Breaking down the BlackBerry rebranding

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Amid the highly anticipated unveiling of its latest smartphone, the Canadian company behind the device announced it was renaming itself from Research in Motion to “BlackBerry.” In the words of the company CEO, Thorsten Heins, this rebranding symbolizes a new corporate philosophy:  One brand, one promise.

Research in Motion's Ottawa office.

By Umar Ruhi

There’s no arguing that RIM’s own brand equity has suffered in recent years due to management issues, product delays, service failures and overall ineptness in staying competitive with the rest of the industry and with its main market rivals – iPhone and Android. That said, brand equity is a complex concept and it can be anatomized into various elements such as the strength, image and overall brand value.

In terms of brand strength, which indicates consumers’ level of attachment to a brand, it has been clear all along that BlackBerry is the more cherished and appreciated brand compared to “RIM.” Technology has always been the traditional strength for RIM, and the company probably wants to bank on the relatively positive attitude that corporate clients and end users have towards BlackBerry as a product.

The rebranding decision can also be analyzed in terms of brand image, specifically the beliefs and associations made by consumers. In this case, “RIM” probably evokes negative sentiments due to feelings and impressions of the company being unsuccessful, unable to compete and riddled with past management problems.

On the other hand, the BlackBerry brand offers a relatively positive reaction from loyal customers who have definitive categorical reasons for sticking with the product and looking forward to its next generation.

There has also been rumours and buzz about the company positioning itself for an exit strategy in case of failure. From the perspective of investors, “BlackBerry” is a higher-value asset on the balance sheet than “RIM.”

There are many reasons for moving ahead with the BlackBerry brand, most important of all being the symbolic of a rebirth of the organization and a reinventing of the company’s offerings. This renaming does, however, put the organization under pressure to succeed with the BlackBerry revamp. It will now have a bigger challenge of drawing together resources, capabilities and competencies into a holistic management strategy. It is imperative for the firm to manage all its affairs more effectively, from management to innovation to end-user experience to customer relations.

Everything is now tied to a unified brand – BlackBerry.

Umar Ruhi is an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management.

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