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Is It Because I’m Black?

As BlackBerry users, SKZeD are fans of the mobile device and the BBM application (which helped us start the SKZeD network) and enables us to connect with friends, build new business & personal relationships and share ideas at ease. It’s such a great tool that when the service went down earlier this year we really felt the impact of the outage.

It hasn’t been a great year for the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) application brand.  But, isn’t it fair to say that at some point in life we all go through a year where we need a pocketbook of Positive Affirmations to see us through? Like any relationship or friendship, stuff happens but would you leave a friend in need during a crisis, or put an extra boot in when they are down on their knees?

It feels like BlackBerry are suffering from ‘media brand bullying’ with the media jumping on the bandwagon looking for someone to blame for the recent surge of civil social unrest.

How could a ‘premium corporate and entrepreneurial business tool’ become so tainted with the brush of ‘divisive technology riot aid for the socially disadvantaged’?

After the BBM UK riot headlines in August 2011 we thought the storm had quieten but then we heard a news story on BBC Radio 4 Today Programme last week featuring a piece of research by The Guardian and London School of Economics on key findings following the London riots.

Paul Lewis, Special Projects Editor, The Guardian talked about the role of social media and how BB Messenger was identified by those who were surveyed as being the key social media tool above Twitter and Facebook to share intelligence and coordinate activity amongst rioters.

A key question in our mind is, how are people who are supposed to be socially disadvantage able to get access to £100+ worth of business mobile technology and premium data services? Who is providing the telecommunication operator service enabling the devices to be connected; are they not more responsible for enabling the communication between the coordinated rioters then the company that provides the telecommunication hardware & applications?

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse an online survey last week by Maritz Research cited on the Channel Partner’s site indicated that 53% of Blackberry users in the US would purchase Apple’s ipad over BlackBerry’s PlayBook. Is the outcome of the survey saying that the BlackBerry brand doesn’t have a core base of loyal BlackBerry Brand Passionistas, or is the Playbook an inferior product to other tablets?

“If the next version is a touch screen and doesn’t have a QWERTY then I’m going to get an iPhone and I hate Apple and everything it stands for. I think the PlayBook is a superior tablet and I wanted to get one but due to the limited amount of apps I think I’m going to get an iPad instead”

Quote from a conversation with a corporate colleague who heard the news that the new BlackBerry Torch might not have a QWERTY keyboard – December 2011.

Wow! This comment made SKZeD think about some bigger brand questions;

  1. Why are BlackBerry users not loyal to the brand and what is the profile of a typical BlackBerry user?
  2. How could anyone hate Apple (answers in the comment box please) and;
  3. Do we change our brand too quickly in a crisis to be something we think people want and lose the very essence of what made us special in the first place?

What do you think?

On a more basic level, maybe it’s time for the BBM “Passionistas” to give BlackBerry a PING and play them some age old wisdom by the Godfather of Love, Barry White…

“Don’t go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore
I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are”

Fashions come and go, cultural labels change their meaning over time but what makes you stand out from a crowd is knowing what to change and what to keep the same – your essence – your authenticity.

Is the QWERTY keyboard part of the essence of a BlackBerry user experience?

For us at SKZeD the answer is YES. Also we love the fact that you are Black but to be frank, in the words of Michael Jackson’s 1991 hit, it doesn’t matter if you are black or white…just don’t let a crisis change what you stand for – be true to yourself; ride the wave, allow the crisis to provide you with ‘brand’ lessons; remind people about ‘the essence’ they loved in the first place; and focus on getting better at enhancing that experience.