?

I've spoke to my lawyer and answering my questions does not break your NDA....pinky swear.

Well, we already know that the Crackberry staff is not under NDA, Kevin confirmed this, so we can stop beating that dead horse. The reason he's not leaking the info that he knows is because if you start blabbing about things that aren't supposed to be public knowledge, pretty soon people stop telling you things.

I for one believe him when he says there will be new things announced. Best get ready!

I don't believe we've seen even a quarter of what the device is capable of doing. Sure, we've seen how it works and a few apps, but imo that's nothing compared to whatever else is going to be showcased.


So far no leaks about N series, so i think the BIG surprise will be the N series. Remember, both devices will be announced together.

Live Long and Prosper!

I am now of the view that if the on-screen keyboard is as good as it seems to be, I can live without a physical keyboard. After many years.

My "inside sources" tell me that at the Launch event RIM will reveal that both the L and N series have a unique print money innovation.

This interview beats just about every other keynote, interview or launch presentation I have watched from other smartphone brands. Direct and clear answers, no arrogance or exaggeration. Perfect.

lol, did you miss the announcement? That's what the countdown counter on the top of the CrackBerry front page is for ;-)

Welcome back to earth my friend... How was mars? Is it true that aliens do experiments with your body? Please let us know ;-)

Are you sure that 15 minute interview wasn't also a paid ad?

She certainly didn't give him any tough questions.

Mr Boulben certainly knows his stuff.

This guy keeps getting better with each interview. Like other posters have said, I like is direct, respectful and no nonsense style. He comes across as a guy in complete control of what he has to accomplish and a true professional. This is great to see as we get closer to the official launch of BB10.

wait am I the only one that heard 77 apps????????????? did he mean 77'000 apps or really 77. WTF. I heard RIM was planing on 100'000 on release

I heard 77 too. This is a cause for concern. If it is 77 apps at launch. It's what initially turned me off the playbook.
It was an excellent product truly innovative.... The bridge for example I found to be the best use of connecting both the bb mobile and tablet seamlessly. But there were no apps that were of interest to me.

I really hope after all this time this mistake is not repeated.

I had no problem hearing 77,000. There is nothing revelational about this number. Since late November, RIM has acknowledged that they had approximately 70K of native Apps with another 30k of ported android apps already in the bank. I doubt they will have any problem hitting 100K. My guess is somewhere between 120K to 150k at launch.

He did NOT say 77,000. I was surprised when I thought I heard 77. So, I went back and listened again. Sure enough, 77.

Obviously, they will have WAY more than 77 apps. I suspect he might have meant 77 MAJOR big name applications, 77 "must have" apps. (A little off topic, I haven't seen or heard anything about netflix on BB10, and I have to wonder if that's a bad sign.)

How many apps will be available at launch for BB10? I think I read somewhere their goal is around 100,000 apps. I would start with the number of apps on playbook. Many or most of those should be available for BB10 at launch. I would think there will also be some new additions to that list from major names and other developers. We'll see.

Quite frankly, your comments are getting silly. The thousand is quite audible to rest of the non trolling universe.

Do you seriously believe there would be 77 apps? Get a grip, man. Sheesh. Clearly you either heard it wrong, it was his accent or he misspoke.

Pretty sure I read a tweet from Blackberrydev that they are well over 100k apps already. They just gained 4k more in a weekend at the portathon.

Yea, I'm not going to knock him or blackberry. I just hope they have a good selection of apps, that will bring me back.

I need 4 things:
1. Google Search App
2. Youmail Visual Voicemail App
3. A decent call blocking app
4. Wifi calling

I heard him misspeak as well, but do you really think Blackberry will release a device with only 77 apps, knowing how they have courted devs over the last year?

