This week saw millions of Blackberry users across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Brazil and India go into virtual “darkness” when Blackberry’s messaging and browsing services experienced an outage from Monday to late Wednesday for some. Blackberry, the very brand that pioneered 24/7 mobile connectedness – had not only left users without access to email, messenger and social networks but virtually in the dark with regards to the cause of the problem, current efforts to address the issue and expected resolution.
Obviously a system failure on such a worldwide scale would result in considerable embarrassment for Research In Motion (Blackberry’s parent company) but serious damage has been done to the Blackberry brand and it will take a very concerted effort by RIM to gain back credibility.
Other brands are loving the opportunity to create tactical ads at Blackberry’s expense. Take Medal Paints, for example, which released a radio ad today comparing one conversation to another, with the one that fails being in ‘Berry Black’. It talks directly to the Medal pay-off-line “The right colour matters”, they spotted the opportunity, and jumped at it!
Blackberry’s critical error was the delay in the issuing of communication (as of Thursday morning RIM’s South African office still had not granted any interviews or official comment). The silence was stark and seemed to spark panic (any Blackberry or RIM search on Twitter will reveal the levels of exasperation felt by hundreds) and has literally left users re-evaluating its reliability. The outage could not have come at a worse time – Blackberry is facing mounting pressure in North America where Android and iPhone are taking direct share (incidentally this week sees the launch of Apple’s iPhone S4). Locally Blackberry leads the smartphone market however it is likely that more Blackberry users will be open to competitors when the time comes for a contract upgrade – the likes of HTC, Apple and Samsung will no doubt take advantage of Blackberry’s compromised integrity.
This episode need not be a death blow, particularly in RIM’s emerging markets, but Blackberry would do well to go back to basics – firstly apologise and give current and potential consumers a real reason to believe in the product again.
Zaki Mtshali, OIL InternRead more