Poor Planning (Or Marketing Genius?) for BlackBerry Passport Release

October 21st, 2014

BlackBerry is incurring a problem it hasn’t had in years: it’s newest product, the Passport, is flying off shelves faster than distributors can stock them. Apparently due to its release date coinciding with that of the newest iPhone, the mobile manufacturer maintained conservative estimates on the demand for the Passport. If those responsible for inventory logistics at BlackBerry had considered their strategy and the identity of their consumers, this problem of underproduction could have been avoided entirely.

The reputation of BlackBerry has fallen quite considerably since its early eminence in the mobile market, with discussions of bankruptcy emerging consistently every couple years. While it is true that competing for the younger consumer demographics is a lost cause (Android and Apple have things pretty much locked up at this point), BlackBerry could have accounted for the fact that its target market is quite different from that of its largest competitors.

Users of Blackberry tend to pursue work in industries assumed to necessitate workaholic-like productivity, with most of its sales coming from consumers working in verticals related to insurance, healthcare, and the government… though the productivity of the last can be heavily debated (we’re looking at you, Congress). CEO John Chen explained in a CNBC interview that the device is primarily targeted towards “the mobile professional, anyone who relies on their device(s) to do their jobs.”

Where Apple draws its consumers in with sleek design and intuitive layouts (“OOH, Shiny!”), Blackberry truly shines when it comes to professional-grade functionality. It’s messaging service and calendar (easily synced to Outlook, LinkedIn, and other services) make grouping contacts and tracking business appointments feats of simplicity. And the larger screen of the Passport really takes the idiom of “having a computer in your pocket” to the next level. Opening PDF’s, Word documents, and essentially any attachment, has never been easier (as those who rely on their devices to do business will realize, the boons of this cannot be understated).

While it’s clear that the engineers and higher-ups of Blackberry are fully aware of their target market, the predicted influence of Apple and Android releases on their sales performance suggests that there may have been a misalignment on brand strategy. It should have been obvious that their mobile competitors pursue significantly different demographics. As the unexpectedly high sales imply (they just can’t keep these things on distributors’ shelves), this was either not taken into consideration, or is part of a more subtle strategy to drive demand for their product. The result for consumers: if you REALLY wanted that Blackberry Passport, you could find yourself staring down an $800+ dollar price tag on eBay.

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