CEO/CMO (Bosses in general) interviews usually bore me but this one had my eyes stuck to the whole video! He kept it real & definitely left the impression that RIM is now being taken cared of by the right people. The hype for BlackBerry 10 is growing & I'm doing my hardest to promote it in my own little ways & the feedback from fellow Filipinos have been very good so far! This is indeed the biggest comeback for a tech company! BlackBerry ruled the market before so I am pretty sure it will be back to where it should be: Top 1! Slowly but surely! :)


Watched this earlier this morning. As most have noted, it was a decent interview. Sure some of the questions were softball questions, but I think most of the hardball questions have already been answered by Thorstein.

She is clearly an iphone user. When he was explaining things that bb10 can do that others can't she just kept saying "sure", "sure" as if she didn't believe him or was discounting his opinion as fanboyism.

Great interview.
I like the fact the he DOES answer the questions instead of being vague about the WHAT and the HOW. And he does it precisely and efficiently.
This guy get things done period!

No offense, but I also heard 77 apps. Not that I believe it, but I heard it, and when I did, I had to play it a few times and it seems to me that he did say 77apps.

With that said, I think it is safe to say that he misses spoke considering that they average more than that at every jam they do.

I just hope that other sites don't turn this into an "official announcement " that BB10 will have 77 apps at launch.

No offense taken but the "thousand" is quite audible. Perhaps you're not used to how the french soften the "th" sound in their oral conversations. Perhaps you should just listen a bit more closely.

i heard "seventy-thousand"... but then again, i work around a fair number of folks with french accents.

Is it just me or is this the first time something positive has come out of that "RIM is dead/going to die, abandon ship" Doom heralding website called Forbes??? Ps don't kill me if I'm wrong:) Blackberry FTW!!

I heard him say over 70,000 apps.

I liked how he added developers to her list of customer types that RIM is reaching out to.

Boulben was definitely impressive in this interview and was spot on with each answer. I do wonder about the carrier marketing and how it will relate to commercials and in-store signage,etc. For instance, Apple has a bigass "section" blocked off in EVERY store with the apple devices, and ALL of the other devices have always been lumped together. I think it'd be totally awesome to have a BlackBerry section in these stores and carrier commercial marketing that is directed by BlackBerry, not so much highlighting what Verizon or ATT can do for you. Verizon is guilty of pumping "4GLTE+Verizon is the best" more than the brand/model of android devices in the commercials

Let me answer that question Jennifer, I'm not embarrassed to use a blackberry now a days. Blackberry by choice!!!! Then I would get up and and walk away and the camera would catch me walking away in slow motion and she explodes like at the end of every Power Ranges zord battle.

That is far and away the most exciting and positive interview I have seen or heard on BB10. It was dynamite, and explained a really clever marketing strategy perfectly; a stepwise process of getting the User Experience out to the famous and influential fans, to fans and the target audience, to Carriers and to enterprise users.

It is abundantly clear the RIM understand just how important their incredible BB fans are; they absolutely get it and are using it to their advantage. This is something you often see suggested in the forums here and by jingo, RIM are doing it.

The logic being applied to developing and marketing BB10 is very clear from this -they know who they need to target and they really do understnad what turned people off BB in the past. "Let us tell you what we have done to fix that particular irritation..."

Dear Lord, that was so impressive and I am ridiculously happy to have heard this interview. RIM is in great, safe hands. It may all go pear-shaped and BB10 may bomb, but that will not be for having a clueless team at the wheel. Listening to this guy tells you he is worth every single penny RIM are spending on his (presumably) enormous salary. I am increasingly confident they are going to deliver not just a great user experience, but will persuade a very sceptical North America that BB is very farquin' cool indeed.

January 30th cannot come soon enough.

That is a very intense man! Thor said, "We need to be laser focused ; so focused that we can melt through steel. ". When you look at Franks' eyes, I'm pretty sure he can do that all by himself!
Riveting interview. This is definitely "a man with a plan. ".
We be in good hands.

