Quarantine the damage; Start Building the Love. It's time to setup a BlackBerry USA division.

By Kevin Michaluk on 14 Feb 2012 05:26 pm EST

BlackBerry USA

This is an editorial that's been in my head for a while now, and if you listened to my recent guest appearance on the Engadget Mobile Podcast you will have already heard a good chunk of it. With today being Valentine's Day and this article aimed at re-building the love for BlackBerry in the USA, the timing is right to publish it.

Long story short, I think Research In Motion formally needs to set up a BlackBerry USA division, complete with a newly appointed President of BlackBerry USA. Doing so will help RIM to better control the "BlackBerry" message within America and more importantly, help place a more clear distinction and barrier between BlackBerry USA, where sales are lagging and the brand isn't perceived so hot right now, and BlackBerry in the rest of the world, where the brand is still held in high regards.

Furthermore, as the company launches its new BlackBerry 10 phone line later this year, having a dedicated President of BlackBerry USA whose key role is to communicate with US media and Wall Street will help foster a stronger relationship with the company. I like RIM's new CEO Thorsten Heins a lot, but he can't spend all of his time doing interviews - he has to actually run the company. Unfortunately, through this transitional period and into the launch of BlackBerry 10, I think a lot of BlackBerry face time is needed in the USA. Having an extra well-positioned BlackBerry spokesperson to share the work load on the communications front will only help.

The US market gets myopic attention because it's the world HQ for news and analysis

Anybody who follows the Research In Motion/BlackBerry story closely or does their homework can sum up RIM's current position in the marketplace with a handful of words: US Bad; Global Better.

While BlackBerry sales and the BlackBerry brand have taken a beating over the past 18 months within the USA, things are still holding up globally. The US has been hard on RIM. RIM's product portfolio lagged the competition and US carriers and US consumers have punished the company for that. The US media has too.

A lot has been written in recent months about BlackBerry's struggles, but the majority of these stories tend to project a US point of view as also being true for BlackBerry around the world, which is myopic, unfair, and simply not the case. In the UK, BlackBerry still holds the top market position for smartphone vendors. In Indonesia riots broke out at the recent grand opening of a BlackBerry retail store for fear of there being not enough phones for everybody waiting in line. Last week's European BlackBerry Developer conference was sold out weeks in advance of the event. Clearly there's still a lot of love for BlackBerry around the world.

There's no denying that RIM's biggest challenge is in the good ol' US of A, which just so happens to be the main hub of the world's most influential financial and media organizations.

RIM didn't act like a consumer company fast enough in the US market

RIM certainly has made its share of execution blunders, and in reacting to the fast paced change happening in the smartphone market. The introduction of BlackBerry 10 phones later this year will put RIM back in the fight at the product level. It's a shame the transition to an updated operating system platform didn't begin three years earlier, as RIM might be leading right now instead of fighting its way back into the game. But I think what's even worse is how RIM screwed up building strong relationships with the media and customers as BlackBerry became a consumer brand.

This mistake, driven by lack of change years ago, is hurting them like a bullet lodged in their chest cavity. It's not too late to fix the problem by any means, and I'd like to elaborate on how I see RIM digging itself out of the hole it's in stateside.

To really understand the trouble RIM is facing, we need to take a trip down memory lane. Think back to 2007, the year when CrackBerry.com was launched. The BlackBerry Pearl was still quite fresh from its late 2006 launch, and the Curve was just about to be introduced late that spring. These devices were RIM's new growth engine. They started RIM's massive transition from an enterprise supplier into a consumer phenomenon.

From a sales point of view, RIM knew it was turning into a consumer company. But other than counting dollars and subscribers, RIM didn't really do anything at that point to change its image to one of a consumer company. Yes, they began selling products to consumers, but they still portrayed themselves as an enterprise focused company. And unfortunately, it's hard for tech media and consumers alike to build an emotional connection and start feeling the warm and fuzzies for a company that prided itself on security and data efficiency.

Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, says, "Brands are like quick drying cement. When they are young they're stretchable and pliant. But over time they become more and more associated with a particular thing and are harder to stretch." I think this applies to RIM, especially in the US market, where the length of time they've been seen as an enterprise brand has worked against the company.

RIM's CEO Thorsten Heins acknowledged this in our recent interview with him, where I asked him if he felt RIM's lack of dialog and consumer engagement in the past ever hurt the company and its products, to which Heins replied,

"Regionally I would say we could have done better in the US, but in the rest of the world no, because in the rest of the world we were never that much perceived as an enterprise play. In international markets the time lag between us doing enterprise and going consumer was really, really short, where as the real history of RIM and BlackBerry in the US was messaging and paging -- services very much used by enterprise. We were in enterprise services for a long time, and then actually got pulled into the consumer market. That was several years of an evolution whereas you need to think about the warp speed this happened in international markets, so that's a bit of a difference. You have to look at it differentiated across the various regions."

When I think back to my first trip to a RIM conference in 2007, coinciding with the announcement of the very first Curve 8300, the show was still pure enterprise. It was called Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES). RIM employees wore dark suits. RIM employees working the booths were told to not engage with bloggers. Even though consumer sales were skyrocketing, the Co-CEOs (particularly Mike Lazaridis) drove this focus on the enterprise throughout the culture of the company. Incidentally, RIM only changed the name of WES to a more consumer-friendly "BlackBerry World" in 2011, by which time the vast majority of its user base were consumers. 

