(Richard Piasentin, VP and Managing Director, U.S. Sales, Marketing & Operations, BlackBerry)
When I was boarding my flight to San Francisco for the BlackBerry Experience Forum I received a text message that said, “Have fun”. I immediately replied, “I hope I am not bored to death”.
The feeling with the BlackBerry brand over the last few years has been just that, boring. I of course have followed all the developments with BlackBerry 10 and the two new devices, the Z10 and Q10 long prior to their official acknowledgement of existence from BlackBerry (formerly known as RIM) with some hope of a comeback.
When I arrived at BlackBerry Experience Forum yesterday morning at 7:30 the first thing that happened as my blurry eyes tried to focus on a sea on Z10 demo devices, was a very energetic and happy BlackBerry employee at the bottom of the escalator to greet me. He said, “Good morning, welcome to the BlackBerry Experience Forum”. I thanked him and he replied, “I know what I will be doing in retirement, I will make a good Walmart greeter”. That right there showed me a major change in the direction of the company. In years past events were usually filled with uptight suits that wouldn’t give you the time of day and event staff just going through the motions of yet another event.
After getting ready to take notes I headed over to where the keynote was going to take place and got settled in at a desk that was setup for press. Our BlackBerry PR rep came over and introduced herself and wanted to make sure I knew that we had access to any of the executives in attendance. Again a departure from how BlackBerry has formerly handled situations like this. I was very pleased to say the least and getting very excited for the keynote.
First up in the keynote was Richard Piasentin, Vice President and Managing Director of U.S. Sales, Marketing and Operations. He very humbly stated to us:
“This has been a year of transition”
“We tested your patience”
“We stopped listening to our clients and our partners”
“Those days are over”
In just 24 words Mr Piasentin convinced me BlackBerry was back. After attending I can personally assure you BlackBerry is a new company. They have their vision back and are focused on building a quality experience for the end user and those tasked with managing mobile devices.
(Jeff Holleran Senior Director, Enterprise Product Management, BlackBerry)
A look at the perception of BlackBerry by the media shows a major turnaround as well. Back in June of 2012, 78% of articles had a negative spin to them. We were one of these publishers calling BlackBerry a lost cause. Where those statements warranted? I say they were. At that point BlackBerry had two options, close the doors or address their failures. BlackBerry chose a new attitude and as of today BlackBerry is reported in the press in a much more positive light. Negative articles about BlackBerry shrank from a high of 78% in 2012 to a low of 8% as of February 2013.
As long as we are on numbers lets get a few more out of the way. During the Canadian launch of the BlackBerry Z10 50% of users purchasing the Z10 were coming from non-BlackBerry devices. This is huge, as your largest numbers would be expected to be from people simply sticking with the brand and upgrading an older BlackBerry device. This shows a renewed interest in the brand and confidence returning. In the United Kingdom where BlackBerry has held up fairly strong over the last few years they are showing that 33% of users are coming from non-BlackBerry devices. While lower this is still impressive.
While we were not provided with actual sales numbers, we were told that during the Canadian launch, BlackBerry had a sell through rate that exceed any other launch in the history of the brand.
During the breakout sessions yesterday I received a text message asking if I was bored. I replied. “No, this is amazing, BlackBerry is back”
I learned a considerable amount at the BlackBerry Experience Forum and will be sharing it all with you soon. Look for a series of articles leading up to the U.S. launch that include How To’s, Tips and feature overviews.