Louise Peacock

Courageous Rebranding: RIM's Poetic Last Stand

by Louise Peacock


Image Courtesy: arrayexception (Creative Commons)

 It’s not just the beginning of a new chapter for Research In Motion (RIM), but the start of a whole new book. The smartphone giant has decided to rebrand itself after its flagship product, BlackBerry - an undeniably bold step for the technology firm.

For years, BlackBerry has faced declining market share, mainly as a result of new technologies, unappealing product developments and changing customer preferences (think of the move from a QWERTY keyboard to a touchscreen as an example).  Faced with massive financial loss and a brand in decline, RIM essentially had three options: stay in the market, divest or liquidate. With the imminent launch of the latest range of BlackBerrys and a new OS, it’s obvious which strategy they’ve adopted. And in order to support this strategic direction, they’ve rebranded.

What’s In A Brand Name, Anyway?

The question many have asked is whether RIM’s rebranding holds any weight. Brand names are a marketing fundamental and they capture everything a company or product stands for in a compact fashion, they’re the ‘TL;DR’ of all the elements that make up a brand identity system. BlackBerry is a brand name that is full of familiarity and meaning; RIM, on the other hand, is not (not to most people anyway).

For years RIM has remained separate to BlackBerry, a strategy I’ve always thought as a benefit to them. In having an identity that is separate to that of its product, RIM’s brand is protected should that product fail.

But will it matter to consumers at the end of the day? While BlackBerry is a globally recognised brand, RIM has very little equity. RIM, with their one product certainly doesn’t equate, these days, to the likes of Samsung or Apple.

Essentially, the company is now associating itself with a brand whose product is shunned by the very market it’s trying to target. It sounds quite strange when you break it down.

RIM’s Rebranding – Brilliant Or Bizarre?

Many, however, have lauded RIM’s rebranding exercise as a brilliant move. But why should we care what RIM calls itself at the end of the day? When all is said and done, it’s the quality of their product that matters, both in reality and in the minds of their customers. 

Their rebranding, then, is ultimately an inspiring narrative. They’re putting it all on the line and telling a story in the process. Rather than distancing themselves from an ailing brand, they’re throwing everything they have behind it. It’s their last stand, and it’s an exciting, poetic move. But as romantic as it is, it remains to be seen whether they'll be the 'comeback kid' we give standing ovation to from the bleachers, or whether they'll crash and burn, only to see the world move on?

What do you think of RIM’s bold new move? Let us know in the ‘Make a comment’ block below.

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About The Author

Louise Peacock finds the impact that marketing and advertising has on society (as well as its ability to influence our opinions) absolutely fascinating. It’s for this reason she chose to study Integrated Marketing Communications at the AAA School of Advertising in Cape Town.


I think Blackberry's death knell is actually its insistence to play and pander to the American market, at the expense of first world markets like South Africa. Discontinuing BIS is the first step towards eroding its substantial market share in regions like ours.

Great article.

Posted by MJ Khan on 2013/02/06

Really good point! Totally agree!

Posted by Louise Peacock on 2013/02/06

The rebranding of RIM to Blackberry is a minor step. Dropping BIS - a key differentiator against Android and Nokia in the developing markets will be the death blow to the brand/company.

Posted by Matt Swarts on 2013/02/06

Great article. I think for the large majority of mobile users, Blackberry was already seen as the brand and RIM was completely unknown. The brand move could therefore be seen as a waste of money for a company on the brink of disappearance. Rather invest in the Blackberry App stores, improved pc integration and keeping maybe keeping BIS.

Although I included BIS in my list above, it's no longer a Blackberry differentiator. Blackberry messenger only works B-2-B and the mobile user has moved to iPhone and Samsung so we all Whatsapping now anyhow. The target market for Blackberry is largely business users who want a solid, non-gaming, non-video centric phone unlike Samsung. The business user is not worried about paying the data fees to download emailing. Email was about all they ever used BIS for.

So let hope Blackberry 10 and their new OS can win back the business market. I can't see the rebranding making any difference to the end user, but maybe it will give RIM investors greater confidence.

Posted by Jonathan Edwards on 2013/02/17

The core of the Blackberry value proposition for business users was unbreakable encryption (so much so, the President of the United States was allowed to keep his Blackberry phone). When other countries started protesting and RIM started making back room deals to allow access to their email servers (under less than transparent conditions; we still don't know what the final arrangements are), RIM gutted the Blackberry "brand." Visual displays and updated operating systems are not going to replace the rock-solid assurance that no one else was going to read your mail. Without that, why bother? RIM should have told India and others to take a hike; that would have solidified their market position and given them time to update their technology. To bad, really.

Posted by Michael Locey on 2013/02/21

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