January 30th is shaping up to be a pretty good time. I get the feel lots of people looked past windows 8 (phone and pc). I'm loven the pc/xbox relationship though, but not enough to add a phone in the mix. A fancy homescreen isn't enough these days to blow people away. Apple is silent, lots of mistakes with the iphone 5 and no new rumors for what's coming up next. Carriers are still pushing samsungs out the door for the holidays but come january they'll need something fresh to bring in customers.

I'd pre-order an unlocked l-series right now if I could.

What is ironic is, carriers have made the iphone better. They pushed the storm and Droid, to be iphone killers. But all they were, was just touch screen phones, they weren't even good phones.

And that was their first problem, so yes, carriers want competition, and the iphone 5 has pretty much reached the pinnacle of iphoness, so RIM has no where to go but up now.

I'm really tempted to take out a loan and buy a crapload of stock. Had I bought stock a few months ago my $ would have doubled. Hmmm.

If you meant creepy as to scare away iphone, windows phone and android, then yeah, THAT'S FLIPPIN AWESOME!!!!! (*LIGHTS UP RED AND GREEN CHRISMAS SATANIC EYES*)

He did not say "77 apps" - it was his French accent. If I can write it phonetically here, what he said was "seventy thesend apps" i.e. 70,000.

I think it was poor form for her to ask him about people who are "embarrassed" to use a Blackberry when asking about how to appeal to former BB users. I know that assertion was published in a very biased internet article, or maybe picked up on a few blogs, but really????

Its truth though. I was asked if I was embarrassed to carry a BB by a idrone user just yesterday. I do carry a galaxy note too but defended my BB by showing bridge and playbook (which the person never heard of).

Im pretty sure he means its going to launch with 77 built in apps. Hes not saying three are 77 app in appworld. There are already more apps for bb10 than that.

I love my current BlackBerry devices and I proudly use them because they are the ultimate DO devices. With that being said I'm absolutely love struck with BlackBerry10 and I haven't even touched it yet.

No disrespect to Mr. Boulben, but when operating at this level, people accept French-accented English, but horrible mispronunciations make him look comical, Clousseau-ish. "My minkey."

Couldn't someone close to Mr. Boulben please explain that the English pronunciation of 'carrier" includes the syllable "care" as in Care Bears, not "carr" as in vroom vroom car.

i thought it was a great interview. he showed that rim is focused with a game plan. my only question, which may be the biggest question,


Mark Twain said that one should never argue with an idiot. First, they drag you down to their level and then they beat you with experience.

Wonderful job by Boulben. Like many journalists over the past year and beyond she wanted to stay negative on the BlackBerry brand, but he turned her around on every negative comment. I liked his thoughts about this not being the phones for everyone, but it maybe the phone is for us who want to get things done. He is absolutely right that Apple's iPhone OS is basically six years old and getting kind of stale. Android Jelly Bean is now so much more advanced as I think BB10 will be. Yet people in North America continue to buy Iphones...hard to figure out other than Apple is hanging in there with their years of marketing hype. However, the sharp decline in Apple's stock price is showing a less than positive outlook in the future. One thing for sure is that there is lots smartphone completion which is great for the consumer. World wide there should be room for all them.

Great interview. Frank Boulben did a very good job promoting the blackberry 10 and explaining why its new features will offer customers a unique experience. I am hoping that with his leadership, they will properly market and promote this phone in a similar way that iPhone and Samsung have successfully done. They need to once again get the "cool factor" and some of that consumer hype behind the BB10 to gain back market share in North America.

I hope that BB will have a good come back. He seems to be the right person, the question is though: is BB10 a disruptive technology or just catching up with the others? What is unique? If he is improving customer experiences but doesn't create the hype and something new... then it is just going to be one of the many smartphones on the market.

I'm awaiting the day my playbook gets blackberry 10.
I'm also awaiting the day blackberry 10 comes to the Rogers store so I can get my hands on a live operating test unit. :D
...Then I'm waiting until I can finally, FINALLY get that N-Series (or whichever it's called when released)...