BlackBerry – needing reputation management yet again

Thorsten Heins presents the BlackBerry Z10 and the BlackBerry Q10

By Official BlackBerry Images Thorsten Heins presents the BlackBerry Z10 and the BlackBerry Q10

Last week, BlackBerry battled for its reputation as Detwiler Fenton, the institutional research and wealth management group, stated that customer returns of the Z10 were outnumbering sales at certain key retailers. A sell-off of BlackBerry shares ensued and the Wall Street Journal getting hold of the story didn’t help – shares plummeted nearly 8%.

Fighting talk

BlackBerry refuted the claims in a statement by President and CEO Thorsten Heins – “sales of the BlackBerry Z10 are meeting expectations and the data we have collected from our retail and carrier partners demonstrates that customers are satisfied with their devices…return rate statistics show that we are at or below our forecasts and right in line with the industry…to suggest otherwise is either a gross misreading of the data or a wilful manipulation…such a conclusion is absolutely without basis and BlackBerry will not leave it unchallenged.”

Defiant words. The statement reflects how sensitive BlackBerry is about the launch of the Z10, widely dubbed the global wireless innovator’s ‘last chance’ by the consumer and business press. A publicity slam at this point could prove disastrous and BlackBerry are right to get a grip on the situation. But will it be enough? The conversation between BlackBerry, its consumers and shareholders has been a long and disappointing one, after all.

Halcyon Days

Back in 2008, BlackBerry was the smartphone of choice for professionals worldwide – even president-elect Barack Obama was an evangelist. Share price reached an all-time high of $149.9 in June 2008, and a year later, Fortune Magazine declared RIM the world’s fastest-growing company.

The competition hotting up for everyone – not just Blackberry

But, failure to react fast enough to competition and the changing role of mobile in peoples’ lives set BlackBerry on a steady downhill trot – both reputationally and financially speaking. The launch of competitors – including the iPhone and phones using Google’s Android software – challenged its grip on the market. Its share of the American market went from around half in 2009 to 9% by 2011 (Canalys) and bulk enterprise buys of BlackBerry units began to unravel as workers demanded iPhones instead.
And the battle for share of the smartphone market is only getting fiercer. Even the apparently invincible iPhone has been taking a hit as millennials suffer from Apple-fatigue and Samsung launches a brand-bashing anti-Apple ad campaign.

A future?

To overcome the damage done by Detwiler Fenton’s report, BlackBerry needs the business press on their side. And, with the Z10 currently being labelled ‘The Daddy‘ by certain influential publications, they might manage to make something of their ‘last chance’ after all.

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