This resulted in little love for the RIM story

As I made friends with other US-based tech bloggers and journalists and began attending shows like CES and CTIA, I quickly learned that outside of BlackBerry "enthusiast" bloggers, only a handful of the general tech bloggers / journalists I met ever really had a love for BlackBerry products (I'd include Boy Genius, Al Sacco and more recently Jacob Schulman as guys who appreciated the BlackBerry experience as much as myself). But among both the BlackBerry supporters and non-supporters, literally no one I knew had much, if any, affection for Research In Motion, the company. And in many cases, for reasons that I never fully understood, even then there seemed to be downright hostility against RIM from some of my peers. It's not that RIM burned bridges with these people. I think it's more the case that a bridge was never built to begin with, which is almost as bad.

At the time, I blamed this lack of love for RIM on people "simply just not getting what BlackBerry was all about." I made excuses. What I realize now is that in those early years of transition from enterprise to consumer, RIM simply failed to build any sort of strong connection or bond between the company and those who would write about the company for years to come. And in the past 18 months when the product and sales have arguably lagged the competition, that has come back to bite them. Hard.

This realization came from thinking about Palm. Remember all the ups and downs that Palm faced these last few years? They went through a platform transition similar to what RIM is working through now, and it didn't go smoothly for them. The new products didn't sell as well as planned and they ran into liquidity problems. They sold to HP, who abruptly axed the hardware and ended up open sourcing the OS.

Yet the whole time all of this was happening, every tech blogger, myself included for that matter who was a BlackBerry fan and not a webOS fan, was rooting for Palm to pull through and remain a player in the mobile space. The articles written about Palm were always hopeful, even when the news was grim. Though I don't know what exactly Palm did to make it happen, it felt like the media all had the warm and fuzzies for Palm, the company as much as they may have had for the products and brand.

RIM didn't forge strong media relationships

Now compare that to how these same bloggers write about BlackBerry sales lagging in the US. Or look at the reaction to RIM's recent Super Hero infographic which was so poorly received that RIM had to make a statement saying it wasn't a marketing campaign. The media has been outright vicious in attacking RIM. It's the modern-day high tech media equivalent of a bunch of kids in grade school deciding to pick on one of the other kids in the class. Granted, RIM has provided the ammunition for the media to work with, but that doesn't explain what we're seeing. Somehow with BlackBerry the positive news is reported at the bare minimum level, while the negative news gets amplified.

Few have those warm and fuzzies for Research In Motion. In 2007, more often than not I would be the only RIM fan in the press room. In 2012, things feel pretty much the same, despite all of the success RIM has had between then and now. During RIM's years of dominance in the smartphone space in 2007, 2008, 2009, the BlackBerry headlines were always positive because they had to be.

Whether you liked RIM or not, you couldn't discount their success in BlackBerry sales and growth and their position as the market leader in smartphones. However, when RIM's fortunes began to turn in the other direction, it was as if permission was granted for the media to begin telling the world what they really thought of the company. Following the daily headlines, it was as if there was a competition going on to see who could come up with a nastier one against RIM. In our CrackBerry forums, many discussions emerged putting out the theory that there was some sort of conspiracy going on against RIM to drive the company into the ground. Honestly, for a while I felt the same way, that there was a sinister mass anti-RIM movement at play being orchestrated by an organization of evil doers, but then I realized it just all comes back to love, or the lack of it. Whereas the love for Palm tended to help frame the company's challenging times in a fairly optimistic light, the opposite began playing out true for RIM.

The only way to stop the cyber-bullying of RIM is for the media to really grow to like the company. Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote a really popular book called, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion". In one chapter he writes about the principle of liking. In short, people are more easily influenced by people they like. And by extension, I think the media is influenced by companies they like.

Getting the US media to like RIM should be the company's #1 goal from a marketing perspective (i.e. not a product perspective). The financial community and the big media companies are US-centric. Yet the content they publish is read by a global audience. Just like a wart has to be killed at its root, the media attacks on RIM need to be killed by being liked in the US market. If the US media continues to hammer RIM every chance they get, it eventually threatens to affect the way the rest of the world views the company too. Mass populations are influenced by pounding messages into their craniums over and over.

Since Thorsten Heins was made CEO of RIM it definitely feels like the company is off to a fresh start in many ways. On the PR front, we're already seeing the company be more proactive and responsive. Leaving Amsterdam last week after BlackBerry DevCon Europe wound down, I could sense a momentum is beginning to build. It's time to build upon that and lay a foundation to win back the US market.

Thorsten Heins needs to appoint a President of BlackBerry USA

So how does RIM get the US media to like them? They need to get busy building up a much stronger executive presence in the US. This would be the foundation for developing solid relationships with key influencers in the US market.

I think Thorsten Heins is the right CEO for RIM. RIM is in the process of working through a major technical transition and organizational restructuring, and the company needs a leader who knows the company and can focus on execution. RIM needs to build up its app ecosystem and get BlackBerry 10 phones out the door, asap. The BlackBerry 7 revenue engine will only fire for so long, so RIM needs to hurry.

Bringing in some sort of outside "Rockstar CEO" at this stage in the game who would potentially look to change RIM's current roadmap would be risky - RIM doesn't have the luxury of time to waste. Likewise, Thorsten Heins has no time to waste. He can't be expected to spend his time doing interviews all day long (though we sure appreciate when he does!). Sure, it makes sense as he introduces himself to the media and analyst community, but let's not forget he has a company to run. He needs to focus on putting the right people in place to build products and market the heck out of them as well as the BlackBerry brand.

Since the US is such an important market, I think RIM should set up a new reporting entity known as BlackBerry USA. It should be headquartered in Silicon Valley, and it should have its own dedicated President. This role should be separate from the Chief Marketing Officer role that RIM is looking to fill. The CMO role is a global role. BlackBerry USA needs to establish a senior leadership position with a President title to establish authority. The truth is that major media outlets don't want interviews with a "Managing Director". They want to talk to a CEO or a President.

