Badmouthing Your Competition: A Lesson from Blackberry

In order to generate some publicity for the new Z10, Blackberry CEO Thorsten Heins grabbed the microphone and announced all the reasons why its competitors have failing products and business models. According to Heins, Samsung can’t play with the big boys, Android is asking for attacks to its software and Apple is outdated. The punch line is in that last accusation.  Blackberry, the company that has been in decline for the past three years due to lack of innovation, is calling Apple old and behind the times.

The rate of innovation is so high in our industry that if you don’t innovate at that speed you can be replaced pretty quickly.

thorsten_heins3.25Well, it takes one to know one. Ever since getting bumped from its throne in 2010, Blackberry has struggled to keep up with the other developers. Android and iPhone make up almost 88% of the smartphone market, while Blackberry has to share the rest of the pie in the “other” category. While the other operating systems saw an increase market share between 2011 and 2012, Blackberry’s (then Research in Motion’s) declined by 5.3%. As of writing this, Blackberry’s stock is at $14.34 while Apple’s is at $469.24.

But stock market analysts don’t view Apple as the infallible giant lording over the NASDAQ that it used to be. In the past six months, Apple’s stock has plummeted from its peak of $700. Investors don’t know what to do with Apple, as profits aren’t what they used to be and there hasn’t been a revolutionary announcement since Steve Jobs. But just because Apple is showing signs of possible decline in the mobile market doesn’t mean Blackberry would take over any lost value.

When done right, attacking your competition can pay off. Audiences tend to be more responsive to underdog companies that attack those dominating the market, especially, when there’s a strong solution with your product. This is what Heins was getting at when he attacked Apple. He took advantage of Apple’s mammoth stock price and provided an alternative with the little guy. Heins believes the main problem with the iPhone is the inability to multitask with emails and messages while keeping the main app up. Hence, the Z10.

If Blackberry wants this attack to be successful, it should highlight the ways their product will increase productivity at work. According to Time, they were successful when they focused on the needs of businesses, and failed when they tried to break into the consumer market. Blackberry should promote email and calendar management over the ability to text while playing with nonexistent apps.

blackberryz103.25It remains unclear whether the publicity is meant to promote Blackberry and the new Z10 or take the heat off of lackluster reviews. As Devindra Hardawar of VentureBeat put it:

It’s a phone built out of desperation and hubris — not for anyone, or any specific need, in particular.

No amount of publicity – attacking or otherwise – will compensate for a sub-par product. Heins can talk bad about Apple all he wants, he can sneer at Samsung and criticize Android, but the number of products total company profits will have the last laugh.

Will the Blackberry Z10 be the FGCU to the iPhone’s Georgetown? Or is Heins just talking trash at the other team’s bench?

About the author

Amanda Dodge