How Frank Boulben will carry BB10’s pre-launch buzz beyond the Super Bowl
Frank Boulben has been one of the busiest marketers in the world since May 2012 when he joined Research In Motion – now rebranded as BlackBerry.
Armed with new products and charged with nothing short of rebuilding a once-great mobile brand, the CMO has played an active part in building the buzz ahead of BlackBerry 10’s official launch on Jan. 30.
He’s met face-to-face with as many as 300 high-profile brand supporters in that time, putting the BlackBerry 10 mobile platform in their hands, showing off its features and encouraging everyone from CEOs to celebrities to spread the word.
The pre-launch marketing phase is over now, but Boulben’s work is not. The product hits Canadian shelves Feb. 5 – ahead of a U.S. launch in March – and the mostly positive pre-launch buzz is about to be put to the test against more widespread user reviews. Just ahead of BlackBerry’s Super Bowl debut Sunday, Boulben spoke with Marketing about what to expect from the most important campaign in his company’s history.
The Big Game
The Super Bowl buy was never a debate. When the company postponed the BB10 launch to Q1 of this year (“at the time, it was a difficult decision to make”), the Super Bowl became an obvious choice for getting attention in the U.S. – arguably the most important market for the company’s future success. (While BlackBerry dominates in several overseas markets, it is a distant third-place in tech-hungry North America.)
“We need to tell U.S. consumers that BlackBerry is back, and there is something worth checking out there,” Boulben told Marketing. There will be a six-week lag between the Super Bowl and the U.S. roll-out of the new phones, so the spot (airing in the game’s third quarter) and the ensuing campaign needs to work hard on keeping interest high before product hits the shelves.
Boulben wouldn’t divulge details about his Super Bowl creative, but did say it was a unique execution and would not match the ensuing campaign’s overall tone.
“What you will see on Sunday will be completely different from the ‘Keep Moving’ campaign that we will be rolling out everywhere. It’s something unique, disruptive, made only for the Super Bowl.”
BlackBerry’s new phones have been designed so users can create two identities – a functionality it calls Balance. Users have a business identity that lets the phone connect securely to private company networks, and a separate personal identity with freer access to the full internet (something many locked-down business users couldn’t do with older BB products).
But don’t expect marketing efforts to be split so evenly between business and pleasure. Boulben said there will be no clearly delineated consumer and B2B campaigns.
“I look at it in terms of end users,” he said. “I can’t separate the professional side of you from the personal side of you. It’s the same person, and ideally you want the same smartphone experience in all the facets of your life… We’re not compromising either side.”
The plan is to address various communities of end users “defined by their needs” (mom entrepreneurs, students and CEOs among others) with a single platform called “Keep Moving,” with tailored executions that demonstrate new product features most relevant to those groups.
“For different audiences, we put forward different features. For example, to target my [university aged] daughter, Balance is irrelevant. But the writing without typing on the keyboard [feature]? She texts a lot. That’s relevant for her.”
The British take on a Canadian company
When Boulben joined RIM, he pared down his agency roster, naming one network, BBDO, as global AOR to create one brand message and then implement it across individual markets. AMV BBDO created the Super Bowl ad.
“I moved away from a fragmented approach with marketing teams at country level working independently from one another and with local agencies. Now we have global agencies, a global network across geographies.”
That means there are no plans for a Canadian creative AOR (aside from translation/regionalization tasks passed down through BBDO’s network). What about PR, media buying and other marketing vendors? There are currently Canadian agencies on these assignments, but “that’s something we’re in the process of rationalizing and streamlining,” Boulben said. “We’ll have a much smaller roster of agencies.”
Beyond the creative elements of the launch campaign (which will involve a handful of celebrity users such as musician Alicia Keys and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez in some way), Boulben is spearheading activation among key groups of users to keep the buzz strong.
Among consumers, “I want to amplify what we did with the face-to-face demos. We’re going to disseminate web videos showcasing the various BB10 features.”
Alongside that will come CRM, social, search, display and mobile marketing efforts. Mobile users on iPhone and Android platforms, for example, will be targeted with display ads and mobile site takeovers that replicate the BB10 interface, allowing for a direct OS comparison. Likewise, the company developed a browser extension for Chrome that also mimics the BlackBerry hub interface.
“I call that real-time marketing… We’re going to expose the largest possible number of people to the features of BlackBerry 10, encouraging them to go to BlackBerry.com, where they will be exposed to the full experience.”
Boulben said that pre-registrations for the new phones have been “very strong.” He wouldn’t provide exact figures, but did say Canadian mobile carriers have reported more BB10 pre-registrations in the first three weeks of availability “than any other device did in three months… And more than half of the customers who have pre-registered were not formerly BlackBerry users.”