A President of BlackBerry USA could be the voice of RIM in that uber-important market. He (or she) could dedicate the majority of his time interfacing with the very same people who could show RIM some much-needed love. He could also focus on many of the company's country-specific marketing problems and execute on driving sales through the right mix of carrier and retail promotions, etc.

For those who were hoping RIM would get a "Rockstar CEO" as the replacement for Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, via this position RIM can still do just that. Find a well-connected, well-known, likeable CEO personality from the US and put him into the position. Heck, Jon Rubinstein -- the former CEO of Palm who was formerly at Apple -- just left HP. He won't want to move up to Waterloo, but maybe he'd be interested in a Silicon Valley-based position as President of BlackBerry USA. He did a great job with the media during Palm's bad times right to the end. And heck, he may even have some good ideas for RIM. Plus he's due for a win. If Rubi isn't up for the job I'm sure there are some other great candidates out there. RIM is already recruiting for a CMO. They can start recruiting for a President of BlackBerry USA too (hmm.. since I lost the race against Heins to lead RIM, maybe I should put my name in the hat for this one). 

The notion of a BlackBerry USA division isn't a crazy idea. It's actually sort of crazy that RIM doesn't already have a formal BlackBerry USA division. There is a lot of precedent for this type of structure when it comes to global companies that have headquarters outside of the US. I like cars and watches, so I'll use those industries as examples. Look at BMW and Rolex. Neither company has its global headquarters in the States. Yet both companies have a US division with a President of BMW USA and a President of Rolex USA.

Besides the obvious importance of developing stronger relations with US media and helping to put a corporate wall around the US market from the rest of the world, RIM has enough of a company presence in the US to justify creating a separate division. They already have substantial operations in Texas, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, and of course California. You can see all their US operations on this map.

They still have to execute on products

As much as I'd like to see RIM do what I'm suggesting here, they still need to give tech journalists the ammo they need to write positive stories. The current BlackBerry 7 + PlayBook product lineup is OK, but still falls short of the high end competition in many ways. When RIM launches BlackBerry 10 they need to make sure that isn't the case anymore. They need to be on par with most functionality, have the critical apps in the app catalog and have some clear differentiators that product reviewers will pat RIM on the back for.

It pains us to know that RIM will make us wait another 3 quarters before putting shiny new QNX-powered hardware into our hands. So while we're waiting they may as well push hard on prepping a first rate relationship building team focused on the US market.

Let's rock and roll this!

Reader comments

Quarantine the damage; Start Building the Love. It's time to setup a BlackBerry USA division.


I was gonna tell whoever posted here that they didn't read it. Then I was gonna make a sarcastic comment about how I would immortalize them in my mind forever because they for the first post.

Then YOU had to post. lol.

(Don't reply to this or else I can't edit this and write what I think :P)

Actually Hans, not counting Kevin's post, which was not fair and does not count of course, I was FIRST! ;) So you can immortalize me forever, lol.

Jerk. :(

Anyways. I was gonna say, Didn't Kevin get an email that told him to write about how RIM was failing? Doesn't this mean there was an anti-RIM campaign?

Also there are alot of people who don't know that there are some Advantages to having a BlackBerry. I go on a lot of sites, including Android Central (and once a year I go on TiPB) to learn about the other phones. And there is a LOT of hate to BlackBerry.

I mean people who drop into some posts just to say that BlackBerry sucks, and that BB users are closed minded and never tried an Android/iPhone (I was an iPhone fanboy before and Android after that). But even when I tell them that they say that we are close minded, unable to think for ourselves.
I mean, I'm okay with them saying that about me, but the fact that they are saying about an entire community really burns me up. It used to be the iPhone users who said that, but lately it has been the Android users who became more annoying.
So what is this about there is no campaign against RIM?

I actually have no clue what I was typing.. I'll try to separate it in sections.

nice job Kev. I agree look i hate jap cars but toyota, honda ect all have HQ's in the us and bb should be no different. As much as people will post crap we need blackberry stores for people to get local help and not be lied too like the carriers do.Its all about marking and being consumer friendly!!

well...if you added "anese" to jap, your statement would be better recieved and wouldn't sound quite so ignorant.

Thank You for this rule, it was all to apparent who read the article with the BB10 photos because everyone started freaking out that the "new" phone looking like an already made phone because they obviously didn't read it! See this to often.

Read the whole thing.

and unlike the rebranding Article I very much agree with this piece.

Branding a Division BlackBerry USA, and giving it a President would be a GREAT move, the American media get hardon's for anything that you put USA into the figure head name of.
BlackBerry USA with a President from the East Coast, stationed on the west coast!.

Outstanding analysis of the situation in support of a call to action, Kevin. It goes without saying that your passion for Blackberry is very apparent in your blogs.

I appreciate the effort you always put into keeping the crackberry nation informed and giving food for thought in spite of the biased media here in the US. Keep up the great work!

By the way, Kevin and Ham Sandwich for RIM USA 2012!!! I you decide against the Ham Sandwich, I throw in my name as your VP. It would be a pleasure to work with you.

I'd take it evn further: Appoint a strong person to every country RIM has business in.

Here in Brasil, all carriers announced the OS7 line, yet, phones are not available on stores (both physical AND online). They don't list on the carrier's sites for the most part (only on he blogs where we see them as "available").

We do have the Curve's night bike ad on cable TV, but if you ask for BlackBerry on the stores, they point you to the 9300...

They won't be strong internationally for mych longer if they can't solve this problem.

RIM's USA headquarters are currently in Dallas. I would think it wouldn't be too difficult to find someone to manage US operations from the Dallas office.

