If Blackberries Were Apples

by Julian C. Caraulani on December 7, 2012

I believe RIM has one of the most valuable brands in its hands, and could have been the Microsoft of smartphones..the model of a leading corporation that has little soul but astronomic income. Long story short, things have changed ,and while clinging for a long time on plastic keys, they struggle to get back into the scene with their infamous (and probably last hope) Blackberry 10.

All aside, crisis is nothing more than opportunity, as the Chinese wisely put it [ ? w?i (danger) and ? j? (opportunity) ] , and Blackberry could choose to stay among the living, if they set out to do what no other Apple competitor out there is doing: create a culture!

Shape-shifting BlackBerry`s core characteristics may seem counter-intuitive, but what (I believe) many big brands do not understand is that there IS life outside Apple`s “technology married with humanities” approach, one that lies inert because everyone is to busy blind-copying their model without substance.

Let`s start with its undecided logo. BBry has many iterations of the Gestalt generated icon (comprising of many negative space B`s that happen to look like a berry if your imagination allows it), and i must admit they are all nifty ideas . But most non BBry`s users are unaware of it, so they are deprived of the eureka moment that creates psychological impact . Inserting another element not only pops out the fruity composition, but also adds another negative element that further defines the letter B. I also feel that the lack of symmetry adds a dynamic effect that works great with letters. It is not a must have, but I feel every new beginning needs a new symbol.

Now lets bring in the big guns. It`s no secret that a smartphone`s heart and soul lies in its software. Blackberry is bold enough to invent one from scratch, in an industry that is already too crowded , and light years in front of RIM`s baby OS. But it needn`t be so.

A big advantage Android had over Apple was the possibility of starting fresh. And that turned out great. Windows 8 is doing it right now and they were brilliant in creating a superior OS altogether.  Blackberry can use its late arrival to adopt changes that otherwise Android , Apple or Windows cannot afford to do anymore due to the perils of inconsistency. What about apps? Apps are an outcome of a superior system, not a target in itself.

So let us use the OS wisely, and understand just a couple of its key characteristics.

Now…if you are lucky enough to be different on some areas, why on earth should you do what everybody else is doing. The  -> big product / simple layout <- thing that we are bombarded with every day was popularized by (you guessed it ) Apple! and when promoted, it relied on the fact that people understood Apples values, and products were just a manifestation of that vision. That`s why they could get away with minimal advertising, or even crappy products. As I was saying earlier , by copying the style without a belief framework, stuff just turned into visual schizophrenia!

Blackberry can use both the absence it had lately (and the new beginning they strive for) to set things right.

I am proposing a communication campaign that uses BB10 to reinvent and restate blackberry`s beliefs. Technology married with social sciences is the niche I tried to aim for . RIM needs to be humanized while retaining the premium , high class DNA. And it can do that in three simple steps :

1. Create anticipation, exploit scarcity.  Use semiotics to hint the user into the new interface and break the pattern by not introducing the product.

2. Use the awareness the ad campaign generated to further mystify the product. State beliefs that will associate with the brand , create a vision that empowers current users and makes potential ones want to associate with it. Stay true to the DNA and generate subtle controversy.

3. If one must show the product, obsess on details, hide the product behind curtains, reveal just enough to let the viewer associate a form to a strong reference he already has (like the premium black card that has strong links to a certain social status). Making the buyer curios about getting his hands on products is crucial! Stores are experience incubators , they have control of perception and hold immense power. Ads must just get them in there.

P.s. I have no idea what RIM was thinking when they named their beloved tablet Playbook. It`s wrong in so many ways I could not resist giving it a different identity..makes me sleep better with myself at night. The moral of the story is : stay consistent with the product line , do not split personalities!

P.s.s. There is a pattern in people holding on to boxes after buying a device. Be it for practical reasons (one might want to sell it in the future) or pure status symbolism , there is huge potential in this!

Re-defining packaging could add tremendous value to the product , brand identity, and even attenuate product value loss on the long term. Making the user feel like there is a higher cause for him being brand loyal is what companies spend billions for. This small collection of bright minded, high class, and prosperous entrepreneurs of the past century speaks for itself, it is the perfect blend of blackberry’s current DNA and what it needs to become, in order to generate a culture.


About the author: Julian C. Caraulani is a British-romanian designer who recently graduated from Coventry University, UK. His design approach relies on an interdisciplinarity that seeks to gather people with shared beliefs, passion and visions towards professional, meaningful projects. His website is www.caraulani.com and email caraulani@yahoo.com

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Susan Gibilisco January 31, 2013 at 4:28 am

I loved everything except for the last box, which completely alienated me. A bunch of white old male inventors, with two white female fashion legends? All with Anglo-Saxon names? There are so many great pioneers from so many different areas – philosophy, biology, physics, music, law – and many different cultures who have portraits that communicate confidence and class.

With all of it’s capabilities, smartphones are not just pretty machines you can talk on – they allow creators and innovators in many different types of work to flourish and to handle many different types of activities – photography, music, social networking, confidential communication. Even if their main market is Wall Street, ignoring the other interests and backgrounds of these multifaceted people will still put them behind Droid and Apple.

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