An excellent read this week from our pal Thought. Tell him what you think -Steve
The Pearl has been out on the market for a little over a week and clearly is the coolest BlackBerry yet (dare we say itâ€™s â€œBlackBerry Cool?â€). However, there seems to be a lack of any mass marketing campaign for the device; I have not seen one commercial and in fact T-Mobile does not even feature the phone on the home page of their website.
Contrast that with the introduction of the Motorola Q by Verizon. Immediately upon release, the TV commercials seemed to be everywhere and the device was prominently featured on the Verizon website; ditto with the release of the Treo 700w. Cingular is similarly aggressive with their marketing.
So where is the marketing campaign for the Pearl? How will the current lack of marketing impact sales?
Can a consumer product succeed without traditional marketing?
The obvious answer to that question is yes. Word does get out. Remember, every established consumer brand was once new and had their first success without the benefit of a huge marketing budget. The original Palm Pilot became a smash hit without a major ad campaign. Google is another example of a company that became a household name without running flashy TV commercials or putting out a catchy slogan.
Thereâ€™s still no substitute for a great product that inspires positive â€œword of mouthâ€ advertising among consumers. The Pearl can definitely succeed without much traditional marketing. However, I would say that an effective marketing strategy can help maximize sales of any good product.
Is the T-Mobile launch the warmup to the Cingular launch?
While most marketing campaigns for new technology products usually hit hard upon the release of the product, perhaps RIM is taking a different course. Maybe the launch on T-Mobile will serve as a kind of â€œsoft openingâ€ for the device, before it hits Cingular.
Many stores, restaurants and even theme park rides (I live in Orlando FL, the theme park capital) have what is called a â€œsoft openingâ€ before their official launch, or grand opening. This is a time when the new product is debuted to the public without much publicity and serves as a testing ground. Feedback can be gained from the public and problems addressed before the business puts its credibility on the line with a major marketing blitz. This is a very time honored approach.
Perhaps this initial launch on T-Mobile will serve the same purpose for RIM. They can put out the device without much formal marketing, gather consumer feedback, and tweak the device before a major marketing push during the crucial holiday season.
T-Mobile is a good choice for this first phase. They are a smaller carrier in the US, but have a reputation for good customer service and lower priced service plans. September is the right time to release, giving RIM some time to make any necessary adjustments before the holiday season.
After opening on T-Mobile then RIM can release the Pearl with Cingular during the holiday season, only this time with the additional marketing heft of Cingular behind it. The most critical time for sales of the Pearl, as with virtually every consumer product, is going to be the holiday season, and most likely the greatest potential for sales will be the release for the larger network and customer base of Cingular.
Even if this was not the intended strategy of RIM, it could very well play out this way, much to RIMâ€™s advantage. Stay tuned.
The Bottom Line
I believe that the Pearl will be a considerable success in the marketplace, with or without a big marketing push. However, as Iâ€™ve noted before, a great product like the Pearl deserves a great marketing campaign to reach its maximum sales potential.