Lost CEO. Now wants to be President of the US. Next, King of North America? The guy is clearly power hungry...does he have a white cat that he strokes while writing these articles? :)

That's a ”Yes"...
By the way, great editorial. Brings up the "Chicken and Egg" conundrum. Can RIM build the US bridges without BB10? And how does RIM get the fair coverage if no one is interested until BB10 hatches?
As President, what would you do to build these bridges? How do you engaged a detached media, neigh, a detached nation?

You tell 'em. Kev! Besides, who doesn't like to stroke a little, white, pussy, now and then? I have ten pussies, but, sadly, none of them are pure pure white...just as well...the white ones are usually deaf. Literelly. Not figuratively, unlike the BB haters, trolls, and the ADHD's who can't read to the end(or take the time to THINK about a post...

i vote for the chicken... but I could use the eggs. The fact is, things have changed at Blackberry. By the time everybody else figures it out, they'll still be trying to understand how they sold their soul to Apple, and how the Android stole their identity... the myopia of the american public cannot be overstated. Their ina bility to conceive of a World that exists without them is akin to the Autistic's prison of self. They are comfortable with the idea of a President, so give them one. Meanwhile, RIM needs to treat the E-media like: 1) they have an opinion, and 2) it matterss
Blackberry Nation is a sacred trust- eventually you gotta love them back or the spell will break: the six white horses become mice, the handsome coach becomes a pumkin...
Having said that, you'd have to be a fool not to recognize the unbounded potential of QNX...
only a fool would assume that everyone else does...
"In the end, the love you take,
is equal to the love you make"...

G-bone here.
In the cold light of day, the segment in the above post that says"...of the American public...", and the analogy that follows it, do not depict a message I wish to send, and, were, in fact, ill considered. if at all.
So, to all of my American brothers and sisters in Crackberry/Blackberry Nation, the bloggers, posters, staffers, the rank and file that make up the great Nation dedicated to All Things Blaciberry- I apologize.
There is always room for discourse, criticism, and opinion, inside Blackberry Nation, but what I wrote seems hateful to me now. There is no room for that inside The Nation.
Let us save all of our hatred for B.B. Haters and Trolls!

Sanjay K Jha, has done a far better job turning around Motorola than Rubenstein did with Palm.

With sale to Google almost finalized, Sanjay might be available soon. I nominate Sanjay.

Thorsten and Sanjay Go To Silicon Valley (coming soon to theaters near you)

Given that Sanjay's office in San Diego is about four miles from RIM's (with Qualcomm, who makes the great processors powering our BB7 phones, exactly in the middle of the two) I nominate him too. And since I work about a block down the street from RIM's SD offices I agree to volunteer my time to broker a deal on behalf of CrackBerry Nation. ;)

All kidding aside, Kev you nailed it. Good work. Let's hope Waterloo is listening...

I hope Thorsten is reading this!!! :) i did mention before, it would be nice that the new CEO be sort of socially involved in these type of online communities or appoint someone to start getting feedback online so that he can address some of consumer/enterprise needs and wants!

Great post - excellent points.

You do want the President USA in Silicon Valley as that is where the key business and media relationships can be built through "having feet on the ground".

Also as one who has covered RIM sporadically since 2006 and is a long time acquaintance of their new VP Developer Relations (he was my competitor in an earlier life who taught me how to appreciate Microsofties), suffice it to say you have hit on some key points (or shortcomings) in their media approach.

I have to say Mike L. did help me as a blogger in a couple of instances a few years ago since he knew I had worked with another company that appreciated and benefited from the multitasking capability of 386 and 486 processors (also used in early BlackBerries).

One instance was because Nokia used to have a blogger relations program (in the US) and I asked some questions about a Nokia phone compared to the then-current 8700. He made sure I understood some key features at the time. (Another participant in that Nokia blogger relations program is now RIM's VP Developer Relations.)

But the lack of a full blogger relations program really did hurt. Hopefully a new CMO will help to get it right. But, as you mention, he has to cover worldwide issues and RIM needs responsible feet on the ground with a US focus.

Interesting idea especially the Jon Rubinstein part. Bring him to the board first. It definitely would cover some missed points which wall street cant seem to let go of.

Here is a question for Kevin. What do all these locations do in the US? There are quite a few and I quite frankly never knoew there were that many offices in the US. I am curious as to what thier mission is. With that many employyees here in the US it should be easy to reorg and appoint a President and consolidate.

Not a bad idea, but products are needed first. All the divisions and marketing efforts in the world will not attract US customers other than BlackBerry-diehards to OS7.

Release BB10 and think about US divisions at that time.

Yes, a lot of people keep mentioning bad management/marketing, etc without mentioning (or in this case, understate) the product's lack of innovations in recent years and fail to catchup with its competitions.

RIM's current biggest barriers:

user base - the iMessage is gaining user base and BBM needs a large user base in whatever country BB is trying to launch in order for it to be a useful communication tool

the battery life which it claims is the reason for the delay - since Droid RAZR MAXX already has 16 Hours battery life on LTE, RIM needs to do something that is not feasible with Motorola's technology, i.e. 16+ hours, which is pretty much impossible

the UI and os included functions - needs to have navigation functions as good as android and wp, voice input UI is pretty much mandatory for phones since late last year, etc

While the majority of your blog posting was on track, in my opinion your statement that "Thorsten Heins needs to appoint a President of BlackBerry USA" took you off the rails and over the cliff. In case you have not noticed Research In Motion has been going out of its way to be perceived as an "American" as in USofA company right down to the use of US English on its websites.

