TORONTO – Research In Motion is best known for its signature product — the BlackBerry — and taking the smartphone’s name as its new corporate identity is being received by brand experts as “brilliant” but also “risky.”
The Waterloo-based firm announced the rebranding Wednesday at the highly anticipated unveiling of its latest smartphones, the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10. The touchscreen Z10 will hit store shelves in Canada next week, while the Q10 keyboard version will come out sometime in April.
Brand expert Edgar Baum called the name change “brilliant” because it comes at a time when the company desperately needs to reinvent itself, and separate from its past.
“What this does is give the company a chance to redefine itself,” said Baum, the managing director of Brand Finance Canada.
“From the looks of it, (CEO) Thorsten Heins and his team are communicating a different company… If they continue this trend going forward, there is actually a legitimacy to this corporate name change, and it’s not just window dressing.”
Baum says it will take some time to see if consumers will buy into the corporate rebranding and view BlackBerry as a new company.
“Maybe it implies that some of the negative associations that the company has built up over the last few years will be shed,” he said.
“(Consumers) may come back and give it a try again, and that’s exactly what BlackBerry needs right now.”
Baum doesn’t expect the move to cause confusion among consumers, because the BlackBerry brand has more recognition — particularly in global markets — than its maker, Research In Motion.
“In the general public consciousness at large, it’s BlackBerry,” he said. “RIM existed in the corporate (board)rooms.”
John Miziolek, president of strategic and redesign firm Reset Branding, called the change “risky” because consumers will now only have one name to associate with the smartphones.
“BlackBerry becomes the master brand and it basically is responsible for any brand engagement that occurs from this point forward,” he said from the company’s Oakville, Ont., office.
“Whether it is a customer service call, whether it is a new technology they’re going to introduce, anything to do with the brand is now going to be BlackBerry.”
This new marketing strategy shows that the company is trying to move away from its past, which included the release of smartphone products with individualized names like the Bold and the Torch.
As evident in the name of its upcoming smartphones, the Z10 and Q10, BlackBerry is now adopting alphanumeric names for its products.
Miziolek says this strategy is similar to one made by the luxury car industry, which has been successful in attracting consumers to a brand, rather than a specific vehicle make.
“The reason that they do that is that it doesn’t matter what car you’re driving, or what series you’re driving, you’re driving a BMW,” he said.
“So BlackBerry is doing the same thing here: it doesn’t matter what phone you’re using, it’s always going to be a BlackBerry.”
But Miziolek says the rebranding will only be a smart move if the new smartphones do well in the marketplace.
“If the phone doesn’t perform and is not generally accepted, by business consumers in particular, it doesn’t matter what you call the company, because the company is going to cease to exist,” he said.
As part of the name change, the company will now trade under BB on the Toronto Stock Exchange and BBRY on Nasdaq beginning Feb. 4. Its corporate website will also be migrated over to www.blackberry.com.
The company, founded in 1984, was once a symbol of Canadian innovation. In 1996, it launched the RIM 900 Interactive Pager. Shortly after, the company wanted to draw attention to the keypad on their devices and decided to call the products BlackBerrys because the keys resembled fruit seeds.
At its peak in mid-2008, RIM shares were valued at $137.41. By end of day trading Wednesday, it closed at $13.86 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
According to Brand Finance, which released its annual list of top 50 valuable brands in Canada earlier this month, BlackBerry came in at number 18 this year, with a worth of $2 billion, down from the No. 10 spot in 2012 with $3.3 billion.