- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 04 February 2013 09:18, Updated 26 November 2013 18:35
What’s in a name? RIM’s change of name to BlackBerry has a hint of desperation about it. Here customers look at the newly launched BlackBerry Z10 in London. Photo: Reuters
Research in Motion is now BlackBerry. Oh dear. It’s a logical move – in one sense – to name your company after its flagship product, but in this case, it’s 14 years too late. People who had assumed the company was called BlackBerry when they first came across the once-groundbreaking smartphones have become used to RIM.
In this case, rather, it smacks of desperation. The name change the company unveiled on Thursday along with two new devices reminds me of something else. A name change at a time of stress can often be a last-ditch effort to rescue a failing relationship. I know, for example, of three marriages wherein the women, who had kept their own surnames, took their husbands’ shortly before the marriages collapsed.
After keeping their own surnames for most of their marriages, these women all switched to their husbands’. It was a surprising move, but given that those unions all failed shortly afterwards it made me suspect it had been part of an effort to keep things on the rails. My own wife kept her name when we got married. If she ever talks about changing to mine, I’ll get worried.
(Not to mention confused. When people say “Mrs Bleby,” I still assume they’re talking about my mum.)
A name is not something to be tinkered with lightly. There are many reasons people change their names. My friends’ circumstances were all different. But businesses do so at their peril. It is an expensive rebranding exercise that can leave customers confused if not done well. At least RIM has not gone off the deep end, done a Prince-like manoeuvre and become something unpronounceable, or downright silly, like !BanAna. There is a strong connection between the name and what the company does.
But even so, in RIM/BlackBerry’s case, people are bound to assume the worst – that this is a desperate bid to hold things together. And in recent years the relationship is with customers, who have been falling out of love with BlackBerry at a great rate.
In the first quarter of 2010, BlackBerry had 20 per cent of the global smartphone market. Two years later it had just 7 per cent. (Apple’s iOS operating system over the same time has gone from 15 to 23 per cent, while Android has leaped from 10 to 56 per cent), according to JPMorgan estimates.
If the company can restore its fortunes with the two new devices it revealed last week, a new flagship Z10 phone and a not-yet available Q10 device, and march into the consumer space in a way rival iPhone and Android devices have done – and a way BlackBerry itself has done very successfully in emerging markets – the tale may have a happy ending. We may see more renewals of vows between BlackBerry and its users in lucrative Western markets. Happily ever after, you might say.
But where could it end? Of the women I know of who have been through this, two, I think, reverted, post-divorce, to their maiden names. One kept her ex-husband’s surname but I think she wasn’t too fond of her own to start with.
At least, if the relationship with customers is a lost cause and cannot be restored, in future, when talking about the once-mighty company that died a sad death, we’ll be able to talk about it without any confusion. Rather than saying: “Do you remember RIM, the company behind the BlackBerry...?” we’ll just be able to refer to the once-mighty BlackBerry and how we fell out of love.
Not any nicer, but simpler.