This is 1 mighty read but I'm a sucker for positive suggestions and this is a gr8 1! RIM needs to do this to start winning back some BlackBerry love in the US especially while we wait with dilligence and anguish for the nex big thing from RIM...I really hope they hear and execute this idea that could b topped with gr8 hardware and software from BB10...I like BlackBerry, never used any other smartfone!! But I'm also yearning for more competitive specs and that's a safe way to keep d critics at bay!

I agree with these comments and suggestion regarding a strong US focus and presence. With the exodus of companies long in the RIM family to Apple should send a message that RIM needs to get back in front of the faces of company IT and Key Management personnel and decision makers to keep their story and products imbedded. Support, support, support with their main point being keep the customer happy with ease of use tools and strong products. Asking what does the customer want to make sure their infrastructure works to perfection. Show these big businesses that the RIM product is geared toward their success. Provide products that stay in touch and in tune with what the needs of the work force are. There is NO reason why the PB could not support airline pilots needs, Government Officials, Schools, Book Clubs and other. Do what makes sense and know your target market or better still show them what they need and they will come to you by knowing their world…..

Here is one early task for the new Prez. Oversee a line of BB stores, starting in the US airports. This was a near great idea that is buried in one of the forums. High level of service, swap batteries, update software, trade in a device as you depart on your flight and get the new hardware with all your data and apps when you arrive at your destination airport. Promote strong BB identity and customer focus, and carrier agnostic. This can be started before BB10 is released. And tradein deals on BB10 devices, prepared while you fly, would be quite an attraction. Large monitors playing PlayBook content, etc... Focused tech experience. Apps, apps, apps available to try and buy.

Make it a BlackBerry Lounge in the airports where you can do all that you said but also:
Charge your device, use the wifi, order your food and drink by BBM and whatever else people can think of.

Oh and yes, this is only for BlackBerry users. Seems kind of a dick move but I don't care. Make people want to come to the company for perks like this.

I agree Lounge sounds better than Store for this type of thing.
Of course for too long RIM relied on the products selling themselves and ignored the turning tide.
Heftier US presence can only help.

Hmm..if they created this position, the person could be referred to as POBUS (POBBUS?). I agree with the points raised. For RIM to succeed, they MUST stop the hemorrhaging in the US market for all the reasons listed.

Not a bad idea, but I would avoid locating this position in silicon valley. Looking at their existing locations I would pick San Diego or Texas...

I honestly think some media sites/blogs in the US are paid off by RIM's competition. These are extremely corrupt companies they are facing as competitors here, but that is just my opinion, and it would never be proven publicly.

That aside, i'd say it wouldn't be a bad idea Kevin, some very valid points raised.

Very nice article Kevin. I would hope that R.I.M. knows what they have to do by now and are in the process of executing the change. It's hard for us "outsiders" to see it but I know you guys who are on the coverage side can see some progress. Let's hope that this is not the beginning of the end. I've had Blackberries since the 7250 in 2005 and I would hate to see them fail simply based on the lack of execution when they seem to have all the tools in place to be great. Thanks for the write up.

Repairing relationships with media in the US is a very daunting task. Publications and "news" networks in the US mainly sell by mostly being controversial.

People concerned with RIM can be divided in two segments; ones that want RIM to fail and ones that want RIM to climb to the top again. For example; A negative or controversial publication caters to both schools of thought. The first one reads it to reassure themselves of their belief and take pleasure in someone else agreeing with them and the second one reads to simply say "... not this again", but reads it anyway - regardless the objective is met. Which is to sell the story / publication.

Stopping the bleeding will come from compelling products and services for which there is no equal and then marketing them in a way that makes the consumer hard to say no to.

When the media sees this consumer shift it will shift its message to favor RIM - because that is what people will want to hear and that is what will be necessary to sell.

Kevin, all the points in the post are valid ones. I can tell you spent some time on this. Nice work.

Glad Kevin said this...I made the same comment in a forum post ahwile ago. Actually, my comment was more extreme in that I think they need to move HQ to the US entirely.

Don't know if a USA division is needed but a solid spokesperson, solid marketing and solid product will get you big sales regardless of where the office is. RIM needs all of the above when BB10 devices come!!

There have been 2 recent articles on RIM which have pretty well hit the nail on the head, this one and one interviewing a RIM director, Roger Martin, in the Globe & Mail. The later bang on but his being so candid does open RIM to greater criticism. Kevin, I sense in this article some influence from Chris Umiastowski in presenting your argument. Job well done! You present a compelling argument for a VP America which would help silence the critics. That along with execution are RIM's major 2 challenges.


With all due respect Kevin, this is a DUMB idea... The LAST thing RIM needs now is another lead executive to dilute the message and more bureaucracy to manage through. That was one of the big problems with the two CEO's/Chairmen. Having a separate US division will cause RIM to act like two companies and have two cultures, etc. I am an executive for a large US multinational and I see every day the effect that having a large Canadian"division" has on the brand. Its great for us executives as we have a whole organization we can focus on but looking at this rationally, there is a huge amount of overlap and redundancy which is the last thing RIM needs right now.

You make the point that Thorsten needs to focus on running the company not doing interviews... respectfully, one of the key jobs of the CEO is to evangalize the strategy of the organization. If he's not doing it until everyone is bored to tears and can recite the RIM strategy on the back of a napkin, then he's not doing a good enough job. He doesn't need to be the guy running the day to day financials... he's got a CFO for that. He doesn't need to be dreaming up marketing strategy... he's got a CMO for that. His number one job is to set the company's strategy and then make sure everyone (employees, shareholders, customers and the channels) understand and support that. The press and bloggers are important delivery vehicles to get access to those folks so he needs to be proactive with them on a daily basis. If you look at very successful turn around CEOs such as GE's Jack Welsh, IBM's Lou Gerstner and even Apple's Steve Jobs... they all spent an inordinate amount of time on evangalizing the strategy (once they defined what it is). They got their employees understanding and more importantly supporting the change, they got their shareholders thinking the strategy may well work and then they sold the press on how great it was going to be (or was changing to be).

