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Welcome Back, Blackberry!

I remember my first BlackBerry, it was my first big promotion. I was one of the new marketing leadership team members formed by the new CMO. At our first team meeting, he informed us all we would be getting Blackberrys–the phones, not the beepers (yes, this was a long time ago.)

“Why?” I asked?

So young, so naive.

Thus began my 10-year arranged marriage to a device that tried so hard to do so much but only did a few things well. To its credit, what it did well, it did really well. In a word, it did texting well. No, not what we think of as texting today, but what email was back then. Short, simple, text-only messages sent and read in between sessions at your massive desktop computer or, if you were super fancy, your laptop with a, wait for it, modem!

Once email became more robust with images and links to web pages, the BlackBerry began gasping for breath and searching for other ways to secure its relevance.  I remember staring at the increasing number of little apps that would appear on my BlackBerry in desperation and think, “Wow, that doesn’t even come close to doing what it needs to do.” For example, when it first tried to add modern-day texting, it fell flat.

The other thing BlackBerry did well in the beginning was address the legitimate security concerns of the IT community. In my opinion, it’s the iPad that finally took away that title. When the incredibly cool, exciting, and sexy devices came around, C-Suites around the world fell in love with them. When their IT teams said, “but they’re not secure!” the response was, “Well, make them secure.” Thus, BlackBerry’s final claim to fame was snatched away.

Of course, there are millions of people who did not and do not agree with me and that’s more than fine. My former “work wife,” Heidi, once proclaimed they would have to pry her BlackBerry out of her cold, dead hands. However, even she let go of the device of her own free will, once it became clear that the battery had died for the last time.

Why the stroll down memory lane? In case you hadn’t heard, BlackBerry is coming out with a new model this month, the Key2 (yes, there was a Key1, apparently.) With all sincerity, I wish them the best of luck. However, based on this well-thought out and insightful review by Stefan Etienne, on the, Heidi had better not get her hopes up.

Since I was never a member of the BlackBerry team, I cannot, of course, know what went wrong when. However, I can make a few guesses. Whether or not these are what inevitably led to the BlackBerry’s current state, I’d encourage you to consider if they apply to your business.

  • Don’t get comfortable. If you’re riding high, enjoy it, but don’t assume it’s the new normal. It is not. Expect change you cannot anticipate and be ready to adapt. Plan to be spontaneous!
  • Don’t believe yourself. Believe in yourself, absolutely. However, do not believe you know and understand everything. Ask your team. Ask your customers. Ask other experts.
  • Don’t allow distractions. Find what you do well, and stick with it, while still meeting current and future needs. If adding a feature or an offering is a stretch and something you are not confident you can rock, let it go and focus on what you can.

Believe in yourself, absolutely. However, do not believe you know and understand everything

The right brand strategy can help with these potential dangers. It will create relationships with your customers that will help guide you in times of trouble. It will give you the freedom and permission to ask questions without embarrassment. And, most importantly, it will help you stay true to yourself and what you do.

— Douglas Spencer

See also, Uncrate Your Customers

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