In 1968, The Monkees released the underrated feature film Head, which as a precursor to Pink Floyd’s The Wall already risked alienating the Pre-Fab Four’s fluffy fan base. But what ensured its poor box office was the pathetic marketing campaign: A commercial that showed the live mug shot of a skeevy-looking guy just sitting there, ending when the word “Head” appeared onscreen. The thinking had been that this was minimalism at its finest.
Research In Motion, launching its anticipated BlackBerry Bold on Election Day of all days, seems to have the same faulty reliance on minimalism.
That’s too bad. Early reviewers have, for the most part, praised the new device. It sports 3G and Wi-Fi as well as a roomier QWERTY. And looks quite sleek with its rounded corners, leather-like back, and crisp 2.75-inch screen. Besides having multimedia capabilities (both creation and consumption), it’s an AT&T exclusive. All this makes it not just a formidable smartphone, but one that puts it in competition with the iPhone on the latter’s turf.
Alas RIM chose to release the Bold yesterday, during an election that drew a record turnout of U.S. voters excited about the possibility of either the first black president or first female vice-president. The only press RIM could possibly have expected on its new handset’s debut was: “Not much.”
As marketing experts, we all should be appalled. Particularly since the Bold seems to be a compelling phone that consumers and “prosumers” alike will love–which in turn will entice more marketers to consider using BlackBerry applications as part of their overall strategies. Considering the iPhone as well as Android, RIM can’t afford to get complacent in the midst of the smartphone smackdown.
To be sure, since the Bold was delayed three months, RIM might have just been trying to avoid negative publicity. What’s more, the company could be saving its marketing chops for when the touchscreen-blessed BlackBerry Storm comes out later this month–making RIM competitive not just with Apple but also T-mobile and its new Android phone.
But then again, RIM had already ran quite its Bold ad too many times to count. You know, the one that says “Wow.” To build up anticipation, only to have it conclude in a whimper? Hmm, this time RIM could’ve learned a thing or two from Steve “P.T. Barnum” Jobs.