The last thing RIM needs is a strong US division diluting that message. Its Thorsten's job. If he's not up to it, hopefully the next guy will get a chance before its too late. I believe Thorsten understands this though.

For how long your rant is my friend I have to agree with you. We allready saw the issue with the two CEO's. I think it would be too much.

I do agree, however, with making a presence in the states. I read one of the other people stating a comment of making Blackberry lounges and things like that. Why not set up something where there is more retail in the states and not based on the carrier? Can you imagine being able to take a friend to a Blackberry store and show off some of the technology not found in other phones?

Larger presence YES!!!! Another President TOO MUCH!!!

I agree with your post Kevin. I disagree totally in where to locate it.
Silicon Valley is where all of the competition is, so why do you feel RIM would need it's USA HQ's there as well? Here in the Raleigh, NC area we have the RTP, world famous and obviously a major area for RIM currently. I can think of nowhere better than here. It's EST and a short 90 minute flight to Toronto, yet less than 2 hour flight times from every major city from the midwest back east. Only the West Coast(Silicon Valley) takes awhile.

Can't they just hit the american consumer in the head with the playbook so that they realize its much harder then the ipad.

Good article Kevin ... but the timing isn't there. As you said yourself, RIM needs to FOCUS right now. They need to build and focus their strength, time and money on building the brand and product.

By building a USA division RIM will need to spend a lot of time and money (and energy) not focusing on rebuilding their products and brands.

Maybe once BB10 phones roll out they can look to something like this. There are many pluses to your argument, but that also means there are lots of negatives.

You stated that "The only way to stop the cyber-bullying of RIM is for the media to really grow to like the company" and I could not agree more. I just fail to see how a USA division would fix this, without RIM first fixing their products (hardware AND software) along with their service delivery.

Duplicating much of the work already being done creates red tape, cost money, and takes a LOT of energy from the people in charge, not to mention the duplication of work that is being done.

I propose we give Thorsten Heins a year or two and see what he is capable of first. Yes, RIM probably should have already created a USA division, but they do not. I just don't believe now is the right time to set one up. Timing is everything.


I wouldn't base BlackBerry USA in California... Chicago or North Carolina, leaning towards NC since it's on Eastern Time and the Raleigh-Durham area is definitely tech friendly. Research In Motion in the Research Triangle!

whatever they are going to do, i better see at least a cmo before the end of march, who the hell
is in charge of marketing right now? no honestly im not being critical, really who is in charge???

Very intersting and enjoyable read, Kevin! Thank you!

I don't think most Americans look at BlackBerry being a foreign product because most people don't know RIM as a company. And because BlackBerry is so closely tied to our government, I think a lot of people associate BlackBerry with America (since it does seem a bit strange that a government would be so dependent on a foreign nation's products).

But I do agree that the attacks on RIM have been due to a "lack of love" between them and consumer. But RIM's name has been going around a lot more now than ever before, whether it's in a good way or not, people are recognizing that there is a company behind BlackBerry.

They need a CMO first, and they need sales. As of right now, the primary focus should soley be the deployment of BlackBerry 10. When they have some more breathing room, they should look into opening a US divison. They are doing well in the rest of the world (very well in many places) and I doubt RIM/BlackBerry faces much criticism in other nations, but I don't think it's far-fetched to say that many trends in the US cascade around the world at some point in one way or another. With the US being the largest smartphone market in the world, it's a critical market for RIM to regain.

Hopefully we'll get some BlackBerry stores around the country (especially one in New York or Philadelphia)!

Very good read Kevin, You hit on the right points and correctly swept under the rug the harder to admit ones. (those with advantage will always take advantage) But going forward you are correct that RIM needs to refocus on the US market.
I believe like some of the other posters that it might be going a bit far to implement a US division in such a hurried pace. However a chief evangelist US centric or something along those lines. Insert new title here. Should be considered. A compromise of sorts that could lead to a US division in the future if needed. This person would have to be a Tech heavy weight, to garrener any interest from the US media and to be taken seriously. People want RIM to spend 3/4 million on one supper boll commercial. Spend that money on people that can comunicate to the US media and over the span of a year they'll get far more bang for their buck.

The only way RIM can save blackberry is to release an Android version with exclusive features like BBM and push mail.

They could also keep trying to develop OS 10 but sooner or later they will see that all people wants a Blackberry Android phone because it has thousands of apps and they still can use BBM and push mail.

President of USA Division reporting to the CEO is an excellent idea AND TEXAS is a RIGHT to WORK state unlike the rust belt (hey it got that way for a reason!) You can have access to some of the best chip set designers (like my cousin) over at Intel in Austin and get season UT tickets! All the hot babes on 6th street in Austin and did I mention a right to work state??? Yeah that's it.....come on ovah son heck I'll even buy your first Stetson I'm sure you don't have one......pair of Wranglers and Twisted - X boots and the board room would make JR Ewing jealous..!!! When yah get tired come on over to the Rocking R for some tubing on the river and then dance at Gruene Hall where Willie and Pat Green play...oh yeah that there is s a good deal don't care who you are!!!

Texas?? Give me a break. RIM needs to be associated with cutting edge, not oil companies, pollution, and cowboy boots. RIM offshores manufacturing so "right to work" anti-union laws don't really matter. Most tech execs would rather live in CA rather than sweating it out in the south.

aw gee..you mean Intel, AMD and Texas Instrument didn't get ur little memo.....aw....saw-wee......and we do have the market corned on pollution and boots don't we, yep and all that nasty oil that makes pvc pipes for the dung that needs flushing once you make a dumb post! but hey u can make in in kalifornicatiah with guv moon bean if yah like....

