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Analysts: RIM Is Losing Interest

Tue, 01/31/2012 - 4:03am

MONTREAL — Research In Motion's new marketing campaign to attract more consumers in the United States only calls attention to its lack of new smartphones and its vulnerable position in the marketplace, analysts said Monday.

"It's like saying, 'I am wounded, please look at me,'" said Raymond Pirouz, who lectures in marketing and new media at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ont.

Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) has launched its "Be Bold" campaign aimed at increasing its shrunken U.S. marketshare with TV advertising and through digital and social media platforms to promote its flagship BlackBerry Bold smartphone.

But with RIM"s new generation of smartphones not expected out until later this year, Pirouz says consumers are being asked to buy BlackBerrys that are already on the market.

This kind of promotional marketing isn't going to go beyond the company's user base, Pirouz said.

"Product development, app development, ecosystem development — that kind of marketing, the fundamental stuff — is their problem," Pirouz said from London, where the former University of Western Ontario has its main campus.

"It's calling extra attention to themselves at a time when they're vulnerable."

Meanwhile, shipments of Apple's iPhone accounted for one in four smartphones during the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, said mobile analyst firm Juniper Research. In the United States, only about 20 per cent of BlackBerry users have RIM's latest phones.

PCMagazine mobile analyst Sascha Segan said RIM needs new products with its new operating system that give consumers a great gateway to the web, apps and social networking.

"RIM's problem isn't the marketing, it's the products," Segan said from New York.

The current BlackBerrys are "an evolution of every previous BlackBerry and the U.S. market is not that excited about it," he said.

"If you don't have the new products, them marketing is what you have to fall back on," Segan said.

Responsibility for the campaign will likely fall on the shoulders of RIM's new chief executive Thorsten Heins, who recently replaced co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis.

Heins, who had been part of the RIM senior management team since 2007, said after the Jan. 22 appointment that marketing would be one of his priorities.

RIM had already said in December it would focus on regaining ground south of the border.

Segan said that Heins' job is to get out the new line of BlackBerrys this year before RIM becomes "irrelevant."

The current BlackBerry smartphones, including a touchscreen BlackBerry Bold with an updated operating system, isn't creating any buzz, he said.

"Almost nobody discusses the BlackBerry 7 at trade shows. It's not even in the conversation at all," Segan added.

John Pliniussen, who teaches at Queen's University School of Business, said RIM needs to get consumers' attention because they've lost interest in the Blackberry.

Last fall's email and text service outage as well as the iPhone's popularity and cheaper alternatives of Google-powered Android smartphones have all made an impact, said Pliniussen, an associate process of sales, emarketing and innovation at Queen's in Kingston, Ont.

"The new CEO, Thorsten Heins, is on the right path, with the wrong message," he said. "Without a call to action, or incentive, nothing serious will happen in terms of market share growth and sales. Guaranteed."

One of the ads shows a group of bikers at night using their BlackBerry instant messenger text service to meet.

"What's missing from the 'Be Bold' campaign is a 'call to action.' A call to get people to try a new BlackBerry Bold and the call should be a special offer or incentive, something to make people talk and want to try the product from a company that has been suffering from a questionable reputation."

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