Patrick Gladney is Director, Research & Insights at Social Media Group. Follow @pgladney.

In Canada, we take pride in companies that that challenge our traditional description of “hewers of wood and drawers of water.”   Over the past decade, we’ve been particularly fascinated by Research In Motion.  Unfortunately of late, our fascination with RIM has been more like watching a car crash.

Domestic market share is being dramatically eroded by Apple and Android.  The Playbook has yet to get a foothold in the tablet market. The Blackberry App World languishes in relative obscurity. Co-founders and CEO’s Mike Lazardis and Jim Balsillie are pushed out as the company seeks to alter its trajectory.  Tough times indeed.

But sometimes, desperate times call for dramatic measures.  As proof, witness the marketing stunt pulled by RIM in Sydney last week.  The company simulated a protest outside an Apple store imploring customers inside to “Wake Up.”    There just so happened to be a popular tech-blogger onsite there to record the protest:

It wasn’t abundantly clear at the time who was doing the waking, or what people were being instructed to wake up to.  But the mystery was successful in generating interest and awareness of the event as people speculated who might be responsible for staging such an event. The first suspect was Apple’s most formidable competitor Samsung, who not too long ago created a commercial of their own where characters were lured out of a line up outside of an Apple store in favour of one of their Galaxy phones.

Unwilling to cede credit, RIM finally owned up to the rally.  And then the claws came out.  Bloggers, followed by the traditional media roundly criticized RIM for orchestrating a stunt that “smacks of desperation” and suggested that “insulting the customer base that you’re trying to woo might not be the best marketing strategy.”

In my view, as shared with the Toronto Star, the RIM rally was a success.  The goal for this tactic was nothing more than to create awareness by leveraging  a market leader’s brand equity.  With half a million YouTube views in a week, I’d say not bad.  While the style of execution may seem inelegant to some, RIM clearly needs to disrupt the market inertia that currently plagues Blackberry.  The weakness to this execution is that there was nothing new that RIM could hold up as tangible evidence for consumers to reconsider their products.  It would have been better if this event could have been supported by substantive news like the release of the new operating system (BB10) that’s been in development since the acquisition of QNX in 2010.

What do you think of RIM’s latest gambit?



  1. Pat,

    “Wake Up” has to be the most ironic quasi flashmob statement I’ve ever seen. Personally speaking it should’ve been held in K-W rather than Sydney. To your point it garnered attention and YouTube views but, without any decent devices as support, I’m not sure what I’m waking up to. Ignoring the actual tactic for a second which has been done to death, it didn’t actually feel provocative or challenging in any way either. At least Samsung has been brutally hardcore in Australia going as far as offering to swap Apple phones via po-up stores across the street from the Apple Stores – that makes a statement about how competitive they’re prepared to be. This felt “safe” by comparison and even when challenged RIM wasn’t initially prepared to step forward and claim responsibility. The execution, and how RIM’s PR teams handle the post-event fallout, sends a very clear signal to me. This is a company that has so roundly lost its way that it can only act in a tentative, gun-shy manner. So scared of standing for something, they’ve committed the grave error of standing for nothing. I sincerely pray they bounce back but watching the reports from their Developer conference in Orlando the signs aint good.

    • Patrick.Gladney

      Hilton – certainly agree with you that the “quasi” flash mob, “coincidentally” caught on tape by a pro-RIM blogger who just happened to be at the Apple store that day lacked authenticity. Having some true news to back up the message would have made it much more powerful as well. At least they are flexing the muscle, so when/if they do have something to stand for, they’ll have some practice!


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