I have a tendency to agree, RIM would benefit from a base in the USA, Dallas is probably the best option. Anyone WILL have a uphill batle, I talk with people in 2 universities, they choose a iphone more because it seems like a status symbol, and a android because they either because the media experience or because it is close enough to a iphone but with widgets. To gain a foothold they would need a massive marketing campaign to brand themselves as a consumer device to compete (of everybody I know personally and professionally, I know one other, and he is being forced to switch to iphone by his employer)

Kevin, you make a good argument however, I agree more with the comment posted by mapsonburt. Also, Waterloo is not that far away from the USA and Canada is culturally similar. BMW and Rolex are European companies in very different industries. The organization needs to be "flatter" and less complicated. With that said, I wonder if industrial design, UI / UX and some R&D should be moved to California (BMW has a design studio there). There is a reason why Apple, Google, Facebook, HTC's design studio and others are based in Cali. Design should move to Cali and be given a more powerful role. Remember Jonny Ive answered only to Jobs.

This has to be a two way street, not just to evangelize to the USA, but to bring the voice of the USA back to Waterloo.

Interesting read and also some interesting followup posts. However, to comment on the following ...

"If the US media continues to hammer RIM every chance they get, it eventually threatens to affect the way the rest of the world views the company too. Mass populations are influenced by pounding messages into their craniums over and over."

... it's amazing how SO MANY PEOPLE think that what is said in the US "of A" is what the rest of the world will hear/see/read/follow...

not always the case.

To end, I think only GOOD THINGS will happen to RIM if they are able to increase their market share in the US (or North American market place) but it's not the end of the company if they don't. Just ask the rest of the world....lol

A very concise and well written post, Kevin.

A few thoughts: I would take it a step further and move RIM to Silicon Valley. It would never happen, but I think it would be better in the long run.

2. Palm received the admiration they did because they innovated. Something RIM has not done in a very long time. BBM was probably RIM's last innovative product.

3. I am HORRIFIED at the mere mention of Rubinstein. That guy ran Palm and HP/webOS into the ground. He is the last guy that I would EVER let run RIM. Remember, Rubi is a 4 letter word.

Of course, your best idea is to get rid of the name RIM and just be Blackberry.

Kevin is right, RIM should post up in California SV. Why not?? SV is packed with venture capitalists that bank on many successful companies. these are the same VC's that do have influence in the businesses. IMO this is an idea that should be seriously considered.

I definately agree that this needs to be done.

For one thing Americans seem to hate everything that isn't viewed as American, play up the American thing and watch a few percent sales increase right there. Most people don't seem to realize or care where the profits go as long as there is an American hq that makes it look American. Take a look at Toyota, Hyundai or even Kia for instance, people buy Hondas and toyotas like its their job, they don't seem to realize that all the profits go back to Japan and feel good about it because Toyota or Honda have American hqs, and they spend a bunch of money on advertising trying to make themselves look American. Even Kia had commercials a few years back saying this suv is built in America, that's all well and good but all the profits go back to Korea but people bite the advertising and think its American.

For example I used to manage a call center in Canada for a large American tech company and the number 1 thing we had to do was seem like we were Americans on the phone, if one of the agents said roof and the client thought for whatever reason we said ruf all hell would break loose like why am I talking to a Canadian etc etc, Americans like things that can be viewed as American and I see no reason why rim shouldn't be joining in on the action especially with their device revolution on the way.

P.S change the Company name to BLACKBERRY!!!!! Rim doesn't mean anything to a lot of people and just causes confusion.

Another Canadian who has a stick up somewhere about the US.
Trust me, Americans couldn't care less that RIM is Canadian. In fact, most Americans have no idea where RIM is based (or even that the company that makes the BlackBerry is called RIM).

Americans like things that work, not things that are American. Your not so logical comment about foreign cars proves the point. "Being American" hasn't helped Cadillac beat BMW in sales any time in the last 30 years...

Well that's brand prestige, nobody cares if you own a Cadillac but a BMW will get you noticed.

As for your first comment I'm gonna leave that alone and not start a stupid political argument.

I think this is an excellent article. I'd call it fair and balanced, but given who owns that tag line, that would be an insult.
Kevin's explanation of the media attacks on RIM is about as paranoia-free as you can get, but I suspect that there has been considerable briefing against them by other phone makers. It is easy to do, after all- just hint that dissing RIM will improve your access to early machine samples and news.
Why would they do that? Why is Apple spending a fortune suing Samsung everywhere they can get a judge to listen? After all, BB phones tend to be a technology generation behind the leading edge. Surely they aren't a threat to the dominance of Android and Apple?
There are several areas where RIM has a potential advantage. At the moment they are not important but they might become so.
First, they are not a US company. This is also a disadvantage, but outside the US anti-US feeling is growing stronger, not weaker. Perhaps it isn't surprising that RIM do well in Muslim countries. There are an awful lot of Muslims, and their countries are mostly growing. Then there is South America. At the end of the day there are only 300 million American to sell phones to, and a huge domestic supplier.
Second, they presumably have a lot of patents dating back before Apple even made the iPod. They are far less likely to get involved in patent wars.
Third, they do understand security. Recent revelations about Google Wallet storing data in plain text, and the iPad app for SouthWest Airlines that allows people to steal your identity over open wifi - the marketing clout of Apple and Google mean that these things currently rarely make it outside the technical press, but that won't necessarily last forever. Both iOS and Android are set up for a huge potential security failure. Imagine if terrorists had used the SW airlines exploit to hijack a plane.

