Zippier chips, more robust operating systems, better screens and a snappier internet are clear signs that while some companies are peering ahead to what’s next, we’re still in the smartphone era. The sheer volume of options attests to our desire. How do we even begin to choose? Enter brand.
Beleaguered BlackBerry’s revamp shows us how a shift in naming strategy can signal a new brand promise. In dropping RIM and placing the marquee brand front and center, BlackBerry is doing more than changing the corporate name. It’s sending a message to new and once faithful customers, emphasizing simplicity, clarity and the brand equity of the name that always mattered most to devotees.
If the BlackBerry name is to be the centerpiece in the story about its new phones and image, then the role of its previously touted sub-brands — Bold, Torch, and Curve — needs to be reconsidered.
BlackBerry’s new product signifiers — Z10 and Q10 — are sleek signifiers more than names. They form the foundation for future product iterations. These simple alphanumeric platforms say premium (think Mercedes C-class), high technology (Galaxy S3) and sophistication through letters that carry high point values in Scrabble.
More importantly, the letters are static, unremarkable, functional handles. They won’t steal much attention from the BlackBerry brand the way their flashier older siblings did. Words like Bold, Torch and Curve try hard to grab our attention, as they’re designed to.
It begs the question: If carving out a central role for BlackBerry is meant to simplify choice for consumers, what happens with Bold, Torch and Curve? These brands carry significant recognition in the market, yet represent the old BlackBerry.
If the brand wants us to say, “I want the BlackBerry” instead of “I want a BlackBerry ______,” the new lines will have to become the lines. That then begs the question: Which BlackBerry becomes the BlackBerry? The Q or the Z? We’ll leave it up to sales to answer that question.
Dare we say it? Long live BlackBerry!
Ilan Beesen is a Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity, Interbrand New York.