In an unexpected move, BlackBerry has issued an open letter to its customers, partners and fans which addresses the negative attention the company has been receiving in recent years, and promises that it is still dependable.
“You can continue to count on BlackBerry,” the letter posted Monday on the company's website says in large bold font. “We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free. We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 per cent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.”
The open letter was published in major newspapers around the world on Tuesday.
“These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges we are facing,” the letter continues. “We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry."
- BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis, Doug Fregin mull bid for company
- BlackBerry to close Bedford office and cut 350 jobs
The document goes on to list that BlackBerry has the best in class security, enterprise mobility management, mobile social network and is a top level productivity tool.
It also acknowledges the high level of competition in the smartphone market, and plays up the company’s reputation as a phone for the worlds of business and politics.
“We know that BlackBerry is not for everyone,” said the company. “That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry.”
Big shift from BlackBerry’s usual relationship with media
Carmi Levy, an independent tech analyst who has followed BlackBerry closely for years, says the letter gives the sense that the company is fighting back against the odds.
“I like that sense of defiance, and that sense of gumption, because it’s something that has traditionally been missing from the company’s culture,” said Levy.
He adds that the open letter is like “a 180 degree turn” from the company’s approach to public relations and the media, which is generally regarded as insular and secretive.
As for public response to BlackBerry once the letter is published globally, Levy believes it will be a broad spectrum.
“There will likely be those who simply don’t want to hear anything at this point, they’ve already checked out,” said Levy. “But at the same time, I believe those who are still hanging around the periphery, and those who are still involved in the company’s future, I think this will be seen as a very positive message for them.”
Countering bad press
Simon Sage, editor-at-large for CrackBerry.com, said BlackBerry is trying to counter some of the very bad press it has endured.
“For consumers this is an important message for BlackBerry to deliver if only to have people remember the brand and to understand that BlackBerry is still in business. They are still making phones; they’re still working on new products,” Sage told CBC News.
The Crackberry.com website got more than 500 comments in two hours after news of the open letter appeared.
“Canadians are very attached to BlackBerry as a brand — it`s a homegrown company, a mark of pride,” he said, adding that Canadians are more attuned to what is happening at the company than people in other parts of the world.
The letter is not likely to impress shareholders, he added, but it might discourage some consumers from abandoning BlackBerry products.
John Pliniussen, an expert in marketing at Queens School of Business, said the campaign seemed a “waste of money.”
He said it reminded him of the desperate ads the three big Canadian telecom companies ran trying to convince Canadians the government was being unfair in its spectrum auction rules.
“What's missing is something that would incent people or move them to action, for example 'cut out this letter bring it in to your local BlackBerry provider and get a reduction,'” Pliniussen said.
“What it does do is get people to speculate ‘Jeez, I wonder how bad it really is because the sale is not happing yet!’” he added.