These are the reasons why I think Kevin is right. BB do need to set up a separate US division, at arms length. I'd got for the East Coast myself, either Boston or Raleigh, simply because they would get a lot of support from local governments, but really the location is immaterial. The US division might fail (hence the arms length) but it is needed to speak to the US market in the very different technical language it understands from the rest of the world.

That will enable them to have a clear and distinct rest of world strategy without constantly looking to what US bloggers are saying. In places like Indonesia or Turkey users are far more likely to be interested in things like replaceable batteries, durability, and low bandwidth costs. As anyone who has ever worked in the auto industry know, many Americans will sacrifice a lot for perceived design and convenience.

made in USA would help for sure. i would pick any domestically made product over made in China. I am still in owe that so many Americans love the company like Apple that does not love them back. Apple provides jobs to foreign workers and yet there are millions of people here who are unemployed. shame on Apple

This just means more bureaucracy. That is not what RIM needs. They only have to make an awesome Phone with the new OS10 that people want to buy. Just like Apple . Simply make a Phone That people by.

Not to be offensive, but have you ever done any product development? Between manufacturing cost, routes to market, availability of BOM components, design expertise and QA, there are very difficult tradeoffs to be made. "Simply" isn't part of the equation. You can have cheap or market leading performance, not both.
People buy phones based on price, carrier, and features. No one design will fit all. That is why the market below the top end is stuffed with machines at every level of performance and price.
Apple with all its resources have, basically, designed three phones. They have limited themselves to the most expensive market niche in the most developed economies. They have to spend a fortune on marketing and channel support.

HQ should be in Northern VA just like VW, Audi, Airbus, and other International companies with US HQ's do. Easy to get to NY if needed, right by DC for legislative issues and your Federal Government business, right next to Dulles International Airport, and the Dulles Corridor is just as high tech and has just as good of high tech talent as Silicon Valley. You could have your US Federal sales and engineering force out of the same facility.

I think RIM needs a spokes person for the US market. T-Mobile had Katherine Zeta-Jones forever. Apple had the Commercials forever with the PC guy vs Mac Guy. Verizon had the "Can you hear me now" guy. We need a identifiable spokes person that doesn't try to fit the little click, but identifies with the American people, not a gender specific, race specific, or culture specific. The person needs to be an American Specific (So probably someone with a British accent, GRIN). Commercials running showing that person using Blackberry phones and Tablet(s) in everyday use for business, pleasure, socializing.... would be GREAT! People don't know RIM or Blackberry. They just know what they hear in the news (Blackberry stocks tumble, Blackberry Tablet playbook bombs in the market... insert whatever bad press story here) Truth is the Playbook is an excellent Tablet ( I paid 700.00 for mine and I still believe it was worth it!) SHOW US WHY RIM! The people deserve to actually see the things in action consistently on TV and through the internet. YOUTUBE Campaign maybe? CRAZY ways to use your playbook and BB Phone?

Great idea. Instead of DJ's and Chefs most people dont know, RIM should have a big name do tons of commercials in a media blitz. Off the cuff I'm thinking Donald Trump, Jack Welch ( ok maybe not Jack ) Pierce Bronson ( think 007 type commercials !)

Lets build on this and make RIM take note !!!

Very informative post! But there are still some emerging markets they haven't really jumped, will give Sub-Saharan Africa as an example, that's where am from, got a PlayBook (can't wait for 2.0) but can't register it for the 90 day warranty and its camera's dead! As much as a presence is required in the US, other lower-level presenses are required almost everywhere!

What you are looking for is an EVANGELIST, and not a president. Presidents of companies are there to help run the company, not start a public relations campaign. Now an Evangelist hired by RIM to speak to potential developers and bloggers might be what you're looking for. Apple actually came up with the evangelist when they were getting smoked by microsoft in the 80's. Now most companies have them... Microsoft being the major one.

RIM's strategy of BB10 and the major transition is the best it can do. Restructuring to placate to the USA seems more like surrender than anything else. They need to stay on track through all this. Continue their good relationships with carriers, and for the love of all that's holy TAKE CARE OF THEIR DEVELOPERS.

Maybe, but if RIM was to do that, they would be susceptible to American wiretapping laws and will have to hand over confidential information according to law.


Please don't confuse this comment with a rude remark. It isn't meant that way. Respectfully, your article is simply more blah, blah from a well meaning enthusiast who has never tried to restructure and focus a large company plagued by bureaucracy, a "not invented here" syndrome and a reluctance to embrace change -- whilst integrating acquisitions (e.g., TAT, QNX) that have distinct and very different corporate cultures, one from another and both from RIM.

Love and kisses -- don't forget to wear a hat and scarf in the cold weather.

If it will help build better US relations and build a better consumer base here then sure why the he11 not :)
Boldly sent from my 9930

The main reason for the hate for Blackberry and RIM is because of the arrogance of the CO-CEO's. They did not listen to consumers what they want in a smartphone. They wanted a fluid dynamic OS. Instead RIM just kept pumping Blackberry devices that were the same thing and the hardware wasn't even a upgrade. They just added wifi or a slightly tweaked processor that still ran 600 mhz. It was atrocious and it finally caught up to them.

And the whole world is relishing it because "WE TOLD YOU SO THREE YEARS AGO" but they put on the deaf ear with their business suits and their arrogant faces. Sorry consumer we are enterprise, we make money, cant you see I am in a suit and buying stocks. Screw you lowly consumer.

I find the whole thing disturbing and very typical of the perceived American Arrogance. RIM needs to improve and perhaps a spokesperson in the USA would help up their sales in your country, however America is not the only phone market and assuming that basing a business in the USA will automatically boost its sales or make it a leader in the market is somewhat ludicrous.